Eastbound steerage


aejone6478

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Perhaps not entirely Titanic related, but out of curiosity, wouldn't Steerage/third class be much less occupied on Eastbound voyages that Westbound? I'd imagine westbound passengers in steerage being mostly immigrants who might not ever have any intention upon returning to Europe. Would ticket prices for eastbound voyages then be much lower than westbound voyages?
Thanks.
 
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Dave Gittins

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Good thought! Probably third class was not much in demand eastward bound. I'd need to know the exact exchange rate at the time, but fares to any part of Britain seem to have been much the same as those from Southampton to New York.

To New York, the fare from Southampton was £7-9-0. From New York to any part of the UK was $36-25. The dollar was about five dollars to the pound, so the eastward fare in pounds was about £7-5-0.

These fares are to be seen on posters of the time.
 

Dave Gittins

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Deep in the rubbish tip of my mind, I found the exchange rate in 1912 was $4-86 to the pound. That makes $36-25 equal to £7-9-0.
 

Seumas

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Less work for the lads who were third class stewards then !

Kind of relevant - I remember watching a BBC documentary several years ago where they claimed that 1/4 of all those who left the British Isles before WW1 for North America or Australasia ending up returning permanently within ten years. Either because they had "made their packet" or through severe home sickness or lack of financial success.

I wonder how many people were planning on returning, third class, to their native Somerset, Lanarkshire or Antrim aboard an Eastbound RMS Titanic ?
 

Tim Gerard

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I remember learning in history class in high school (many, many years ago), that steamship companies would transport cargo on the eastbound trip from the US to Europe in empty steerage areas on many immigrant ships, not as profitable for the companies as passengers would be but still more profitable than keeping the spaces empty.
 

Scott Mills

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From my understanding, at least on ships like Titanic, there were third class bookings for Eastward passages. While not as heavily used, obviously, as it was during Westbound voyages, there were a fair number of people and families who came to the New World only temporarily to make money, and then returned home; or who had the income to return home for holiday or to attend family functions (like in the aftermath of the death of a loved one).
 

Mike Stevens

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Many of those in 3rd class going east bound were the beginnings of the lowest rung of travelers, in addition to immigrants were returning home, got homesick, or went to a funeral, etc. And there was also that eternal "I want something for nothing" person that we have all run into.

At the turn of the century in America a new type of traveler began to emerge that had previously been unknown. As Americans earned more money (the beginnings of labor unions in the 1890s was responsible for much of this discretionary income growth among working families), they therefor had more discretionary money to spend, and they looked to travel. Traditionally, first class remained the territory of the rich, second class that of the "professional class", and third class remaining for the most part the "immigrant class". What I am referring to in this case are what we would call today "lower middle class". These were people who earned too little to pay for second class, yet still had some money to travel - the budget traveler - the person who buys the "Europe On Ten Dollars A Day" book . Country school teachers, students, lower class managers, an owner of a small "mom and pop" business, a railroad conductor, people in this economic category. These folks had enough dollars to buy an inexpensive cabin in 3rd. class, and perhaps visit England, staying in boarding houses rather than hotels, and eating at local pubs and street grills as opposed to a wealthier person who traveled 2nd class, who stayed at moderate hotels, and ate at moderate cafes, etc. In the past, this "lower middle class" would have never considered traveling steerage, with its community dorm style sleeping arrangements, its dark, unsanitary conditions. That was considered too risky and too dangerous. But with the new class of these superliners like Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, Lusitania, Titanic, etc, one could take the wife and kids and enjoy a safe and sanitary voyage at a relatively low cost. It may have not been grand, but to many, it was either that, or sit at home and do without. And to be honest, they knew that the 3rd class on these superliners was equivalent to what had been 2nd class just ten years previously. As the years went on, the shipping lines started to cater to this particular group of travelers in the 1920s and 1930s. On arriving back to New York, those in 3rd class who had papers showing they were American citizens were let off at the docks in New York. Because they were already citizens, they did not have to board the ferry from the ship over to Ellis Island to the immigration station. It was also the case, that immigrants who traveled in second class or even first class were also exempted from going through Ellis Island. The thought of the time was that if the person had enough money to pay for an upper class ticket, then they most likely had acceptable health, some money on arrival, and some type of employable job skills.

