Why so few French passengers?


Harry Peach

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Jun 26, 2005
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Out of interest - I wondered why there were so few French passengers aboard Titanic? I was shocked when researching that there were no (or very few) French passengers in Steerage?

Considering Titanic actually stopped off at Cherbourg, I just find this surprising and fascinating. What would be the reasons behind this?

Could it have been the political/economic situation in France being stable at the time and not many people wanting/needing to emigrate? Or maybe the poor being SO poor at the time they wouldn't have afforded even a steerage ticket?

or perhaps Franch relations with the US? Anti American (or British) sentiment?

Also considering Canada had/has a large French population and cities like Quebec and Montreal, I'm surprised there wouldn't be more passengers travelling too/from France to French Canada visiting family etc via New York.

Could it also be that the French preferred there own fleets for cross-Atlantic travel and not British/American ships?

Any incites on this?
 

Arun Vajpey

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There were some. I think several escaped in Lifeboat #7; then there was George(s) Rheims on Collapsible A, part-French.

I think the apparent lack of French passengers on the Titanic is just a coincidence of the day. Cherbourg was a popular port of embarkation for all central and southern European transatlantic passengers and happened to be in France. Note that there were a disproportionately large number of Scandinavian passengers on the Titanic (probably more Finns than Frenchies) and that is probably because they all came on connecting trains on the day. On another day there might have been large numbers of French and German passengers etc. IMO it was just luck of the draw and nothing more.
 

Mark Baber

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Also, keep in mind that the level of emigration from France to the U.S. was nowhere close to that from other countries. The 1910 Census reported 117,418 French-born folks in the United States, compared to over 1.3 million from Ireland, 2.5 million from Germany, 1.3 million from Italy, 1.6 million from Russia, etc.
 
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Mark Baber

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I'm surprised there wouldn't be more passengers travelling too/from France to French Canada visiting family etc via New York.
Two White Star ships---Laurentic I and Megantic---sailed directly to Canada from Liverpool. So, too, did the Allan, Cunard and Canadian Pacific Lines, while CGT, Hapag and NDL sailed there from Continental ports.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Also, keep in mind that the level of emigration from France to the U.S. was nowhere close to that from other countries. The 1910 Census reported 117,418 French-born folks in the United States, compared to over 1.3 million from Ireland, 2.5 million from Germany, 1.3 million from Italy, 1.6 million from Russia, etc.

That's a very interesting statistical point but what did it reflect? That the French generally preferred to remain in their country of birth or they preferred to immigrate to Canada rather than the US?
 
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My only insight would be to encourage everybody to NOT over think the problem. Markets are notoriously fickle, and it's likely that the few French passengers aboard is nothing more incredible than simple indifference or a lack of desire to travel.
 

Aly Jones

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Maybe they prefer French ships over other ships. Afterall, back in those days, English wasnt common in Europe, so being on French ship where everything is spoken and written in French, made it a whole lot easier for the French.
 

Bob_Read

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Wasn’t the stop at Cherbourg mainly to pick up the American swells who spent the season “on the Continent” who were returning to America?
 
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My only insight would be to encourage everybody to NOT over think the problem. Markets are notoriously fickle, and it's likely that the few French passengers aboard is nothing more incredible than simple indifference or a lack of desire to travel.
It might be interesting to compare how many English passengers there were on French ships or whether passengers just preferred to sail on ships of their own country. But that's probably a bit of over think, too.
Or why there were so many American passengers on Titanic . Et cetera, Et cetera and so forth. LOL
 
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Wasn’t the stop at Cherbourg mainly to pick up the American swells who spent the season “on the Continent” who were returning to America?
Probably another case of overthink on my part .......but.....
Would they not have picked up more passengers in steerage at Cherbourg - immigrants bound for America - than American swells returning to America ?
 

Bob_Read

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Probably another case of overthink on my part .......but.....
Would they not have picked up more passengers in steerage at Cherbourg - immigrants bound for America - than American swells returning to America ?
I don’t think by this time there was that much immigration to America by Northern Europeans. Most of the immigration to America in this period was from Southern and Eastern Europe. They would have been served more by emigrant ships with Mediterranean ports of call.
 

Arun Vajpey

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All I can say is that markets are a strange animal and far from predictable, but most likely, the people who could have made the trip and didn't simply didn't feel like it.

Possibly, but the 1910 figures do indicate an anomaly. Here in UK and rest of Europe, it is not unusual to make jokes about the French habit of not liking to speak other languages, especially English even if they can. Traditionally, the French tend to like the lifestyle in their country and are reluctant to change. For that reason, they might have preferred to emigrate to Canada rather than the US in those days...or stay back home.
 
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Probably another case of overthink on my part .......but.....
Would they not have picked up more passengers in steerage at Cherbourg - immigrants bound for America - than American swells returning to America ?
There were "about 300 Americans"
709 Steerage
Once again I am no authority on this subject but I have always assumed that the stop at Cherbourg was for those of anyone embarking from the continent but not necessarily just for "American swells".
 
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Just some of those " I have often wondered about that " things. :)

(1)
How many passengers boarded at each port of call on the westbound voyage of Titanic ?
Southampton - 922
Cherbourg - 274
Queenstown - 120

Also another question.
(2)
Could a passenger purchase a round trip ticket at Cherbourg or Queenstown to return to those port s ?
Would Titanic have returned only to Southampton ?
Or just the reverse of westbound....that is....stops at Queenstown, Cherbourg , Southampton in that order ?
If not, how would they manage to return to their home port ?
I have read that some who boarded at Southampton only traveled as far as Cherbourg and got off there ?
Also only to Queenstown ? Of course there was Father Browne in that case.

There was also a story that an American passenger had offered to buy Father Browne a round trip ticket to New York.
When he wired his Uncle (whom I believe was a Bishop ?) he got an emphatic reply . :
" No ! Get off that ship ! "
 
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Tim Gerard

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Also another question.
(2)
Could a passenger purchase a round trip ticket at Cherbourg or Queenstown to return to those port s ?
Would Titanic have returned only to Southampton ?
Or just the reverse of westbound....that is....stops at Queenstown, Cherbourg , Southampton in that order ?
If not, how would they manage to return to their home port ?
I have read that some who boarded at Southampton only traveled as far as Cherbourg and got off there ?
Also only to Queenstown ? Of course there was Father Browne in that case.

I dug around a little and found a newspaper ad for the Titanic and Olympic offering Plymouth-Cherbourg-Southampton from New York. The same ad has sailings on the Baltic, Laurentic, Adriatic, and Celtic offering Queenstown-Liverpool from New York.
 
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Mark Baber

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Would Titanic have returned only to Southampton ?
Or just the reverse of westbound....that is....stops at Queenstown, Cherbourg , Southampton in that order ?
The eastbound calls were at Cherbourg and Plymouth before So'ton. No Queenstown.
I have read that some who boarded at Southampton only traveled as far as Cherbourg and got off there ?
Also only to Queenstown ?
Cherbourg:
Queenstown:
 

Harry Peach

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Also, keep in mind that the level of emigration from France to the U.S. was nowhere close to that from other countries. The 1910 Census reported 117,418 French-born folks in the United States, compared to over 1.3 million from Ireland, 2.5 million from Germany, 1.3 million from Italy, 1.6 million from Russia, etc.

Yes but why? thats the interesting point!
 

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