Emigrant Ships Passage Rates & Rations: 1847-1894

Emigrant Ships Passage Rates & Rations: 1847-1894

This article originally appeared in Vol.62, No.2 (2015) of Pioneer Magazine.

by Pioneer Magazine

When ships would go full to the United States ports, they could carry only 2 souls for every 5 tons of the ships register burden; therefore children if numerous were a heavy drawback (as children went for half price).
Cost of fare for passenger ships could vary pretty wildly. There were “price wars” even in the mid- to late-1800s. Around 1870, 1st and 2nd cabin prices from Liverpool to New York could range from 15 to 20+ guineas [one guinea = £1.01 shilling], steerage about £5.00. Steerage dropped to about £2.00 in the mid-1880s.

Hamburg to New York in the late 1870s was “First cabin” $100.00 gold and “Second cabin” $60.00 gold via Hamburg-American Packet Company. At the same time, Liverpool, London, or Queenstown to New York were 10, 12, and 15 guineas, according to accommodation, via National Line.

The following quotes are from the New York Times of Aug. 6, 1889, in the advertisements for various shipping lines:

Hamburg-American Packet Company Express Service on the mail steamer Hammonia and the Express S/S Augusta Victoria, with Regular Service on the Rugia and the Bohemia: First Cabin $50.00 and upward; steerage at lower rates.

White Star Line for Queenstown and Liverpool, ships Britannic, Celtic, Teutonic, Germanic, Adriatic: Saloon Rates, $50.00 and upward; Second cabin, $35.00 and upward; according to steamer and location of berths; steerage $20.00. Inman Line S.S. and Royal Mail, ships City of Paris, City of Chicago, City of New York, City of Berlin: Cabin passage $60.00 and upward; second cabin, outward, $85.00 and $40.00, prepaid; steerage $20.00.

The Short Line to London, Norddeutscher Lloyd Mail S.S. The ships Aller, Elbe, Elder, Werra, Saale, Ems: First cabin $75.00 and upward per berth, according to location; 2nd cabin $50.00 an adult; steerage at lowest rates. Cunard Line. Ships Servia, Etruria, Aurania, Bothnia, Umbria, Gallia: Cabin passage $60.00, $80.00 and $100.00; intermediate $35.00


A “feeder ship” was a small steamship that carried immigrants from small ports or minor emigration ports, to the larger emigration ports such as Liverpool, Hamburg, Rotterdam, or Havre. They usually operated on a regular schedule with at least two trips a month.

“The Companies arose at an early hour, made their beds, cleaned their assigned portions of the ship, and threw the refuse overboard. At seven they assembled for prayer, after which breakfast was had. All were required to be in their berths ready for retirement at eight o’clock. Church services were held morning and evening of each day, weather permitting. Many of the companies had excellent choirs which sang for the services. During the time of passage which occupied something like a month, concerts, dance contests, and entertainments of various types were held. Schools were held almost daily for both adults and children. The classes were particularly popular with Scandinaians who learned English en route.” See Leonard Arrington, The Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press., 1958), 103.


  • Every Passenger to rise at 7 a.m. unless otherwise permitted by the SURGEON.
  • Breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m., Dinner at 1 p.m., Supper at 6 p.m.
  • The Passengers to be in their beds at 10 p.m.


  • Fires to be lighted by the Passenger’s Cook at 7 a.m. & kept alight by him till 7 p.m. then to be extinguished, unless otherwise directed by the MASTER, or required for the use of the sick.
  • Three Safety Lamps to be lit at dusk; one to be kept burning all night in the main hatchway, the two others may be extinguished at 10 p.m.
  • No naked lights allowed at any time, or on any account.


  • The Passengers, when dressed to roll up their beds, to sweep the decks (including the space under the bottom of the berths), & to throw the dirt overboard.
  • Breakfast not to commence till this is done.
  • The sweepers for the day to be taken in rotation from the males above 14, in the proportion of five for every one hundred passengers.
  • Duties of the sweepers to be to clean the Ladders, Hospital & Dining Rooms, to sweep after every meal, & to dryholystone [“soft stone used for scrubbing decks of ships for Sunday cleaning,” Webster] and scrape them after breakfast.
  • But the occupant of each berth to see his own berth is well brushed out; and single women are to keep their own compartment clean.
  • The beds to be well shaken and aired on deck.
  • Mondays and Tuesdays are appointed as washing days, but no clothes are to be washed or dried between decks.
  • The Coppers & Cooking Vessels to be cleaned every day.


  • The Scuttles & Stern Ports to be kept open (weather permitting) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the Hatches at all times [actually numbered 19].
  • On Sunday the Passengers to muster at 10 a.m. when they will be expected to appear in clean and decent apparel.
  • The day to be observed as religiously as circumstances will admit. [Mormon passengers held regular Sunday services.]


  • No Spirits or Gunpowder to be brought on board by any passenger. Any that may be discovered will be taken into custody of the Master till the expiration of the voyage.
  • No loose hay or straw allowed below.
  • All gambling, fighting, riotous behaviour or quarrelsome behaviour, swearing, & violent language to be at once put a stop to.
  • Swords and other offensive weapons, as soon as the passengers embark, to be placed in the custody of the Master.
  • No sailors to remain on the passenger deck among the passengers except on duty.
  • No passenger to go to the Ship’s Cookhouse without special permission from the Master, nor to remain in the forecastle among the sailors on any account.


(Based upon an abstract of the QUEEN’S ORDER in COUNCIL, of the 6th. October, 1849, for preserving order and securing Cleanliness and Ventilation on board of “Passenger Ships” proceeding from the UNITED KINGDOM to any of HER MAJESTY’S Possessions abroad.)

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