When the Titanic set off on its transoceanic voyage in early 1912, it was considered luxurious and unsinkable. The well-known fate of the Titanic has captured imaginations for more than a century - from its elaborate amenities to its immense size to its famous passenger list.
Of the roughly 2,200 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic, more than 700 were from third-class, or steerage. Travel for a third-class passenger paled in comparison to what first- and second-class passengers enjoyed, but life below deck wasn't anything to scoff at. Third-class passengers enjoyed good food, clean surroundings, and many more creature comforts than they'd had at home or would find when they reached America.
You're Down At Least A Few Hundred Dollars
For a third-class ticket on Titanic, passengers paid £3 to £8, equivalent to roughly $15 to $40 at the time. To convert that to modern figures, £3 in 1912 was about £334 in 2018, while £8 calculated to just over £890. At the end of 2018, one British pound equaled about $1.27, making the cost of a third-class ticket between $424 and $1,130.
The amount paid by a third-class passenger was about two months' wages, so you're out a significant amount of money as you seek out a new life in the United States.
Historians have argued about how much of the ship's intake came from third-class tickets; some have suggested it was around one-third, while others say it may have actually made up a majority of the Titanic's overall ticket revenue. More recent calculations, however, indicate it was between 8% and 22%.
You've Been Checked For Lice And Other Diseases
In order to board Titanic, third-class passengers had to submit to a medical exam to determine if they were healthy and clean enough for the trip. A team of doctors led by Dr. William Francis Norman O'Loughlin, an employee of the White Star Line, conducted the exams.
Passengers were checked for lice and infectious disease - and were denied boarding if they showed any symptoms. Passengers presented their tickets to a doctor who, if the examination went well, returned it to them with an inspection card that allowed them to board. Crew members were also assessed before setting sail. Had Titanic reached the United States, the ship "under American immigration legislation [would have] first stopped at Ellis Island - where the immigrants were taken for health checks and immigration processing," according to Richard Howells from Kings College London.
Attention to medical care didn't stop once everyone was on board. Third-class passengers had their own medical staff. Katherine Wallis looked after third-class passengers, reporting any potentially treatable condition to hospital steward William Dunford.
You're Amazed By The Luxury Of The Ship
Compared to other parts of Titanic, the accommodations in steerage may have seemed less than impressive. If you were a third-class passenger, however, the surroundings were the most luxurious you had ever seen. Third-class passengers enjoyed features better than those found in first- and second-class accommodations on contemporary passenger liners.
They had access to running water, clean living spaces, and sufficient amounts of food. Electricity, pine paneling, and Veitchi flooring all contributed to the sense of awe in third class. That said, all of the third-class passengers - more than 700 in total - shared just two bathtubs.
You're Kept Out Of Other Parts Of The Ship Due To Immigration Law
In addition to medical exams, gates were installed to prevent passenger interaction causing the spread of potential disease. According to US immigration law, third-class passengers had to be kept separate from their first- and second-class counterparts.
The extent to which these gates prevent third-class passengers from escaping once Titanic struck the iceberg remains unclear. At least one steerage passenger, Mr. Daniel Buckley from Ireland, claimed in documents once on display at the Public Records Office, "the passengers in third class had as much chance as the first and second class passengers."
Another third-class passenger, Pickard (probably Mr. Benoit "Berk" Picard from Poland) stated, "[Steerage passengers] were not prevented from getting up to the upper decks by anybody or by locked doors or by anything else."
You Meet Families From All Over The World
There were 33 different nationalities represented among the passengers in third class on Titanic. Immigrants on a journey to a better life in America boarded the ship at Southampton, England; Cherbourg, France; and Queenstown, Ireland, before setting out across the Atlantic Ocean.
At Cherbourg, men and women from countries such as Greece, Syria, Armenia, and Lebanon climbed aboard Titanic. Some 120 Irish passengers boarded at Queenstown, joining large numbers of Swedes, Finns, and Belgians.
Large families of immigrants often traveled together. The Asplinds family from Sweden numbered eight, while there were six members of the Čačić family from Croatia. Eleven members of the Sage family, on their way to America from England, traveled in third class as well.
You Have Automatic Toilets - Unlike First Class
One of the duties third-class matron Katherine Walls provided was training in how to use a toilet. The third class featured indoor plumbing, something many passengers had never had occasion to use.
In the third class, passengers used toilets that flushed automatically because there was fear they didn't know they needed to flush after use. First- and second-class passengers had regular toilets, ones they flushed themselves, presumably understanding the technology before boarding.