|The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz|
Steerage is a word I understood to mean a less than luxury means of travel in cramped quarters with no privacy and little fresh air, usually used by those without the means to purchase more expensive accommodations. I was right but my understanding was narrow. I decided to research and gain a better understanding of the experience of travel in steerage.
I found several excellent websites, some with detailed information, which will add another level of interest to the social history of my immigrant ancestors.
Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives, GG Archives, is rich with information about the immigrant experience aboard ship, primarily from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s.
In the section Steerage Class - The Immigrant's Journey are several sub-categories
● Voyages in Steerage - Enduring Hardships
● Steerage and Immigrants: An Intractable Problem
● Examples of Steerage Passenger Lists
● Examples of Steerage Passage Contracts / Tickets
● Examples of Steerage Passenger Documents
If you're interested in learning more about the steerage experience, you won't want to miss the three articles below.
- Steerage Class - Accommodations - Cunard Steamship Line - 1879 from an article published in the Pall Mall Gazette on August 9, 1879
- Steerage Class - Conditions in 1898 - A First-Hand Account from "The Steerage of To-Day - A Personal Experience" by H. Phelps Whitmarsh, illustrated by A. Castaigne, published in 1898 Century Magazine, Volume LV, Number 67, pp. 528-543.
- The Old Steerage - Immigration Commission Report (1911) discusses sleeping arrangements, (limited) open deck areas, washroom and lavatories, dining areas, and food for passengers,
Another site, Norway Heritage, offers a section about travel in steerage as well as other topics of immigration/emigration.
Two great articles are Steerage Passengers - Emigrants Between Decks and By sail across the ocean - daily life aboard (which includes a list of ship rules).
And, of course, The Steerage at Wikipedia offers additional information, too.
The more I learn about the living situations of my ancestors and the conditions they sometimes endured, the more I admire them.
If you know of other websites that provide information about travelling by ship in the 1800s, please share. Thanks.
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