Reflecting and Reifying Class Stratification

I had another thought about the overall exhibit theme when I was driving today…  Through the lens of food, we could talk about how each of these modes of travel have contributed to or reified class stratification in the United States.

We see it in ship travel, particularly in how the fees charged by commercial lines for steerage passage paid for luxury travel.  According to some of the reading Elena and I have done, steerage was the money maker and made ocean crossings like the Titanic possible.  I didn’t know that – I just figured the rich were paying for their vacations.  In fact, the money collected from steerage customers and the fact that the companies spent very little for their accommodations made trans-oceanic a lucrative business.   From the menus alone, we have a compelling argument for the division of classes.

Are the other groups finding similar accounts in their research?

I just wanted to type this out before I lost my flash of organizing thoughts.  It’s not really a complete proposal, but just something that came to me while I was driving.  I think it’s going to be a little tricky tying all of our narratives together, but 1) exoticization and its contribution to a distinctly American view of the world and 2) class stratification, we have both an external and internal discussion of food ways and the ways they inform our understanding of United States cultural and social history.

Thoughts?  Am I completely off?


Research Jackpot!

The Steamship Historical Society of America is in East Providence, RI!  [Happy dance and jumpy claps!]

Additional Steamship Bibliography

Braynard, Frank O., and William H. Miller.  Picture History of the Cunard line, 1840-1990.  Courier Dover Publications, 1991.

Brownstone, David M, Irene M. Franck, and Douglass L. Brownstone.  Island of Hope, Island of Tears.  Barnes & Noble Publishing, 2000.

Edington, Sarah. Captain’s Table: Life and Dining on the Great Ocean Liners, 1st ed.  National Maritime Museum Press, 2004.

Maxtone-Graham, John.  Liners to the Sun, 2nd ed.  Sheridan House, 2000.

McCutcheon, Janette.  Cunard. Amberley Publishing, 2009.

Piouffre, Gerard.  First Class: Legendary Ocean Liner Voyages Around the World.  Vendome Press, 2009.

Ulrich, Kurt.  Monarchs of the Sea: The Great Ocean Liners.  I. B. Tauris, 1999.

Steamship Stories – James W. Paige, 1852

From the LOC’s American Memory – A diary kept by James W. Paige on his travels from Maine to California, 1852.  Later published as Round Cape Horn: Voyage of the Passenger-Ship.  Original held at the G. W. Blunt White Library at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

Diary Entry – July 5, 1852

Another attempt has been made to induce Captain J. to substitute a more decent bill of fare in place of the disgusting dishes upon which he has starved us during the voyage. As we are approaching Talcahuana, where a supply of such necessaries as we may need can be obtained, it was thought proper to hold a formal meeting for the purpose in the main cabin. A chairman, secretary and a committee to report a bill of fare for the cinsideration of Captain J., were chosen. Mr. Grant, the chief steward, was called in, who stated that in supplying the table in the after cabin with better food than those in other parts of the ship, he had acted in compliance with the orders of Captain J., and that the captain had also directed him to reduce the allowance of soft-tack to the passengers. The committee on the bill of fare reported to recommend for dinners, on Monday, beef and rice; on Tuesday, beans and pork; on Wednesday, fish and potatoes, or rice; on Thursday, beef and potatoes and duff; on Friday, beans and pork; on Saturday, fish and potatoes, and on Sunday, beef and duff, with soft-tack and apple-sauce once a day. This report was accepted. The committee immediately waited upon the captain, whom they found in a more amiable mood than they had anticpated, and obtained from him some general promises of improvement, which gave us a slight degree of encouragement.
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Steamship Stories – Bills of Fare from Waterman Journal, c. 1860

Lucius A. Waterman

From LOC’s American Memory – A journal kept by Lucius A. Waterman during voyages on the Pacific Mail Steamship Company’s Ships China, Constitution, and Ocean Queen, from Hong Kong to New York, c. 1860, included this wine list and 4 menus.

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Steamship Stories – Meals in Steerage

From The Chautauquan (November 1907)
Description of Meals in Steerage

The entire steerage was divided into groups of four, six and eight each. Each of these groups appointed a captain to go to the galley at each meal to receive the dole of food for the entire group. These groups make themselves as comfortable as they can — anywhere. Sometimes on a hatch, sometimes on deck, sometimes in their bunks. The steerage is not provided with means for sitting down so usually the meals are eaten on the floor. After the food of each group has been apportioned every man shifts for himself — or goes without if he can’t stand the filth and the smells and the discomforts.

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Steamship Stories – Anchor Line Accommodations

From Anchor Line Brochure (1902)

Description of second-class accommodations: “Passengers are berthed in Staterooms, on the forward Main Deck of all steamers. except ” Columbia” and ” Astoria,” on which they are situated in after part of Spar and Main Decks. The rooms accommodate from two to six passengers each. Berths are allotted in rotation of purchase, and numbers marked on tickets. Passengers are provided with all necessaries for the voyage, including a liberal supply of well cooked provisions served as per bill of fare in special Dining Room, but do not have access to Main Saloon, and are restricted in their use of the Promenade Deck.”

Description of third-class accommodations: This accommodation is exceedingly well lighted and ventilated, and fitted up in rooms, married couples, single women and single men being berthed separately. and every comfort and attention is furnished that is possible on an ocean steamer. Third-class passengers are provided, free of charge, with a mattress, bedding, mess tins (plate, mug, knife, fork. spoon and water can). Tables are set for meals, and passengers are waited upon by stewards who take care of eating utensils. A liberal supply of provisions, properly cooked, will be served on the steamers three times a day by the steamers’ stewards ; breakfast at 9, dinner at 1, supper at 6 o’clock.”