Pioneers At Sea

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It paid so well that many other lines followed, giving birth to the expression, “ocean liner.” There were regular schedules everywhere—from American ports to England and Europe, and from one American port to another American port; ships were made larger and faster, they were driven harder and harder, and a successful packet captain was a public figure of renown. The passenger had a chance—for the first time—to travel in something like comfort. Staterooms previously had been pigeonholes, five feet high and six by six; now they had modern dimensions and livability, and their occupants were not compelled to have a Spartan attitude toward life.

This coincided with the period of America’s great growth and development; it was part of it, and it contributed measurably to it. As Mr. Cutler remarks, the vision, daring, and resourcefulness of these sailing-ship men “advanced by many years the financial and industrial growth of the nation, and, in addition, provided the funds to purchase the vast territories that now comprise two thirds of its area.” Steam caught up with them, to be sure, in the 1850’s. The very demand for regularity and speed which they had evoked made their ships and their skills out of date, at last, and the sailing packet became one with the Phoenician galley. But it was a great day while it lasted.