News & Tall Tales. 1800s.

San Francisco Gold Rush 1800s.

Cost of Passage

January 10, 1851, Sacramento Transcript, Sacramento, California


The pioneer of this route, the first class and favorite steamship ALABAMA, R. W. Foster, commander, will leave the Coatzacoalco river for New Orleans, touching at Vera Cruz on the 25th December, for the first trip; on the 16th of January, 1851, for the second; on the 7th February, 1851, for the third, and so on, subsequently at intervals of 20 days. The Alabama will ascend the river about forty miles, and her landing place may be precisely ascertained at the town of Minatitlan. Her stoppage at Vera Cruz will be only of a few, hours. The travel home from San Francisco is shortened nearly 2000 miles. The cost is greatly reduced, as will be seen by reference to the rates at foot.

The country to be traveled is healthy, and facilities for travel are considered abundant. The road is open, and mules and horses can be obtained; there are towns and commodious stoppages, and the whole distance can be made in about twenty-four hours. Confirmation of this can be easily procured previous to engagement, by parties desirous to adventure. No established arrangement for travel has yet been made by the Tehuantepec Company in New Orleans, who propose to give their immediate attention to it, but meanwhile, they afford the opportunity that the public should become practically acquainted with a route of communication which will very soon become the great highway.


In Saloon: $50
In Lower Cabin: $45
In Steerage: $30

Two hundred and fifty pounds baggage is allowed to each passenger. 
Freight 35 cents per cubic feet.

C. J. MEEKER & Co. 
66 Poydras, St., New Orleans

January 17, 1851, Sacramento Transcript
Sacramento, California

To the Homeward Bound. The fare has been reduced so materially by Law's Line, that it will not be long before we hear of pleasure trips being made to the Atlantic States. Wedding parties will make the trip just as they do in the o'd States, in taking the grand rounds, via Saratoga, Bedford, Greenbriar, &c. The homeward bound can now take passage from San Francisco to Panama for $100 in the foward, and $150 in the after cabin. A passage can be taken through to New Orleans, in the after cabin, for $225; and to New York for $250; whilst a foward cabin will only cost $140 to New Orleans, and $150 to New York. At such rates there are but few who cannot return to the Atlantic side whenever they have the disposition to leave California. The mass here, however, are loth to give up their residence for that of any other in the Union.

March 22, 1851, Daily Alta California
San Francisco, California



Will positively sail, on the 22d or 23d instant, the fast sailing American brig Rachel Stevens, of 300 tons. This vessel offers splendid accommodations for passengers, and a great saving in time and money to those who wish to return home, as Messrs. Garcia, Despons & Kern offer to take passengers in 17 days, and at the cost of only $45, from Acapulco via the City of Mexico to Vera Crduz, where regular steamers are running to New Orleans and New York.
For freight or passage, apply to

Ship and Custom-House Broker
Opposite the Custom-House
N.B. A few Sailors wanted. 

April 10, 1851, Sacramento Transcript, Sacramento, California

The Passage Home. The price of passage to the Atlantic side, is a question put to us almost every week, and we have no means at haad of giving a very satisfactory answer, for we find that in steaming, as in many other departments of business, one price is asked whilst another is taken. In regard to the prices of passage, the Alta says: Competition is fast bringing down the cost of travel, to a rate at which probably none can have reason to complain of, unless it be the fast Yankees who run the rival steamers.

Already on one of the lines between San Francisco and Panama, the passage is is down to one hundred and twenty five dollars, cabin passage, and between Chagres and New York the charge has been reduced to twenty-five. This is certainly a great reduction from the old rates, when men who were put in to the tune of one thousand or one thousand five hundred dollars to get here, can, exclusive of the cost over the Isthmus and their current pocket money, return for one hundred and fifty dollars.

