Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Proprieties and Usages of Good Society — Lesson V. Suggestions for Travel by Sea

Proprieties and Usages of Good Society — Lesson V. Suggestions for Travel by Sea

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 24, 2010

IV. Traveling
VI. Ball Room Etiquette

V. Suggestions for Travel by Sea.

A sea-voyage is looked forward to with pleasure by some, and with dread by others; but it is well to know some of the ethics of sea-travel now-a-days, as not only our girl-missionaries, but many of our sisters as well, cross the great waters into foreign lands.

If you can choose your own route, it is well to secure the advertising matter of a number of steamship lines; and there is as much difference in the prices and comforts offered by the several companies as there is between the various hotels of a city. You can sail on the White Star Line, or on any other of the expensive lines, including the North German Lloyd, and pay anywhere from $125 to $700 for your one-week’s voyage. Or you can go by the Anchor Line for from $60 to $100 and be fairly comfortable. If you are going to England, select a line that will land you at Liverpool or Southampton, the latter place being not far from London; but if you desire to go to Germany, choose a ship that will land you at Cherbourg or at Hamburg. If, as is often the case, you travel, for company’s sake, with the Elders, you will sail from Boston on the Anchor Line and land at Liverpool.

However, having chosen your line, and the ship, if you are not going in company with the elders, it is well to write several weeks, even months, ahead and secure your berth, as you can often, in this way, get more desirable accommodations at a lower price than if you wait until the last minute. It is never wise to postpone purchasing your steamer tickets, if it is possible to get them several weeks in advance. In engaging your cabin ahead, you usually have to pay a deposit of a small sum, which you forfeit in case you do not take the berth. Secure your berth, if possible, on deck, as then you will be allowed to have your port-hole open day and night; and the farther you are away from the dining room and the engine room the better. The first or saloon cabins are always situated near the centre of the ship; while the second cabins and steerage are in the prow and stern of the boat.

The next thing to consider is the baggage to take on board. A great many people use a small steamer trunk which will fit under the berth; and besides this a small valise should contain the same articles as you would carry for train-travel. Your shawl-strap should hold, beside your pillow, shawl and rubbers, a heavy golf-cape, or a close coat is better still, a cap or tam-o’shanter, and, if you can possibly afford it, a good sea rug. Unless you are going on the very high class steamers, two or three dozen oranges and a dozen lemons, and some hard crackers, will be very useful for you to have in your cabin. Ships’ libraries are supposed to contain plenty of good books to read, and they do; but the best ones are always taken out, and you have read the others, so it is just as well to supply yourself with some good light reading. Some ladies take a little fancy work with which to while away the time.

If you have not a small steamer trunk, it is well to have an extra valise into which you can put some clean underwear, an extra silk waist to wear for dinners or on Sunday, and some pretty ties to dress up your costume with, for nowhere is a dainty appearance more indicative of the lady than on shipboard. You should add to your store plenty of good writing material, a white night-dress, a black silk scarf to tie around your head when going to the bath room for your morning ablutions. If your valise or steamer trunk is large enough to hold a longer skirt than your short traveling skirt, and you are traveling first-class, you will be glad to have it, as so many of the ladies dress for dinner.

And now be sure you see that your trunk is taken down to the wharf the day before you sail. If it is a steamer trunk, and you wish to have it in your stateroom, get a label (the steamship companies furnish these), and put “WANTED,” together with your name and the number of your room, on the trunk. It is well to do this, even if you do not want it in your stateroom, as it will then be put into the baggage room on the second deck and can be got at any time you desire during the voyage. Otherwise it will be put into the hold.

Now, we will suppose you are ready to go on board. Be there in good time, although some steamers are noted for being an hour or two late in sailing. The first thing, when you can get on board, is to ask for the deck-steward; and always ask your questions of an official. Secure a steamer chair, for which you will have to pay fifty cents or one dollar; and ask the steward which side of the vessel is the sunny side. Get your chair placed in a corner, if you can, but not on a corner. Usually the center of the deck is about the best place. Then ask for the head steward, and get your place at table. If you are alone, it is better to get a seat at a small table, where there are other ladies, preferably, and near the door of entrance.

