Luxury and Leisure
Though they traveled in style, the ever-adventurous Franklina despaired at the lack of amusement on board. While she was pleasantly surprised by some of her fellow passengers, she was less impressed by "A number of people from New York" who flaunted their wealth and status:
Their diamonds, their maids, their clothes are discussed in painfully audible tones."
Clearly uninterested in such frivolous matters, Franklina found herself quite bored.
(Pictured: The S.S. Bothnia in 1877, Ancestry.com Public Archive)
We do little but eat and sleep on the ship... Between meals we read & nap in our steamer chair while the gentlemen on board drink brandy & soda."
Journal, Monday, July 12, 1875, On Board the SS Bothnia in the Atlantic Ocean
While the Bothnia was an undoubtedly top-ranking vessel for those who could afford a first class ticket, 1,100 passengers traveled "third class" in steerage.
Travelers like Franklina and her family who purchased "cabin" tickets paid between $80 and $130 (between $1,920.00 and $3,120.00 today).
The remaining passengers purchased third class tickets at "lowest rates," about $15 (in 2020, $360).
(Pictured: Newspaper advertisement of the Cunard Steamer Line, The New York Herald, July 14, 1874, page 2. Library of Congress.)
Once boarded, travel conditions for steerage passengers were a far cry from the comfort enjoyed by those above decks. Despite 19th Century lawmaking efforts to improve steerage accommodations, conditions were notoriously dirty, noisy, hot, odorous, and cramped. In 1879, one journalist traveled in steerage aboard a Cunard Steamer from New York to Liverpool undercover. His reports of the squalid state and horrendous treatment of his fellow passengers shocked readers:
This dirty boarded space -- not nearly so large as an ordinary room -- was the 'saloon,' dining room, and living room for steerage passengers; and it was certified to accommodate 150 persons. The stench, combined with the heat, was simply intolerable."
"In the Steerage," Indiana State Sentinel, Wednesday, September 17, 1879, page 2.
As we approached Queenstown, green fields began to appear, divided by stone fences and dotted with houses which looked more substantial and comfortable than we expected of Irish houses."
Though she had never set foot in Ireland, Franklina's knowledge of that country may have been colored by her experiences with the Irish in America. The Great Famine (1847-1852) sent hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants across the Atlantic Ocean.
American nativism, classism, and religious prejudice quickly stereotyped the Irish as dirty, lazy, drunken, violent, and poverty-stricken. Franklina's surprise at Queenstown's "substantial and comfortable" houses was undoubtedly influenced by these unkind and exaggerated assumptions.
(Pictured: Antique postcard showing Queenstown Harbor, County Cork, 1890. Library of Congress.)
The Industrial Revolution introduced a new world of steamships and trains which allowed Europeans to travel through the continent in significantly less time. The emerging middle-classes and the introduction of travel guidebooks fostered the tourism industry. Following the Civil War, the American nouveau riche—with their guidebooks in hand—crossed the Atlantic to immerse themselves in European class and culture.
Here, Queenstown is bustling with well-dressed people among chimneyed houses. As a port city, merchants and business people would have made up the majority of the immediate population. For most Irish people, however, life was a different story.
(Pictured: 1872 illustration of Queenstown harbor by J. Brennan. Note the Cunard line Emigration office in the foreground!)
Back above deck, Franklina poked fun at her more stuffy fellow passengers,
What a hard thing life must be when one cannot condescend to be amused."
Luckily for Franklina, the promise of amusement beckoned in the form of her Grand Tour.
Though she was a financially well-off, well-educated Victorian lady, Franklina often escaped the trappings of her class: she had little patience for small talk and dainty pretensions. Her passion for history, art, and exploration set her apart from typical Victorian women. There were, nevertheless, rules and expectations of women traveling abroad in 1875. Click the button below to learn more!
(Pictured: Photograph of Franklina C. Gray during her Grand Tour, c.1875, Camron-Stanford House Collection. Gift of Tracey Bartlett, 2018).
Camron-Stanford House, 2021 www.cshouse.org