The ocean transportation revolution in the North Atlantic during 1826 to 1914

Brandon Dupont and Thomas Weiss have an interesting paper telling you about history of many things:

 They basically build the data from advertised fares of passenger liners published in newspapers during those times:

We have therefore also made use of advertisements in a number of newspapers and magazines to construct a consistent long-term series on first cabin passenger fares from 1826 to 1914. This has proved to be an efficient method of collecting enough evidence on fares to be representative of the industry as a whole. The newspapers – a number of which are readily available online – reported ship movements, departure schedules, and contained shipping line advertisements of fares, often on a daily or nearly daily basis across the period. Compiling fares from standardised newspaper advertisements is more feasible than excavating heterogeneous data from the archives of multiple firms, and it also represents the price signals which passengers were likely to have considered when deciding to travel, even though it does not always measure how much was actually paid.

One limitation to the advertised fares is that they stopped appearing after 1896 for reasons that seem to be associated with the contemporaneous advancement of market-sharing and rate-setting by North Atlantic passenger shipping cartels or conferences. We were, however, able to extend the series up to 1914 using minimum fares established by the cartels. Although these cartel fares were not advertised in newspapers, they were public information, and were reported in news stories and in some shipping line brochures. These fares are those that would have been advertised, if the shipping lines had continued to include fare information in the ads they did run.

The evidence shows that fares declined over a period and then rose:

Since passenger volumes varied across shipping companies, we also constructed a weighted fares series using estimates of passenger volumes from a variety of sources including the New York Commissioner of Emigration, the New York Times and other newspapers, and, in later years, records of the Transatlantic Passenger Conferences. Both the weighted and unweighted fares are illustrated in Figure 1.

By 1870, the major UK lines were all providing at least weekly departures from New York, and the quality of travel was improving as well, with electric lighting and the first forms of refrigeration soon becoming standard. But as illustrated in Figure 1, first class travellers paid fares that were about 40% lower in 1890 than in 1870 even while there were considerable improvements in frequency of service, safety, and on-board amenities. The declining fares before 1890 contrasts noticeably with what took place in first class travel on the New York–UK corridor for the two and half decades after1890, during which first cabin fares increased while first cabin passenger traffic stagnated. This might reflect increased efforts to substantially improve travel amenities as suggested by Johnson and Huebner (1920), and made evident with Cunard’s launching of the Lusitania and Mauritania in 1907. Or it might have been more a matter of passenger lines using stronger cartel price support to collect some offsetting revenue – through fare increases – for the mild cost inflation incurred since the 1890s and for enhancements provided to passengers. What is consistent for both the decades before and the decades after the 1890s is the negative correlation of first cabin fares and passenger volumes, which was stronger than might be expected given that most pre-WWI first class transatlantic passengers were wealthy tourists not especially sensitive to the prices of tickets for the oceanic transit.

Many things are here. How people traveled, time taken, various passenger classes in ships and so on..

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