Today’s story is particularly for my Canadian friends, especially for those of you with British heritage. From Views of Canada and the colonists embracing the experience of an eight years' residence: views of the present state, progress, and prospects of the colony; with detailed and practical information for intending emigrants, by James Bryce Brown (Edinburgh & London, 1851), here are some of the suggestions your ancestors may have received, should they have been travelling steerage class in the mid-nineteenth century.
Steerage passengers usually have to provide themselves with bedding, a certain amount of provisions, and cooking utensils, with such articles as are necessary for serving up their meals. Fuel, with a stove or grate for cooking, and water to the amount of at least three quarts a day to each individual, and also at the rate of two and a half pounds of bread or biscuit per week, one pound of wheaten flour, five pounds of oatmeal, two pounds of rice, two ounces of tea, half a pound of sugar, and half a pound of potatoes, are required to be provided by the vessel to each passenger, according to the enactment of the Passenger's Act, under a severe penalty; for the enforcement of which, and other clauses in the same act, complaints are to be made to any of the Government Emigrant Agents, or Officers of Customs. These issues of provisions are to be made in advance, and not less often than twice a week. There are also powers provided by the Amended Passengers' Act, passed in April 1851, to the Commissioners of Emigration, to substitute for the comfort of passengers, for any of the articles of food mentioned, any other articles of food.
The average length of passage from England to Quebec was computed in 1841 and 1842, from passages by 616 vessels with emigrants, to be 45 days the one year, and 46 the other. The shortest passage was 24 days, the longest 78 days. The Commissioners of Emigration state the average passage from England to Quebec to be six weeks. The Passengers' Act requires the length of voyage to be computed at 10 weeks or 70 days, for the purpose of laying in stores. Persons who provide their own provisions would therefore do well, I would say, to lay in a stock to meet, as nearly as may be, the period computed by Government. It will save them all uneasiness of mind upon a material point, and may prevent much suffering, which otherwise might be occasioned by a long voyage; and the supplies left over by a shorter voyage, may, upon the vessel's arrival, and after reserving a little for the rest of the journey, be disposed of one way or other, without much loss. A deal chest, with lock and key, is perhaps the best for holding the greater part of the provisions. A good conditioned barrel with padlock, rather than a sack, is found to be "best for preserving potatoes. The kinds of provisions usually taken are biscuit, hard baked loaves, hams or bacon, cheese, salt butter; eggs, preserved by being well greased to exclude the air, and packed with bran, saw-dust, or such like; milk, preserved by being carefully boiled with loaf-sugar, and sealed in small jars or bottles; and tea, coffee, sugar, oatmeal, herrings, with mustard, pepper, vinegar, and salt. In calculating the provisions to be taken, those required to be provided by the vessel will, of course, be taken into account. A few other things, which the taste or circumstances of the party may suggest, will much promote comfort during the voyage. Among such may be mentioned split pease for soup, flour, suet, and a small quantity of raisins and currants for a pudding now and then; a few lemons and oranges, a little gingerbread, and such trifles, are always found to be wonderfully agreeable in relieving and cheering the time upon occasions during an ocean voyage. Immediately before sailing, a little fresh meat, say a leg of mutton or so, with vegetables and barley, will be found, in most instances, during the first few days out at sea, very serviceable and agreeable.
Those of you who know me well may have already realized that this post is an excuse to give you another gingerbread recipe. In the past I have posted the instructions for Gingerbread for Voyages or Travelling (1827) – today I give you Sea-Voyage Gingerbread from Miss Eliza Leslie’s book The Lady’s Receipt-Book: A useful companion for large or small families (Philadelphia, 1847.)
Sift two pounds of flour into a pan, and cut up in it a pound and a quarter of fresh butter; rub the butter well into the flour, and then mix in a pint of West India molasses and a pound of the best brown sugar. Beat eight eggs till very light. Stir into the beaten egg two glasses or a jill [gill] of brandy. Add also to the egg a teacup-full of ground ginger, and a table-spoonful of powdered cinnamon, with a tea-spoonful of soda melted in a little warm water. Wet the flour, &C., with this mixture till it becomes a soft dough. Sprinkle a little flour on your paste-board, and with a broad knife spread portions of the mixture thickly and smoothly upon it. The thickness must be equal all through; therefore spread it carefully and evenly, as the dough will be too soft to roll out. Then with the edge of a tumbler dipped in flour, cut it out into round cakes. Have ready square pans, slightly buttered; lay the cakes in them sufficiently far apart to prevent their running into each other when baked. Set the pans into a brisk oven, and bake the cakes well, seeing that they do not burn.
You may cut them out small with the lid of a cannister (or something similar) the usual size of gingerbread nuts.
These cakes will keep during a long voyage, and are frequently carried to sea. Many persons find highly-spiced gingerbread a preventive to sea-sickness.