This group of budget travelers has been with us ever since. In the 1940s and 1950s they were sailing to Europe when the shipping companies were offering rock bottom tourist fares just to fill cabins - everybody else was paying hundreds of dollars to fly the 12 hour long piston engine propeller aircraft flights. By the 1960s, this same group was leaving ships and now flying to Europe, but not on scheduled airlines, instead they chose what was called a "charter flight" which offered really cheap prices. The only problem was you got one way over, and one way back, and there was no changing or modifying a ticket, if you missed that flight, your ticket was worthless. They only look for one thing, and that is solid value for the dollar, and how to stretch a dollar to the max. I know, because my first flight to Europe in 1984 on a charter flight, a Martinair Holland DC-10 from Los Angeles to Amsterdam. A normal coach ticket on a scheduled airline was over $1000 round trip, I paid just over $600 round trip for mine. I was 22 at the time. On the flight were seniors on a tight budget, moms with kids who wanted the absolute cheapest thing that would fly them over to see relatives, lots of us poor students, and other assorted misers! It was cramped, every seat was sold, there were no hot meals, just "cold plate meals" were served, and basically nothing was free. But we knew that, and it was, well, better than spending the entire summer sitting at home! Loftleidir was an airline that specifically catered to this type of travel by using older, dated, crampt equipment. Their advertising slogan was "We may be the slowest, but we are the lowest". They didn't even serve a meal onboard from New York to Europe, where the galley was were more rows of seats. An aircraft that normally held 165 now was stuffed with 210 seats. They landed at Iceland, and then everybody rushed into a coffee shop to buy a meal, then they rushed you though a bar and gift shop, and then back on the plane. It was truly the "Denny's Restaurant" of airlines lol. But it was always full!
 
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One of the old stories that my brother called "Family Myths And Legends LOL was about an elderly Uncle (who was also something of an extremely miserly bachelor ) who took a trip from Texas to England to visit relatives - he was the member of a branch of a family who had emigrated from England to Texas in 1885 . His trip was some time around 1936. He traveled round trip on RMS Queen Mary. I have some old papers of his which have his cabin marked on D-Deck in the Third Class Section. So I suppose he would have been included in that group who traveled in traveled eastbound in. purely in the class of the misers.

One of the stories was that he was said to have told repeatedly was " One night the ship rolled over ! " This must have been on one of those times when RMS Queen Mary took one of those terrible famous (infamous ? ) rolls.

I suppose I should not harp on it but that Second Class C-119 didn't appear to be much better than his on Third Class D-Deck......LOL
 
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Kas01

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From my understanding, at least on ships like Titanic, there were third class bookings for Eastward passages. While not as heavily used, obviously, as it was during Westbound voyages, there were a fair number of people and families who came to the New World only temporarily to make money, and then returned home; or who had the income to return home for holiday or to attend family functions (like in the aftermath of the death of a loved one).
As I understand it, quite a few passengers did end up doing so, but I don't know if they traveled in third class or via White Star.
 

Mike Stevens

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I was thinking that the standard rules of passenger segregation still applied to all 3rd class passengers, regardless if they were the poorest immigrants, or a millionaire. If a single student living on a budget, say wanted to spend the summer in England, he would have been put in the forward part of the ship with the other single males. If the student was female, she would have been in the rear of the ship. If it was a family, say the owner of a little ice cream parlor or a candy store was able to take his wife and kids to visit relatives, or just as a tourist, the entire family would be put in a cabin in the rear of the ship.

After the US Congress passed restrictive immigration quotas in the early 1920s, mainly due to reactions over the increasing number of Jews immigrating from Eastern Europe and Catholics from Southern Europe, 3rd class became mainly poor travelers. Still, it took time for the classes on board ships to acquire new names to reflect these changes. Using the RMS Queen Mary for example, when launched she still had the traditional 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class assignments. Not many in 3rd class were immigrants however, and because times were changing so quickly, Cunard felt confused as to how to refer to these classes. So upon entry into service, 1st class became "cabin class", 2nd class became "tourist class", and 3rd class remained as "3rd class". After the war, the ship was renovated, and the class names changed once again. Cabin class reverted back to "1st class", tourist class (2nd class) became "cabin class", and 3rd class became "tourist class". It was obvious who 3rd class was targeting in Cunard's advertising "Smart, exciting travel for the young and gay at heart who want to make the most of every dollar. The best value for young families just starting out, and exceptionally affordable for elderly pensioners who finally want to make the dream vacation abroad".

