Steerage Class

fred henderson
21st November 2005, 19:39
It has been estimated that during the 19th Century the population of the world expanded from about 900 million to 1,600 million. In Europe the population grew from 190 million to 423 million, despite a huge movement from Europe to other parts of the world. The main destinations being North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa and Siberia. In addition Chinese and Japanese people moved to North America and Indians to Africa.
During the period up to the First World War, about 34 million people emigrated by sea to the USA, 3.6 million to South America, 2.3 million to Canada, 2 million to USA and New Zealand and about 1 million to South Africa.
Even the best cabins were cramped. Charles Dickens described his First Class cabin on the Cunarder Britannia as “an utterly impractical, thoroughly hopeless and profoundly preposterous box.” The overwhelming majority of the emigrants however experienced the hardships and horrors of travelling Steerage Class.
Steerage passengers were accommodated in vast dormitories, located below the main deck in the noisiest parts of the ship. Wooden bunks lined the sides of the space and were arranged in longitudinal rows in the centre. Passengers were expected to bring their own bedding and food for the voyage. Large stoves were erected on the open deck for the steerage passengers to cook their own food, weather permitting. In winter in the North Atlantic they would be battened down for the majority of the voyage.
The squalid conditions were an ideal breading space for the deadly diseases of the time. Except for the important element of choice and the absence of shackles, steerage passengers were paying to travel in conditions that were not much better than those on slave ships.
The passenger numbers were almost unbelievable. For example the North German Lloyd liner Rhein was built by Blohm & Voss in 1899. She was 10,058 GRT, 520 feet long, with a beam of 58 feet. She was twin screw with a service speed of 14 knots. She accommodated 369 Second Class, 217 Third Class and 2,865 Steerage Class Passengers plus a Crew of 174. That is a total of 3,625 people in a 10,000 ton ship. In addition to being employed on the North Atlantic service, she also was used to Australia. It is to be hoped that she was never fully loaded!
All the shipping companies crammed large numbers of people into small spaces. There were over a dozen, Blue Funnel, White Star and Port Line 10,000 ton cargo liners on the Australia and New Zealand service that were fitted with accommodation for 600 Steerage passengers in the tween decks.
By comparison, The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s new flagship Ben-my-Chree is 12,504 GRT and is limited to 630 passengers for the 59 mile crossing from Douglas to Heysham. (Self catering optional!)
Thankfully the world has moved on.


10th April 2013, 00:27
On some ships of the White Star Line, horses and people were traveling all together ...

I find very interesting the parallelism between the transport of slaves and the transport of emigrants. I've read that slavery was abolished, not for humanitarian reasons, but for the emergence of a new class of labor, better skilled and cheap: the european migrants.

10th April 2013, 01:39
good morning fred Henderson,22nov.2005, class.a very informative thread,it is a harch summary of the way thing's were.but the fact is these people who suffered these conditions built a nation,it could not have happened with 1st.class passengers.have a good day.ben27