Passenger Ships 1850

14th November 2008, 06:14
Hi - hope you can help and hope I have posted this correctly.

I am trying to find out and have googled myself silly as to the average speed a passenger ship sailing for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, departure port Liverpool would have made, also the average time (avoiding mishaps) the journey would have taken, both there and back. I am presuming the ships were of British design.

There appears to be some genealogy discussion as to whether or not the ships would stopped and boarded Irish passengers from Irish Ports whose ultimate destination was USA on the way back to Liverpool. To me this seems to be a wasted stop as I believe the crew would be anxious for shore leave in Liverpool, and it would also be an expensive exercise for the Irish passengers. Which leads me to the next question - how long approx would the shore leave have been for that sort of trip?

I have also read that many Irish passengers where collected from boats anchored off the Irish Coast to avoid the ships "offically" docking in Ireland. Is this correct?

I do hope I made sense - occassionally I do.

I look forward to hearing from you, any info even if does not answer my questions will be much appreciated.


K urgess
14th November 2008, 10:41
I moved your post a little ways into Passenger ships where the experts on the subject gather.
I hope the crew will be able to help.

Bruce Carson
14th November 2008, 14:01
I could be wrong, but I doubt if there was a scheduled steamship line sailing to Philadelphia in 1850.
The Cunard's wooden paddlers were capable of 10-12 knots between Liverpool and Boston or New York at that time.
The Company's 'Asia' and 'Africa', both built in 1850, made their best voyages from Liverpool to New York in about 10 days 3 hours and the eastbound voyage in about 10 days 7 hours. Average voyages would probably be at least 11 days.


Bruce Carson
14th November 2008, 14:24
Further to the above:
The Inman Line (The Liverpool & Philadelphia Steam Ship Company) began operations between Liverpool and Philadelphia in December, 1850.
Their iron screw steamer 'City of Glasgow' met headwinds on her first voyage to Philadelphia and took 22 days. The return was made in 13 days 16 hours, which was considered satisfactory.
Her best voyage was ann eastbound passage of 13 days 4 hours, an average of about 9 1/2 knots, but that was later than 1850.
She left Liverpool on the first day of March, 1854 with about 480 onboard and was never heard of again.


fred henderson
14th November 2008, 15:56
You have posed an interesting series of questions Diane.

Assuming that you are only considering steam ships, the very first crossing from Liverpool to Philadelphia was made in 1850. The Liverpool & Philadelphia Steam Ship Company was in fact founded in 1850 by the Liverpool ship managers, Richardson Brothers & Company as a result of the ideas of William Inman, who had become a partner in the firm in January 1849. It was because of his activities that The Liverpool & Philadelphia Steam Ship Company was popularly known as the Inman Line.

William Inman’s role in Richardson Brothers was the management of a fleet of sailing ships. If you are looking for information on sailing packets I cannot help you.

In 1849 the Glasgow shipbuilders decided to build an iron screw steamer for their own account. She was launched on 28 February 1850 as the City of Glasgow. She is generally regarded as the prototype of the modern liner. You will find details of this ship on: -

City of Glasgow sailed from the Broomielaw, Glasgow on 15 April 1850 and arrived in New York on 3 May 1850, sailed again 18 May and arrived back in Glasgow on 1 June. The success of these voyages and subsequent crossings inspires Inman to convince his partners to buy the ship in October 1850.

The inaugural voyage of City of Glasgow for her new owners left Liverpool on 11 December 1850, but she took 22 days to reach Philadelphia because of rough weather in the Atlantic. The first return journey, in better conditions, took 13 days 16 hours. The company’s second ship, City of Manchester was delivered in 1851 and City of Glasgow was switched to the Liverpool – New York service. Both ships officially had a speed of 9 knots, but the voyage time was really governed by the weather, with City of Manchester once taking 40 days in the winter of 1851/52.

Inman Line first started carrying transatlantic steerage class emigrant passengers in 1852 at a fare of 6 guineas, compared to 20 guineas per passenger in a two berth cabin, 15 guineas in a four berth and 13 guineas in smaller cabins located near the bows.

The company changed its name to Liverpool, New York & Philadelphia Steam Ship Company in 1857 and all services were routed to New York, with a few sailings continuing from New York to Philadelphia. New York had far better railroad connections than Philadelphia. It seems that Inman only started calling at Irish ports in 1857. Calls were made in both directions.

Passenger liners often used tenders to load and discharge passengers at intermediate ports of call, to avoid waiting for the tide. The tenders were usually large tugs with added passenger accommodation.

I hope this is of some help


14th November 2008, 23:09
Thank you all very much - your help is really appreciated - anyone who can assist with sailing packets details as well would be great - just average times?

Also whats was the average turn around time at the ports before returning to their point of origin?

Thank you

Bruce Carson
16th November 2008, 20:43
Philadelphia was a relative backwater as far as passenger sailing ship lines to and from England.
New York and Boston had a near monopoly on the transatlantic trade.
A large problem was the passage up the Delaware. Often it took ten days or more, against the wind, to cover the last one hundred or so miles after rounding Cape May.
The Cope Line of Liverpool Packets, owned by a Philadelphia quaker family, was the largest and longest lived company, carrying about 55,000 westward and 20,00 eastbound passengers between 1821 and the beginning of the Civil War. The Line's ships were said to be as fine as those sailing from New York. By the late 1840s there were at least two smaller lines sailing out of Philly.
Transatlantic times for sailing ships are hard to pinpoint as most sources quote exceptionally fast voyages and not average times over a period of time. Perhaps, between New York and Liverpool, at least 23 days eastbound and about 40 on the western voyage would be a fairly decent estimate for average times.
To Philadelphia would take longer, especially the western voyage.
Not much to go on, but I hope it helps a little.