Historical ship travel prices?
December 8, 2019 6:58 AM   Subscribe

I’m interested in finding out the typical price for a third class ticket on a ship from Genoa to Rio de Janiero in 1939. I’ve tried searching for historical price listings but haven’t had any success. Any ideas for where I might be able to find such informations?
posted by ciocarlia to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Part of the reasons the name changed at Ellis Island" stories are often completely wrong are that the Ellis Island records are actually the manifests from the point of departure. I don't think the ones I've looked at typically record the fares paid, but if manifests are available for Rio De Janeiro arrivals, it might be a place to look, as I'm sure the information recorded varied with time, point of embarkation and perhaps destination (e.g. the ones I've read have been in English despite being German ships).
posted by hoyland at 7:07 AM on December 8, 2019

Most of what's readily available online seems to be listings of collectibles/ephemera. Occasionally one can find a listing like this one from 1929. But mostly it's just cover images, amusing but useless for your purposes.

I would suggest contacting a reference librarian, either at your public library or a university. They might be able to suggest offline collections or other resources you could look at.
posted by Weftage at 8:42 AM on December 8, 2019

If you can get old Baedeker's guides from a library or something, I see the one for Argentina from 1914 has the route from Genoa and prices for various steamship lines. Perhaps one from the late 30s would have similar info for Brazil.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:44 AM on December 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

The research library at Mystic Seaport has several databases of ship registers and shipping lists and other maritime records. I'd get in contact with a librarian there, they'll be able to point you to a resource.
posted by niicholas at 8:54 AM on December 8, 2019

I would look at prominent magazines / newspapers from the time frame, trying to find ads. Even if you can't get Genoa-RdJ prices directly, you should be able to find comparable routes.

For example, a brief search found this eBay ad for a vintage Cunard/White Star ad from 1939. It quotes US-France/England (it's vague on which cities) starting at $82 for third class and $129 for first class.

Even just clicking on that link and digging through the 'related' and 'sponsored' links finds several other vintage ship ads.
posted by Hatashran at 9:21 AM on December 8, 2019

This is what reference librarians are for! Consult your local. I'm sure they can help you, to the extent such documents are still publicly accessible.
posted by praemunire at 10:35 AM on December 8, 2019

1931 3rd-class ticket, from the SS Duilio, but this ship may have discontinued this route before 1939. (Ultimately, it was bombed and sunk by Allied planes in October 1944.)

In the mid-to-late '30s there were some shake-ups w/r/t Italian shipping routes and passenger classes (due to political climate, and business decisions); for example, the Conte Biancamano had been making a cross-Atlantic voyage, with calls at Genoa and Rio, until 1937. In 1937, she was transferred to the fleet of Lloyd Triestino, becoming their flagship. Suitably renovated (the passenger accommodation was greatly improved, thanks to a reduction in numbers as a result of the elimination of the third class) and now with an elegant white livery, the beautiful ship was placed in the express service to Shanghai.

I think the same thing might've happened with the Conte Verde and the Conte Rosso - reclassification, and re-assignment to a newly-popular (lucrative) route. [Note: Between November 1938 and August 1939, approximately 20,000 Central European refugees, most of them Jews, landed in Shanghai. They had sailed on German, Italian, and Japanese ships and, in the short span of eight months, constituted a massive exodus.]

[The Conte Verde was briefly in the headlines in 1930, per Wikipedia: One of her most famous voyages was when she brought the national association football teams of Romania, France, Belgium and Brazil to Uruguay to participate in the 1930 FIFA World Cup. The Romanian team boarded in Genoa, the French delegation (including FIFA president Jules Rimet) boarded in Villefranche-sur-Mer, the Belgian team boarded in Barcelona, and the Brazilian team boarded in Rio de Janeiro. The trophy and three referees, Jean Langenus, Henri Christophe, and Thomas Balvay also crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the ship. More about later route changes at this link.]

These are the sites I have open, which have, among other intriguing things, 1930s travel brochures with passenger rates:

Italian Liners Historical Society

Maritime Table Images

GG Archives, Historical Ephemera Archives 1880s-1950s

This last has an "Italian Line Third Class Rates - 1938 (travel brochure)" which doesn't have Rio as a port of call - linking if it turns out the voyage you're researching needed to be broken up to include a stopover in the US. Beyond that, identifying the steamship still making that particular voyage (while offering that passenger class) in that year may be the most important piece.

[I'm only skimming and poking, as I'm headed out -- the right list/brochure/ephemera tidbit may be located in a deeper dive in one of these places. Sorry, and good luck.]
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:49 PM on December 8, 2019 [9 favorites]

This book (p.90), published in 1940, says that there was direct service from Genoa to Rio via the "Lloyd Sabaudo" line, so finding a timetable / fare table for them would probably get you your answer.

Unfortunately Google Books hasn't yet turned up any good information on their services. There's lots of information available on fares and timetables to and from US ports, but finding anything international is a challenge. Presumably there are guidebooks that contain it, published in Italy, but Google's holdings skew US-centric.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:10 PM on December 8, 2019

Thank you everyone! These are great suggestions and fodder for many more hours of exploration :-)
posted by ciocarlia at 2:14 AM on December 9, 2019

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