Quarter-Deck of an Emigrant Ship– The Roll-Call


“[Roll-call is a ceremony] that occupies a considerable space of time, especially in a large ship, containing seven or eight hundred emigrants. The passengers– those in the state cabin excepted– being all assembled upon the Quarter-Deck, the clerk of the passenger-broker, accompanied by the ship’s surgeon, and aided in the preservation of order by the crew, proceeds to call for the tickets. . . A double-purpose is answered by the roll-call– the verification of the passenger-list, and the medical inspection of the emigrants, on behalf of the captain and owners. The previous inspection on the part of the governor was to prevent the risk of contagious disease on board.

The inspection on the part of the owners is for a different object. The ship has to pay a poll-tax of one dollar and a half per passenger to the State of New York; and if any of the poor emigrants are helpless and deformed persons, the owners are fined in the sum of seventy five dollars for bringing them, and are compelled to enter in a bond to the city of New York that they will not become a burden on the public. To obviate this risk, the medical officer of the ship passes them under inspection; and if there be a pauper cripple among the number who cannot give security that he has friends in America to take charge of him of arrival, and provide for him afterwards, the captain may refuse to take him.”

Illustrated London News, July 6, 1850