Re: Steerage Experience #general

Bruce Drake

My grandfather, Samuel Drach, sald from Hamburg aboard the Patricia. He was described as a “Landmann, Tagelöhner.” “Landmann” is a peasant and “der Tagelöhner” is a day laborer. His accommodations on the ship were described as "Zwischendeck" – or, "between decks.”

A Thai Jones wrote a book about his great-grandfather who also took the Patricia from Hamburg to New York about three months before my grandfather did.

The author described passage on the Patricia like this:


It was a late December day when he clutched his ticket and climbed uncertainly up a narrow gangplank of the steamer Patricia. The ship's great black stack burped out a breath of coal smoke, and her twin screws started churning the greasy waters of the River Elbe. Philip leaned over the rail or, unused to the motion, lay in his berth as the vessel gathered way toward two European stops -- at Boulogne and Plymouth -- and then the open ocean. Patricia was one of the Hamburg-American Line's newest steamers, built a few years earlier with room for nearly 2,500 passengers. She offered a luxurious crossing for the lucky few who could spend at least fifty dollars for a private cabin. The remaining four-fifths, almost certainly including Steckler, settled for third-class berths on the lower decks, where they slept in bunks and ate in a common mess. At an average speed of thirteen knots, the passage, even during the rough winter months, was scheduled to take twenty days. Steckler's trip was marred by head winds and heavy seas, including a tidal wave that staggered the ship just as she was entering the Atlantic. Even Captain Reessing, a mariner with more than twenty years of salt in his blood, was rattled by the storm. "I have not known such weather for many years," he said. "The winter of 1882 was very similar to this, but none since then has been nearly so bad."
Bruce Drake
Silver Spring MD


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