The Steamship Historical Society of America’s three main themes for the focus of its collections are Trade, Immigration, and Leisure. We feel that the three themes provide direct links and impacts to every single American. It is our goal to connect everyone, and provide a tangible example of this through the themes of our archival collections. We feel that these connections solidify our relationships and provide a glimpse into the American kinship we all share that transcends time.
How many people arrived in America via water from overseas? If you are of European or African descent, odds are that your relatives arrived or were brought here to America on a ship. And if your ancestors came here between 1850 and 1950, there is a good chance they came on a steamship. Even earlier, most settlers came via water, aboard sailing vessels. The vast majority of our ancestors came to America by ship.
Today in America more than 90% of everything consumed, worn, and/or used arrived through a U.S. port. This means that American consumers’ purchases, nearly every product in every store, comes via our waterways. Do we realize how much commerce through our ports affect our lives? In the early days you could not predict whether or not fruits, vegetables, and other products with a short shelf life would survive a transatlantic journey. Delivery time depended on prevailing seas, wind, and weather. With the inception of steam-powered vessels, regularly scheduled transit was established and products arrived as scheduled, vastly changing the way Americans lived their lives.
If one happens to be a native person and grows his or her own organic food then it is possible the Immigration and Trade themes are not relevant. But if one loves to fish, water ski or perhaps take a Caribbean cruise then life on the water takes on a whole new role. That role is the life of leisure. Many Americans enjoy a modern vacation on the 7 seas via a contemporary cruise ship. More people are enjoying vacation holiday time onboard ships today than in any other time in history.