Crew of an Ocean Liner - 1921

In the "good old days" of the sailing ship, when passenger-carrying was merely incidental to the principal business of a voyage, which was to transport cargo, a ship's crew was made up chiefly of sailors.

There was a cook, of course, and his helpers, who served the meals of the officers and passengers, if any passengers were carried; the crew served themselves. In those days, when the crew of a ship was mentioned, sailors were meant, for they were greatly in the majority.

Today the reverse is the rule. Steam automatically reduced the number of sailors required to handle a ship and introduced the engineer and his helpers in the engine and boiler rooms, who in time outnumbered the sailors.

Next, with modern developments in passenger-carrying, cooks and stewards began to multiply, until today, on a great ocean liner, they actually out-number by a wide margin the deck force and the engine-room force combined.

Added to their numbers and grouped with them are specialists formerly unknown on shipboard, whose functions relate entirely to service and in no way to the operation of the ship.

This multiplying of attendants on shipboard to meet the growing demands for comforts and luxuries in sea travel has led to some astonishing results, both in the size of the ship's crew and in the variety of trades represented in the total of the ship's company.

On a large sailing ship of 76 years ago an average crew numbered about 30 men, and only the packet ships of the North Atlantic carrying large numbers of passengers carried 50 men or more.

Today a single giant carries a crew, or more properly a ship's company, equal in numbers to the combined crews of 25 ships of average size in sailing days.

For example, one steamship, plying between New York and Southampton, carries a crew totaling 878 persons. Of these 568 are in the steward's department, that is, the housekeeping organization, and among them are 24 women.

As to the specialists found in such a crew, one may judge from the following facts: The ship carries 13 butchers, eight bakers and two confectioners.

She also carries three printers, who do nothing but attend to the ship's printing. This embraces not only fresh menu cards for every meal, but a daily paper, which is found at the plate of every saloon passenger when he sits down for lunch.

The big ship also carries a fiddler, as old-time sailors would call him. In fact, he is a violinist of skill, who has several other skilled musicians, composing the ship's orchestra, under his direction. There is also on board a bugler whose business is to blow the meal calls.

Another specialist included in the ship's crew is a gymnast. He rates as athletic director and has charge of the ship's gymnasium, where first-class passengers may exercise with punching bag, medicine ball, rowing machine, fixed bicycles, mechanical horses these animals develop surprising bucking capacity—and various other kinds af apparatus.

There is also included in the crew a swimming master, who has charge of a great tiled swimming tank, in which passengers may take a plunge in warmed salt water, as green as the ocean outside; a professional squash racket court; a tailor who is kept busy the whole voyage pressing clothes for passengers; a chiropodist and women's hairdresser; a rubber, in attendance at the Turkish bath; a manicurist; a "boots" whose chief business is shining the passengers' shoes, and three barbers.

Three carpenters, one of whom is also a key fitter and locksmith; a baggage master, who inhabits a cave down in the sub cellar of the ship, and looks out for everybody's trunks; a librarian, whose business is to issue books to passengers from a library of several hundred volumes maintained in the ship's lounge; "Bell Hops," ranging in age from 13 to 18 years; three elevator men; a typist and shorthand writer; two druggists attached to the ship's dispensary, two doctors and eight trained nurses, who are included among the stewardesses.

The total number of persons required to wait on table is 256, while the force employed in preparing food includes 60 cooks, 20 bakers and 14 butchers and 50 people are employed in the serving department alone.

Besides these there are the usual complement of engineers and other mechanical experts, including 53 engineers of various ratings, 60 boiler-room attendants, who regulate the oil-burning fires—the old days of shoveling coal are over on this particular ship—six electricians, to say nothing of two plumbers and 40 other mechanics of various sorts

Last, but by no means least, is the deck force, the men who actually navigate and handle the ship, and these total the relatively modest number of 80 all told. There are two captains, rating as commander and assistant commander, respectively, and five other officers on the bridge capable of taking command of the ship.

Baltimore Sun  “Liner’s Crew,” in Our Paper: Massachusetts Reformatory, Concord Junction, MA, Vol 38, No. 33, 13 August 1921, p.388, 393.

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