The Importance of Transatlantic Ocean Liners
Thank you for stopping by ‘The Ocean Liner Blogger’s’ blog. If you have a passion for the era of the transatlantic passenger liner, then you are welcome to read and comment to your heart’s content!
Not long ago a friend of mine insisted that I start a blog about a passion of mine. I have many passions, but there is one passion that just won’t quit! I love American history. I also love ships, specifically the transatlantic passenger liners that brought immigrants to this country. Many people don’t realize that ocean liners are important to our national heritage. Without these marvels of engineering and purpose, the United States could not be everything that it is today. At the turn of the century when immigration was booming, the only way to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Europe was by ship. These ships became national symbols or ‘ships of state.’
For many people, upon hearing the term ‘ocean liner,’ there is only one name that comes to mind. Don’t get me wrong, RMS Titanic is well known for a variety of good reasons. (None of these reasons should have to do with the DiCaprio/Winslet film by James Cameron. The story in that film is undeniably false.) To true addicts such as myself, the term ‘ocean liner’ evokes images of grand ships with names like SS United States, RMS Majestic, SS Ile de France, RMS Mauretania, SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and many, many more.
Imagine yourself living in Europe around 1913, just before the First World War. You are a poor Irish farmer who has decided to try to make something of yourself, but realize that you cannot do this where you are. The threat of war looms over you. America is calling your name. You gather your family and sell nearly everything you have. You have begun the greatest adventure of your life. All of your money goes to paying for a train ticket to the nearest port town, we’ll say Queenstown, Ireland, and steerage class tickets aboard one of the largest moving objects ever made by man. Your train pulls into the station and everyone is unloaded. Here, you go through customs. Your body is thoroughly inspected from head to toe to ensure you carry no parasites or diseases. Your family is poked and prodded. Tomorrow is sailing day. The women and the men are separated, and you are led into a room full of bunks. Here is where you sleep. The food is not that great, but it is enough to last until you get aboard ship. The journey to port has exhausted you, but you cannot sleep for the fear and excitement of starting a new life. All of the snoring around you does not help. Neither does the smell. When the light of dawn creeps over the horizon, everyone is awakened and prepared for boarding. The steerage passengers are required to board first so the first class passengers are not offended by your presence. Nearly one thousand other steerage passengers around you are led to the ship. The next step of your journey is a week at sea aboard a behemoth you’ve only read about presuming that you can read. Where is the opulence, the service? This is reserved for the first and second class passengers. As a steerage passenger, you are treated as cattle. Only certain areas of the ship are accessible to you…
This is how the journey to the United States of America begins for nearly all immigrants during this age. This nation is built by the poor who risked their very lives to start over in the land of promise. Without the ocean liners to bring these immigrants to New York, this country would not have evolved into the nation it is today. In 1913, the ocean liner is the only way to cross.
Stay tuned for pieces of maritime history!