I have read stories about how on British and German liners, those who were actually quite well of, would book a cabin in 3rd class to avoid "having to dress up" and all the formalities of upper classes", and also there were rich recluses who didn't want to be known, talked to or bothered. Sort of rich "Greta Garbo" types....."I want to be alone..."
 

Mike Stevens

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The only other thing I can think of, that was the cheapest way to Europe on a ship was to sign on and work your way across. This was usually done with what used to be called "tramp ships", or "tramp freighters", so called because they picked up cargo and stopped here and there, sometimes for a day or two at a time in port before heading onto their next port of call. Like hobos or yore, they were never in a hurry, as most had just a single screw, one reciprocating steam engine, and just enough boilers to get the thing to move at 10 to 12 knots. I saw photos of them in Southampton, all lined up at the docks, with signs announcing their destinations. They usually had a few cabins and would sign up a handful of helpers to do completely unskilled work. Moving crates, moping decks, wiping grease, scraping paint were the usual types of tasks. They offered no pay, just transport and food and drink. So if you were willing to do a little "grunt work", you got a free trip!

I have never heard, and I have no idea if this was even possible on any of the liners. I have heard of stokers signing on, and then jumping ship in New York. The company must have frowned upon this, as this would put them short on the return voyage, but I can't imagine somebody walking up to the crew's gangplank and telling a chief "I want a free trip to New York, I'll coil lines or sweep decks in return for a fare". Maybe somebody knows if this was possible. I know on the German liners you have to have a "seaman's card" for them to even allow you to sign up to work, and that was before they even allowed you up the gangplank. The "seaman's card" had to be stamped by police, that way the shipping company knew that you weren't some criminal trying to flee the country or something.
 

Seumas

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I have never heard, and I have no idea if this was even possible on any of the liners. I have heard of stokers signing on, and then jumping ship in New York. The company must have frowned upon this, as this would put them short on the return voyage, but I can't imagine somebody walking up to the crew's gangplank and telling a chief "I want a free trip to New York, I'll coil lines or sweep decks in return for a fare". Maybe somebody knows if this was possible. I know on the German liners you have to have a "seaman's card" for them to even allow you to sign up to work, and that was before they even allowed you up the gangplank. The "seaman's card" had to be stamped by police, that way the shipping company knew that you weren't some criminal trying to flee the country or something.
I have never heard, and I have no idea if this was even possible on any of the liners. I have heard of stokers signing on, and then jumping ship in New York.

It looks likely that Titanic survivor Tom Whiteley did just this in the early 1924 when he was a steward aboard the Celtic. He deserted in New York and ended up in California working for several years in the film industry before returning to the UK.

There's interviews on the RTÉ website with veterans of the Irish War of Independence, one of whom speaks about how he and another joined the boiler room crew of the Mauritania to get from Liverpool to New York without attracting suspicion, where they deserted and embarked on a fundraising campaign.

I know on the German liners you have to have a "seaman's card" for them to even allow you to sign up to work, and that was before they even allowed you up the gangplank. The "seaman's card" had to be stamped by police, that way the shipping company knew that you weren't some criminal trying to flee the country or something.

I'm pretty sure the majority of the crew positions required a discharge book to be presented which was signed and stamped at the end of the voyage by appropriate officers.

By 1919 or 1920, the discharge book also required a photograph. My Grandad's discharge book from the 50s also required a set of fingerprints but I'm not sure if they needed that in 1920.
 

Ada

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Less work for the lads who were third class stewards then !

Kind of relevant - I remember watching a BBC documentary several years ago where they claimed that 1/4 of all those who left the British Isles before WW1 for North America or Australasia ending up returning permanently within ten years. Either because they had "made their packet" or through severe home sickness or lack of financial success.

I wonder how many people were planning on returning, third class, to their native Somerset, Lanarkshire or Antrim aboard an Eastbound RMS Titanic ?
I know many Poles, Czechs and Finns that left between 1890-1914 would come back in the 20s when our countries became independent.
 

