Children on Shipboard - 1914


It used to be thought that an ocean-going ship was a bad place for children, and parents made their voyages without the little ones when it was possible. But in these days, everything is done for the comfort and entertainment of the children and even a long sea voyage may be of great educational value.


In the Children's Dining Room on Board a Steamship. Harper's Bazar, January 1914.

In the Children's Dining Room on Board a Steamship. Harper's Bazar, January 1914. GGA Image ID # 15ed436b1c


On the modem ship every arrangement is made for the comfort and pleasure of children. Boys and girls have not only dining rooms of their own, a special food and milk supply, but they have their own play rooms and deck games.

A stewardess is engaged to look after the little girls and an old salt, kind and gentle and resourceful like Masterman Ready, is detailed from the sailor crew to watch over the boys. Both stewardess and sailor arrange games for the children in the play rooms, when the weather is rough on deck, or when they tire of roaming about the ship.

The Little Rich Boy Who Got Lost

So well are children cared for on such liners as the Olympic, the Mauretania, the Imperator, the George Washington, including the ships to the Mediterranean and South American ports, that fathers and mothers no longer object to taking them along. Indeed, a better education can be gotten this way than from school books.

Sometimes youngsters give parents terrible frights by getting lost on the big ships, but they are usually found in some unfrequented spot, busily engaged in asking questions of some member of the crew.

It was so with one little boy who persuaded his mates to play at being pirates and got himself elected chief pirate. The crew was supposed to be shipwrecked and, as chief, he went in search of another ship.


Children Playing Quoits on Deck of Steamer Comus, 1900.

Children Playing Quoits on Deck of Steamer Comus, 1900. Detroit Publishing Company. GGA Image ID # 2010c6df2c


When he did not come back, the other children quit playing. An hour passed and he did not appear. By ten o'clock at night the whole ship was astir. It was feared he had fallen overboard. His mother became hysterical.

She besought the captain to help find her boy. Though cheerily reassuring, even he was gravely disturbed. At eight bells (midnight) the new watch was sent to look for the boy.

After a time the fog lifted and in the moonlight the lookout saw, nestling under the forward side of the high steel breakwater, the boy fast asleep.

The bubbling, irresistible spirit of childhood is seldom marred by sea-sickness. During an early Spring tour to the Mediterranean a young dandy, occupied in a desperate flirtation, lost the good will of the group of boys and girls on board.

He was wont to seek the quiet, shadowy comers of the ship with the girl and more than once scolded the children for getting in the way. He dubbed the frolicking children a bande noire.

So the children, wise in their way, spied on the couple. One afternoon, while tea was being served, some dozen youngsters broke in upon a group of grown-ups.

"Mama, Johnny saw something dreadful last night," began a little girl impressively.

"What dear?" asked the unsuspecting mother.

"You tell," said the little girl, pushing Johnny to the front. Johnny, all primed, pointed an accusing finger at the dandy.

"He kissed Miss Elizabeth. We saw him."

After passing a mortified day in their cabins, the flirtatious pair made friends with the children, and indeed used their games as an excuse to be together.


The Social Director on the "Imperator" Telling Stories. Harper's Bazar, January 1914.

The Social Director on the "Imperator" Telling Stories. Harper's Bazar, January 1914. GGA Image ID # 15ed66f023


Another group of youngsters, the little brothers and sisters of a big sister, thought to correct her affectation of superiority. They crept out of bed early one morning, went to the promenade deck, and secured possession of the canvas bucket which the quartermaster used to dip into the sea to take its temperature.

Filling it with the ice-cold sea water, they carefully counted the ports until they came to that of the big sister's cabin. With a swift swing, the bucket was sent into the cabin, its contents spilled and quickly withdrawn. Then they fled back to bed.

Directly a half-shaved, half-dressed and very wet man. noted for his courtly manners, ran upon deck demanding to know what sailor had dared to throw water into his cabin.

A deck steward came, then the chief steward. The man was so angry, the deck officer came and tried to explain that a stray wave had doubtless splashed him. "But I saw the bucket!" cried the irate man.

The investigation that followed yielded no information. But the children knew. They had counted the ports correctly, but on the wrong side of the ship.

It is on the long cruises, perhaps, that the children see most and have the most fun.

They get used to the ship and settle into ship ways. The trips to Central and South America in winter are particularly interesting, not only because of the queer ports and luxuriant tropic vegetation, but because of the strange animals that arc to be seen.

Sometimes on these cruises the children become so infatuated with ship-board life that they let their elders do all the shore tramping. One boy fell so in love at Havana with the steam launch of the Victoria Luise, used for towing the row-boats full of passengers to and from, that he spent all of his waking hours therein. Not once could he be persuaded to go ashore himself.


Max, Who Entertains the Children on the Ship. Harper's Bazar, January 1914.

Max, Who Entertains the Children on the Ship. Harper's Bazar, January 1914. GGA Image ID # 15ed7a13f0


The Rivals

A truly pleasing side to these sea voyages, whether to South America, around the world, on the swift liners or the slower boats across the Atlantic, lies in the sturdy friendships that now and then spring up between the children and the ship's officers.

There is Captain Le Vedher of the Caroline, a quaint, sprightly bachelor who loves children with all his heart. On one voyage, I remember, both lie and his dear friend the ship's doctor, also a bachelor, took such a fancy to a merry little boy that they became jealous of each other.

The captain had his imposing uniform and his bridge machinery to interest the boy; but, again, the doctor had a tempting kind of bonbon in his medicine chest that he gave the boy in guise of medicine.

One day when the doctor seemed to be gaining ground he discovered that his store of bonbons was missing. He went to report to the captain that someone had dared to steal from him.

He found Captain Le Vedher walking up and down with the boy. By one hand, the boy hung on to one of the captain's huge fingers; in his other were clasped the missing bonbons. The captain had purloined them.

"Look at him," complained the defeated doctor to the mother, "making your boy sick with candy!"

The Sand-Pile (Sandboxes) on an Ocean Liner. Harper's Bazar, January 1914.

The Sand-Pile (Sandboxes) on an Ocean Liner. Harper's Bazar, January 1914. GGA Image ID # 15ed99779b


Walter S. Hiatt, "Children on Shipboard," in Harper's Bazar, New York: Harper's Bazar, Inc., Vol. XLIX, No. 1, January 1914. p.86.

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