Searching for Stowaways


“The practice of ‘stowing away,’ or hiding about a vessel until after the passage tickets have been collected, in order to procure, by this fraudulent means, a free passage across the Atlantic, is stated to be very common to ships leaving London and Liverpool for the United States. The ‘stowaways’ are sometimes brought onboard concealed in trunks or chests, with air-holes to prevent suffocation. Sometimes they are brought in barrels, packed up to their chins in salt, or biscuits, or other provisions, to the imminent hazard of their lives. At other times they take the chance of hiding about the ship, under the bedding, amid the confused luggage of other passengers, and in all sorts of dark nooks and corners between decks. Hence, it becoming expedient to make a thorough search of the vessel before the steam-tug has left her, in order that, if any of these unhappy intruders be discovered, they may be taken back to port and brought before the Magistrate, to be punished for the fraud which they have attempted.

As many as a dozen stowaways have sometimes been discovered in one ship; and cases have occurred, though not frequently, of men, women, and young boys, having been taken dead out of the barrels or chests in which they had concealed themselves, to avoid payment of £3 or £4 passage money.”

Illustrated London News, July 6, 1850
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Jan. 12, 1856