Find out where the toilet and bath room are situated from your cabin. Adjust all your things in the cabin neatly and conveniently, for you may be taken so ill that it will be impossible to do this later on.

It once was the custom to wear very plain and ordinary clothes on board ship, but the American women are rapidly discarding that good old fashion, with a number of others.

Now, you can go up on deck and join the multitude in watching the crowd below on the wharf, and saying good bye for the hundredth time to the friends who have accompanied you to the ship. Remember the number of your stateroom and mark well the way to get there from the deck, for if you should be taken suddenly ill, it would be very uncomfortable if you did not know how to get there. Almost all ships sail out from rivers and harbors, and therefore have very little motion for an hour or two, when you may safely enjoy the wondrous beauty of sea and sky and fading shore for some time before the cradle of the deep begins to make it impossible for you to keep yourself “right side up with care.” As soon as your head begins to swim, if it does act so unmannerly as that, you had best take yourself down stairs as quickly as you can, and there undress, hang up your clothing in the little wardrobe, put your lemons, your handkerchiefs, watch, and other little things that you may need conveniently near the head of your berth.

And what about remedies for seasickness? Lemons are always considered good for this disease, and most people find them very grateful to their parched and fevered tongues. The best recommendation that anybody can make, however, is a thorough cleansing out of the system with some mild physic like senna, before going on board, and then on board to eat nothing for a day or two unless the appetite calls strongly for it, and even then the food should be very light, with no sweets, nor greasy food. Bromide is very highly recommended now-a-days, to be taken five days before going aboard and a day or two after. Apples are a good sub-acid for the liver and help in this trouble if eaten freely before going on board. And now we must leave you, to suffer or not to suffer, that is the question! Don’t call up either steward or stewardess unnecessarily, unless you intend to “fee” them generously, for that is what they will expect if you do.

After two or three days you will certainly be well enough to go on deck, be wrapped up in your rug, and lie in your steamer-chair. Dress yourself and go on deck just as soon as you possibly can, for the sea air will help to drive away your sickness. And even if you are pale and green, you will find plenty of others in the same condition. It will not be long before you will be able to get around and walk about, and then the real enjoyment of sea life begins. Nothing is more delightful than the convalescent stage of sea life, when you lie in your chair, not ill, but two languid to move, watching the blue waves chase each other away to the edge of the horizon, the sun sparkling upon their tips like diamonds in a sea of sapphire. Presently you will enjoy your books, and then, at last, you can get down to your meals in the dining room.

It is considered good form to enter into conversation in a general way at the table on shipboard, besides which you are at perfect liberty to accept any overtures from any lady who may talk to you anywhere on the ship; while civility is always expected, even when gentlemen address you. But beware, here as anywhere when you are not at home, of making acquaintances among men.

One word of caution must be given in regard to manners, not only on board ship but in all places. It is very rude to ask questions, to inquire where people are going, the cost of their clothing, where they live, or any other questions pertaining to other people’s business. If they want to tell you anything about themselves, they are at liberty to do so; but do not announce yourself as hailing from a country town by asking questions of everyone you meet. On the other hand, it is almost as rude, and is certainly very silly, to inform people of your whole history, your place of dwelling, your parentage and antecedents back to Adam, all your plans for the future, what food you like and what food you dislike, your own peculiar ailments and numberless personalities that are perfectly legitimate to discuss in the family circle, but which should not be mentioned outside of it. Of course, if you are a girl-missionary and people ask you about your belief and the principles of the gospel, explain them modestly and fearlessly, and bear your testimony as earnestly as you like. Answer any questions about Utah, its resources, its history; but even then keep your own personal affairs to yourself. Another point that is well to remember, is that when you meet people from a foreign country, or you are in their country, it is extremely bad taste to boast of the superior advantages which your country and state possess over those of the nation or region where you are temporarily located. Still another point of etiquette which should be mentioned is that your manners at table will indicate your breeding more surely than almost any other feature of behavior; but as there will be a special lesson treating this topic, nothing more will be said here except to give a word of caution that the traveler should not make herself noticeable, either at table or anywhere else. A discreet reserve always finds favor at home or abroad.