Jim Kalafus

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May 1912. Third class passengers eastbound on the Lusitania. From an album I bought showing an Australian's round-the-world tour. Fun fact. The daily newspaper from this voyage contained a small blurb about Titanic body recovery. So, in May, it was not an unspoken subject at sea.

$36.25 in 1912 converts to $961.73 in present day funds. Assuming that there was some form of round-trip discount, the spring out/autumn back to the U.S. trip that many made would have gotten you 14 days in the Waldorf- Astoria. So Third Class was a questionable bargain for those using it for tourism/family visits. What would buy a plush room, with bath, ashore bought an unpleasant cell with chamber pots and unappealing menu choices at sea.

To judge from Lusitania demographics, third class eastbound was popular with mothers and children returning to Europe to escape U.S. summer heat. home to visit the family in May. Return in September when the heat and humidity were abating.
 

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Scott Mills

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May 1912. Third class passengers eastbound on the Lusitania. From an album I bought showing an Australian's round-the-world tour. Fun fact. The daily newspaper from this voyage contained a small blurb about Titanic body recovery. So, in May, it was not an unspoken subject at sea.

$36.25 in 1912 converts to $961.73 in present day funds. Assuming that there was some form of round-trip discount, the spring out/autumn back to the U.S. trip that many made would have gotten you 14 days in the Waldorf- Astoria. So Third Class was a questionable bargain for those using it for tourism/family visits. What would buy a plush room, with bath, ashore bought an unpleasant cell with chamber pots and unappealing menu choices at sea.

To judge from Lusitania demographics, third class eastbound was popular with mothers and children returning to Europe to escape U.S. summer heat. home to visit the family in May. Return in September when the heat and humidity were abating.
Are you sure that's accurate? It was my understanding that the minimum price for First Class passage on Titanic was around $150 US, which would translate to somewhere between $1,700 and $1,800 US in today's dollars.

So the $36.25 Third Class Fare equating to nearly a thousand dollars means that one of us is likely wrong. :)

Edit.

In fact, by my quick and in my head calculation, Third Class passage on Titanic, after adjusting for inflation, should be roughly $175 US in today's dollars.
 

Jim Kalafus

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$1 in 1912 has the purchasing power of $26.53 today. At that rate, Third Class victim Alexander Robins had $66326.29 in checks on his body. Ernst Danbom had $42740.66. The pounds on Mr and Mrs Robins' bodies converts to £10,857.58 today or $14020.34 .

The 14 pounds fare the Robins' paid converts to 1520.06 today, or $1962.63. Portions of third class had an appealingly stark quality that foreshadowed International design, which was a plus, and there was virtually no chance of meeting Margaret Brown, which was a huge plus. But the menus were vile compared to those in a $.0.05 dinette on shore, and the sanitation was inferior to that of the better class of NYC tenement. So the Robinses, who lived in a nice house, would have had that funky "I havent bathed in 5 days. Remind me to burn these clothes" feelings in the final normal moments of their lives. Worth it to avoid Margaret Brown and the tacky decor in First Class? I'd have to think long and hard.


$150 in 1912 is $3979.58 in today's money. Which bought you a cabin inferior in every way to a $3 hotel room ashore.
 
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Just another note on my RMS Queen Mary visit.
That Second Class C-119 Cabin was in every ways inferior to a Motel 6 Room.
 

Scott Mills

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$1 in 1912 has the purchasing power of $26.53 today. At that rate, Third Class victim Alexander Robins had $66326.29 in checks on his body. Ernst Danbom had $42740.66. The pounds on Mr and Mrs Robins' bodies converts to £10,857.58 today or $14020.34 .

The 14 pounds fare the Robins' paid converts to 1520.06 today, or $1962.63. Portions of third class had an appealingly stark quality that foreshadowed International design, which was a plus, and there was virtually no chance of meeting Margaret Brown, which was a huge plus. But the menus were vile compared to those in a $.0.05 dinette on shore, and the sanitation was inferior to that of the better class of NYC tenement. So the Robinses, who lived in a nice house, would have had that funky "I havent bathed in 5 days. Remind me to burn these clothes" feelings in the final normal moments of their lives. Worth it to avoid Margaret Brown and the tacky decor in First Class? I'd have to think long and hard.


