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View Full Version : What were passenger ships like in the mid 1800s?


handsomeharry
08-09-2011, 10:47 PM
I was reading Gone With the Wind, or something similar, and I was curious as to what the accomodations would be like for, say, Rhett Butler, or somebody that was taking a ship across the ocean. Would it be something like the 1980s version of the Bounty, or very similar to the Titanic?

Thanks,
hh

Jim's Son
08-10-2011, 12:24 AM
For a first class ocean liner, like the "Great Eastern", probably pretty luxurious, if you had the money. At least judging by the photo of the ship's lounge. Wiki says Jules Verne wrote a novel in 1871 about a woman on the ship, perhaps he describes the accomodations in better detail.http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/seven_wonders_gallery.shtml

engineer_comp_geek
08-10-2011, 01:20 AM
I would put it as something in between your 1980's Bounty and the Titanic.

Your Bounty style ships would have been in the early 1800s. Up until about 1840 to 1850 or so, clipper ships still ruled for this sort of thing. Steam ships were starting to be built, but they weren't very good yet and clippers still did better.

In the time period of Gone with the Wind (just after the Civil War) you would have had ships like the SS Great Britain ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Great_Britain ) which would have been old and on their way to being obsolete but still would have been in service, and you would have had ships like the RMS Oceanic ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Oceanic_%281870%29 ) which would have been the top of the line, brand spanking new kind of ships. Steam ships were really starting to take over then, but many ships (as you can see with the Oceanic) still had sails on them, even if they also had steam power. The sails didn't disappear until the end of the 1800s. Passenger ships started getting bigger in the late 1800s as well, mostly due to large numbers of immigrants sailing across the ocean. Your Gone with the Wind era of ships would have been before that, and therefore would have been smaller than the Titanic era ships.

Inside, the older ships were still pretty cramped, but the newer ships were starting to get more luxurious, as long as you were a Rhett Butler type of passenger. If you were an immigrant paying bottom dollar, you were still herded like cattle.

clairobscur
08-10-2011, 02:54 AM
Wiki says Jules Verne wrote a novel in 1871 about a woman on the ship, perhaps he describes the accomodations in better detail

Visiting a Jules Verne museum some years ago, I've seen the model of a steam powered mid 19th century liner which would have inspired him. I was very surprised because I didn't know there were such large liners at this time. From the outside, it didn't look like the Titanic obviously (to begin with, it was using wheels, like Missisipi ships), but the inside was both huge and with pretty much the kind of luxurious interiors you'd expect on an early 20th century liner.

Rocketeer
08-10-2011, 01:12 PM
Visiting a Jules Verne museum some years ago, I've seen the model of a steam powered mid 19th century liner which would have inspired him. I was very surprised because I didn't know there were such large liners at this time. From the outside, it didn't look like the Titanic obviously (to begin with, it was using wheels, like Mississippi ships), but the inside was both huge and with pretty much the kind of luxurious interiors you'd expect on an early 20th century liner.

Probably the Great Eastern, which was an outlier; enormous for the time, and a commercial failure. It was later refitted as a cable-laying ship and laid the first transatlantic cable. I've read that it was Verne's inspiration. But it was not typical of liners of the period.

handsomeharry
08-10-2011, 08:18 PM
Thanks for the answers, guys!

hh

Elendil's Heir
08-11-2011, 11:17 AM
Food and accommodations would be pretty good for someone in Rhett Butler's income bracket, but the voyage was still long and the ships rolled pretty badly. Still no cure for seasickness, which afflicted many. Some rich folk would probably rather just stay home.

Hypno-Toad
08-11-2011, 11:52 AM
The location of one's cabin heavily influenced how much motion one felt. The closer one was to the center of the ship, the less motion. Closer to the sides meant you had to deal with the roll. Closer to the bow or stern meant you had to deal with the ships pitching, experienced mainly as up and down motion. Rough weather was bad for everyone however.

ralph124c
08-11-2011, 11:53 AM
Charles Dickens travelled to the USA (ca. 1870's) via Cunard steamer.
He described his berth as "like a coffin"-but less comfortable.