Finding a ship to the Americas was relatively easy, the passage remained the most dangerous part. A journey from Great Britain to the east coast ports of the United States could take as little as 25 days and as long as 100 days. Most migrants travelled abroad cargo vessels with limited space and comfort. The conditions were poor and disease spread quickly. Migrants were told to bring food for twelve weeks. Packaging required to be small to fit into the limited space aboard the vessel. Steamships shortened the journey to about ten days but few migrants could afford passage. Passenger continued to travel in the steerage, deep inside the ship.

Travelling in a ship’s steerage was uncomfortable. The crowded conditions and lack of hygiene continued to cause quickly spreading diseases. Washing was impossible; water was limited and used for cooking and drinking. There was hardly any ventilation in the steerage and during stormy or heavy seas, the bowls of the ship were a horrid place. Migrants had little activity both mental and physical, suffering from boredom. Only regulation with set cleaning and eating schedule made the passenger experience more bearable. After an arduous and long journey, migrants were glad to finally set foot on the American continent and their new home.

Image: Victims of Ireland’s Great Famine (1845–49) immigrating to North America by ship; wood engraving c. 1890.