$150 in 1912 is $3979.58 in today's money. Which bought you a cabin inferior in every way to a $3 hotel room ashore.
Having lived in a tenement (though not in New York) in my life time, I am very highly dubious about your claims that a first class berth on Titanic was less sanitary than a New York tenement building. Frankly speaking, I do not even think you could apply that critique to Third Class on Titanic.

Not only were there bathing facilities for all the classes on Titanic--though granted very few tubs for Third Class--all of the cabins were fit with electric lights, and the lavatories had running water. This is more than you could have said for many of the people sailing in Third Class on Titanic when it came to the homes they were coming from, and that includes if they lived in a tenement building circa 1912.

Finally, there is the Third Class menu. I have seen these menus and I have to say that I would have gladly eaten that food. In fact, I would have been pretty happy about that food were I to encounter it today at one of the many popular 'all inclusive' resorts that are around. Sure, it was not as fine or fancy as what was provided in First or Second Class, but it would have been perfectly palatable to me! Furthermore, I do not recall having ever read a single Third Class survivor's account of Titanic where the food was complained about. :)

As for people in Third Class having considerable amounts of money on them, well certainly. These immigrants were moving their entire lives to another country on a new continent. There is no doubt in my mind that a family might be bringing $60k USD worth of currency with them to the new world, which represented everything they had. In many cases today, and I imagine in more cases then, people would be very frugal with their assets in similar circumstances. Besides, as is often pointed out, Third Class on Titanic was roughly equivalent to Second Class on many of the smaller ships that carried immigrants from Europe to the United States.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>I am very highly dubious about your claims that a first class berth on Titanic was less sanitary than a New York tenement building. Frankly speaking, I do not even think you could apply that critique to Third Class on Titanic.

I was being very specific:

>sanitation was inferior to that of the better class of NYC tenement.

Better class of tenements. NYC saw the construction of "Model tenements" beginning in the 1880s. A new law, ca 1903, required a window that opened in every room...not true in First Class...en suite toilet and bath...not true in First Class...air space adequate for the number of occupants., Rooms with small footprints had very high ceilings. This was not possible in First Class. 75 square feet and low ceiling.Two adults and two chamber pots in a windowless 75 square foot box with low ceiling. Foretaste of hell- especially given the cabbage based menus. Flatulence, frequent roughage overdose trips to the toilet plus mal de mer. Of which, can you imagine what a public toilet down the hall looked like in bad weather? This was all less sanitary than life in the model tenements. In 75 square feet and no window if he has E Coli or a respiratory virus you do too.

>Third Class menu. I have seen these menus and I have to say that I would have gladly eaten that food. In fact, I would have been pretty happy about that food were I to encounter it today at one of the many popular 'all inclusive' resorts

Gruel, Sago pudding, cabin biscuits, and heaping mounds of cabbage. I'd be amused to see them at a present day resort.

Food was viewed not as a celebration but as a hairshirt on both sides of the pond. A cultural point of pride. A rather hilarious editorial condemned hors d'oeuvres as an evil machination meant to destroy our values by making us GOURMANDIZING SENSUALISTS. We eat to live. We dont live to eat,

Eastbound Third Class passengers had been exposed to the massive menus in popular 0.05 restaurants. This made them SENSUALISTS who had a horizon that expanded beyond gruel and cabbage.

NYC, in 1912, was having a CHINESE FOOD craze. After 70 years of treating Chinese as Agents of Satan New Yorkers had lightened up slightly and were willing to admit that the cuisine was great. There were 0.05 Chinese place and lavish $5 places. So at least some of the eastbounders had looked beyond Blushing Bunny.

Blushing Bunny? A faddish 1912 macaroni and cheese party favorite. Bland, of course, but you added just enough tomato paste to the cream to make the concoction turn pink. But not SO much rhat it added tomato flavor. Think Pepto Bismol colored mac and cheese and, voila, it is 1912 again.

Westbound passengers from cultures that viewed food as a celebration must have looked at the fiesta of entrails, gruel, jacket potatoes, and cabbage and thought 'This doesnt bode well." I love tradtional Lebanese food. Imagine being used to their fare and sitting down to a banquet of gruel, crackers, and stringy beef. Same for Greeks. Italians. French. Syrians. Sensuality checked at the door. You are now eating to live. Not living to eat,
 

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