You will surely enjoy your last few days on board; but you will be none the less willing to reach the landing place at the appointed time. The acquaintance you have made on board may be pleasant or otherwise; but do not be too profuse in your expressions of undying friendship for the friends you have made, for it is but a waste of nervous energy.

Pack your things away in plenty of time, and do not leave it till the last minute; assume your traveling garb: be ready to walk up the gangplank into the custom-house as soon as the ship reaches there. The custom-house is tiresome on the other side; but there are so few dutiable things that passing through it is usually nothing more than a mere formality.

When you are in doubt where to go, follow the crowd, or ask an officer. Remember the tipping system which exists in Europe, and have your purse full of small coins for that purpose, having exchanged sufficient of your American money on board ship at the head steward’s office to supply your needs in this direction. It is better to carry the bulk of your money in bank drafts; although the American twenty-dollar gold pieces will be taken in any country in Europe.

When your trunk has been examined and marked by the customs officer, go through the customhouse into the street and you will find plenty of carriages or hansoms there to take you where you want to go. If you are traveling alone in Europe, it is much better to take a Cook’s tourist ticket, buy a guide book and travel on Cook’s tickets, as their hotels are all good, safe and reliable. However, this lesson is intended to cover only the necessities of a sea voyage, so we will leave you on a foreign shore and say, “Bon voyage!”


1. Give hints to aid in selecting a suitable steamship line.
2. What is a desirable location for a berth? Why?
3. Discuss the question of baggage, clothes, and accessories.
4. What information may be obtained from the stewards?
5. Mention the necessary precautions when leaving the state room for the first time.
6. When sea sickness is inevitable, what course is suggested?
7. Name some remedies for nausea.
8. What advice is given in the matter of making acquaintances?
9. Mention topics that are properly avoided in conversing with strangers.
10. Why should a traveler in a foreign land not boast of his country, his home, etc.?\
11. How may money safely be carried?
12. What is it handy to have small coins in the money of the country?



  1. “Find out where the toilet and bath room are situated from your cabin. Adjust all your things in the cabin neatly and conveniently, for you may be taken so ill that it will be impossible to do this later on.”

    Ha! An article full of great of advice and this one was the best.

    Comment by Hunter — February 24, 2010 @ 9:17 am

  2. Keepin’ it real!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2010 @ 9:19 am

  3. I wonder how many of the Young Women in the early 20th Century might ever have had a chance to put these recommendations to use. Maybe it’s just that my ancestors during that time were as poor as Job’s turkey, and my grandfather’s schoolteacher salary 30 years later was about $1,000 per year, but traveling to Europe was no more within their reach than a trip to the moon would have been–even at the lowest prices offered by the Anchor line.

    Some of the advice is still as good as the day it was given. For example, don’t come to New York and tell me how much better things are somewhere else! Besides being impolite, it’s just not true. :)

    Comment by Mark B. — February 24, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  4. Spoken like a true Newyorkophile . . .

    Comment by Hunter — February 24, 2010 @ 10:10 am

  5. The few Mormon girls who did get to travel — aside from the surprising number of Mormon singers and artists going to study in Europe — were probably missionaries. Maybe this installment was primarily for those few girls, since gaffes by girls known to be Mormons would have reflected not just on the girls but on the church. Or maybe it was only for dreaming. Few of us like to admit that we’ll never have much chance to travel.

    (Hunter, Mark wasn’t born in Brooklyn, a fact for which he may someday forgive his parents, but he got there as soon as he could!)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2010 @ 10:17 am

  6. I must admit that I’ve only gotten to the second paragraph of this post. I mentioned last week that I’m blogging about a 1907-1908 trip from Utah to Germany by my great-grandmother.

    I got to the second paragraph about the price of traveling and the different ship lines and looked up the passenger list for her return trip. She left Liverpool on the SS Cedric Cymric, a ship of the White Star line. The Cymric had served as a troop transport during the Boer War, and then would later serve as a transport during World War I until it was torpedoed in May 1916 by the same U-boat that sank the Lusitania.

    Two questions.

