The great ocean liners of the early 20th century, including RMS Queen Mary, SS Normandie, and the ill-fated RMS Titanic, ferried their passengers across the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Although these ships are usually remembered as luxurious vessels, their secondary function as postal carriers links them with smaller boats that sailed rivers and lesser bodies of water. Using these small crafts known as packet boats, nautical mail service began in the 1600s and continued until the advent of airmail. However, in French, paquebot defines an ocean-going ship such as the one Charles Demuth (1883-1935) took on his first transatlantic voyage in the fall of 1907. The passenger manifest of the Red Star Line's SS Menominee lists Demuth and his fellow travelers; the ship traversed the pond under steam power, from Philadelphia and New York to Dover, and then to Antwerp. Interestingly, the only officers listed on the manifest were the captain, the chief steward, and the surgeon, R. Kemel. Twenty named passengers sailed with Demuth, not including an “attendant” and an infant with its nurse. One wonders how many other men and women paid for steerage passage, below decks, without meriting individual mention.
Torpy JM. Paquebot “Paris”. JAMA. 2011;305(4):333. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1912
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