    1. Were there many “girl-missionaries” traveling to Europe at the turn of the century?

    2. How expensive was it to travel? The passages ranged from $60 to $700. Never mind; I just answered my question. One site puts the average family income in the United States at $800 a year or about $67 a month. (I see that this question has been under discussion while I was looking up a bunch of numbers. I should have just asked rather than looked it up myself!) But evidently the entire population of Salt Lake City was not living on the edge.

    Comment by Researcher — February 24, 2010 @ 10:31 am

  7. Funny how things have changed. Now days it is not uncommon to wait till the last minute and get some discount fares so shiplines can get the ships full. Great piece, so insightful of yesterday. Wasn’t the Titanic from the White Star Line?

    Comment by Mex Davis — February 24, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  8. Inez Knight and Jennie Brimhall, the first full time lady missionaries (not counting wives who had accompanied missionary husbands, or genealogy-gathering proto-missionaries) began their service in 1898. There wouldn’t have been many by the time this lesson was published, but the enthusiasm for lady missionaries was quite high (letters from these two sisters had been published in the Young Woman’s Journal and this pair were held up as models worthy of emulation), so possibly they were expecting a lot more sisters to serve in the next few years.

    And yes, Mex, when the Titanic came along a few years later, it was part of the White Star Line. One Mormon woman from Salt Lake went down with her. If that story isn’t generally known, I should dig out the details for a post.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2010 @ 11:39 am

  9. Yes, Mex, the Titanic was a White Star Line ship.

    On a somewhat related topic, I wondered what rules of shipboard etiquette might have been given to my dad before his first North Atlantic crossing. He sailed in November 1944 on the George Washington, which had been the finest ship of the North German Lloyd line when she was launched in 1908. Interned in the U.S. at the beginning of World War I, she was seized (basically, stolen) in April 1917 when the U.S. entered the war and put to use as a transport.

    Such notables as J.P. Morgan and President Wilson sailed on the George Washington. I don’t know if there’s a list of all the men of the 66th Infantry Division who sailed on her in November 1944. But, here’s my guess as to what the rules for shipboard behavior should have been on that voyage, based on my dad’s accounts of the trip:

    1. Take the top bunk, if at all possible. [There were four or five stacked along each wall of every stateroom—and not enough room to walk between them when they were all down—they could be folded up against the wall.] You’ll find out soon enough why you don’t anybody above you.

    2. After removing the liner, hang your helmet at the head of the bunk. When you throw up, try to hit the helmet—the soldiers below you will appreciate it.

    3. When entering/leaving the head, do not kick the sandbags at the bottom of the doorway. You’ll find out soon enough why they are there, and why you want them to stay there.

    4. Enjoy your meals onboard. For breakfast, you’ll get boiled eggs and boiled potatoes. For a change of pace at dinner, you’ll get boiled potatoes and boiled eggs.

    5. Feel free to go up on deck as much as possible. The best seats are at the bow—you don’t want to be downwind of anybody else.

    6. Enjoy your trip. We’ll be zigzagging our way to Southampton for 14 days. And don’t crab about the weather–it could be January!

    At least he didn’t have to pay for his passage–no telling whether he had to tip the deck steward.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 24, 2010 @ 11:54 am

  10. Mark,

    I’m betting your Dad also wore plain, serviceable clothing, which would help in following another bit of advice here:

    The traveler should not make (him)self noticeable, either at table or anywhere else. A discreet reserve always finds favor at home or abroad.

    The most likely distinction between passengers on the George Washington in 1944 were upwinders vs downwinders, and top bunk vs lower bunks, readily apparent by their uniforms.

    I suspect that for many of the readers of this advice, the detail given would likely be as close as any of them would ever get to sailing the Atlantic. Probably served as a vicarious experience. Was this accompanied by illustrations?

    Comment by kevinf — February 24, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

  11. No illustrations, kevinf.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

  12. I’m not sure, but I think there’s a chance that my grandmother and her family set sail from Liverpool on the SS Cedric Cymric around the same time you are looking Researcher. They were a large family of brothers and sisters with their spouses and children overseen by the family matriarch (my great, great grandmother, Sarah Osbourne). I could be completely wrong, but the attached story of the Lusitania sinking sounds awfully familiar.

    As far as the Titanic is concerned, my grandfather’s father died on it (after abandoning his children in Utah, his wife and oldest daughter having died not long after he brought them over from Belfast).

    (My grandmother was also on the second to the last voyage of the Andrea Doria, so I guess there is some kind of oceanic travel curse somewhere in my family tree)…

    Comment by Mina — February 24, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

  13. Whoa, this all hits a little too close to your home, Mina.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

  14. :)

    Comment by Mina — February 24, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

  15. Can I quote this out of context? Church magazine says: “When in doubt, follow the crowd.” Giggle.

    Comment by jeans — February 25, 2010 @ 6:06 am

  16. Ha!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 25, 2010 @ 7:24 am

  17. Interesting, Mina. I looked through the ship’s register and didn’t see anyone named Osbourne or any immigrants bound for Utah. The immigrants in the ship were mostly Russian Jews, Finns, and Irish bound for the Boston area. (Much different than looking at an ship’s register from the earlier period of Mormon immigration.) I don’t imagine the immigrants were paying as much for their passage as the travelers (?).

    When I looked up the Cymric, I saw that the commander of the U-boat that sank the Cymric and the Lusitania, Walther Schwieger, sank a grand total of 49 ships with 3 submarines on 34 missions. And he was only the sixth most successful U-boat commander. A man named Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere sank 194 ships. I’m sure I must have learned this in history in high school since I do remember learning about the Lusitania, but how amazing. What a reign of terror.

    Comment by Researcher — February 25, 2010 @ 8:15 am

  18. Thanks for checking, Researcher! I may be able to come up with the name of the ship; I’m interested now to figure out how the Lusitania figures in the story I heard so much as a child…

    Comment by Mina — February 25, 2010 @ 8:35 am

  19. They could have come on one of the other 47 ships sunk by Walther.

    Comment by Researcher — February 25, 2010 @ 8:36 am

  20. …by Walther Schwieger, I mean. He and I were not on first-name terms.

    Comment by Researcher — February 25, 2010 @ 8:36 am

  21. Glad to see that #18 got cleared up. As any fan of James Bond knows, the first thing that comes to mind when we see “Walther” is the Walther PPK (short for Polizeipistole Kriminellmodell). As effective as that weapon may be, especially when used by Mr. Bond, it’s a stretch to think that it might have sunk a ship.

    [Sorry for the irrelevant threadjack, Ardis.]

    Comment by Mark B. — February 25, 2010 @ 9:19 am

  22. It may not be entirely irrelevant, Mark B. Who knows what self-defense proprieties will be recommended to our young ladies in next week’s installment on the etiquette of the ball room?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 25, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  23. In an effort to streamline their luggage perhaps some of these young ladies could have fashioned Carmen Miranda-esque bonnets out of their citrus stash.

    Comment by Moniker Challenged — February 25, 2010 @ 10:38 am

  24. … as long as they remembered to take off those concoctions when they attended shipboard entertainments and church services, as we learned in part III on Dress!

    (VERY funny, Moniker!)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 25, 2010 @ 10:49 am

  25. Apologies for the lateness here:

    1) Transatlantic liners usually did “cross-channel” calls–eastbound French and German ships would stop at Southampton, whereas British ships stopped at Cherbourg before proceeding on to Liverpool or Southampton. This meant that if a French and a British ship left New York on the same day, then all other things being equal–the French ship would have you in Britain about twelve hours sooner than the British ship would.

    2) Just a note for Researcher: the Cedric and the Cymric were two different White Star ships. The Cymric was sunk by Schweiger; the Cedric sailed on until 1926.

    For those interested in the transatlantic passenger ships, I’d highly recommend John Maxtone-Graham’s The Only Way to Cross.

    Comment by JimD — May 29, 2010 @ 9:02 am

  26. Thank you for clarifying that, JimD. Here’s the passenger list that I got that from. It looks like Cedric is written and crossed out, then written again above it and then Cymric is written next to it. Hence, my confusion, even after looking up the ship in various lists and encyclopedia entries. I’ll correct that in my blog post about the trip. Thanks again!

    Comment by Researcher — May 29, 2010 @ 10:06 am