May 1852


The new and powerful steamship NORTHERN LIGHT, 2,500 tons burthen, Capt. Tinklepaugh, will leave from Pier No. 2, North River on WEDNESDAY, May 6th at 3 o'clock P.M. for San Juan del Norte, where passengers will promptly escorted over the route of the Transit Company of Nicaragua, having but 12 miles of land transportation, to San Juan del Sur, and thence to San Francisco, in the steamshipSS LEWIS, 2,000 tons burthen, Captain Baker.

The favorite steamship PROMETHEUS will succeed the NORTHERN LIGHT and leave May 20th, connecting with the steamer PACIFIC.

Plans of cabins may be seen, and 
Passage secured only on application to

D. B. ALLEN. Offices No. 9 Battery Place, Up-Stairs


VANDERBILT'S LINE FOR SAN FRANCISCO via Nicaragua -- The steamship BROTHER JONATHAN having undergone extensive alteration, and refitted with superior cabin and steerage accommodations, to meet the present requirements of the trade, will take her departure for San Francisco, on the first of May, at 3 o'clock P.M. from Pier No. 2, North River, touching at Rio de Janeiro, Valparaiso and San Juan del Sur.

The BROTHER JONATHAN will take her place on the Pacific side of Vanderbilt's Nicaragua line. A limited number of passengers will be taken, at $300 for Cabin and $200 for Steerage, for which, apply to

D.B. ALLEN, Agent, 9 Battery Place, up-stairs


August 1852
FOR SAN FRANCISCO - Passage San Francisco to New York, 1854.TUESDAY. June 1

The splendid new double engine steamship CITY OF PITTSBURG. 2,460 burden., Wm. C. Slutesbury, Commander.

This splendid steamship having undergone extensive alternations to suit her for the trade and to make her accommodations superior to any steamer on the Pacific, will sail for San Francisco as above, touching at Valparaiso and Panama. Her staterooms are large and airy, and her steerage accommodations are superior to any steamship afloat, having abundance of both light an air as well as an extra height between decks. It is confidently expected she will make the passage to San Francisco in as short a time as it has been made by any steamer, thus offering to families and to those who desire their comfort, a much pleasanter conveyance than by the crowded steamers via Chagres, as only a limited number of passengers will be taken.


In Ladies' Saloon: $300
In Gentlemen's Saloon: $250
In Steerage: $200

Apply to THOMAS RICHARDSON, No 41 Exchange place New-York, and No 9 Walnut street, Philadelphia, or to MAILLER & LORD, No 100 Wall street.

December 8, 1852
Sacramento Daily Union

LOSS OF THE STEAMSHIP CITY OF PlTTSBURG. This steamer of the New York and San Francisco line has been for some time past expected at Panama via Cape Horn, having left New York in August last. By the last arrival we learn that she put into Talcahuana for coal, but failing to find any, was supplied at Coronel, after which she left for and arrived safely at Valparaiso. She was to have left that port on the 25th October, but on the 24th fire was discovered in her hold, which it was impossible to extinguish, and after burning ten hours the vessel was totally consumed. The City of Pittsburg was a new vessel, had fifty-three passengers and as many hands on board, all of them left without a change of clothing. The Chilenos and foreigners raised $4,000 for their relief.

April 8, 1853, Daily Alta California
San Francisco

The Steamers and the Miners

Much dissatisfaction has been expressed in this quarter at the undue advantage taken of the homeward bound miner, by the Pacific and Atlantic Transportation Companies, in making at certain seasons when there happens to be a falling off of passengers, a hue and cry touching the great reduction in the rates of passage from San Francisco to New York inducing thereby many of this class to congregate in your city on the false show of returning to the Atlantic States by an outlay for the passage less less than one half of the usual charge. The unfortunate parties thus misled are frequently reduced to straights of the most serious character. There are many persons who have passed two or three years of unsuccessful toil in this country and many more of suffering under the loss of health broken down in body and mind finally concluding that the only alternative is to return to their native land; and when learning that the cost is within the limits of their humble means, acting on their resolution, proceed from the mountains to the Bay. But when arrived at the point of embarkation, what must be their consternation to learn that they must either pay the maximum rate of passage, to which point of this grievous sliding scale the index of prices has most suddenly and unexpectedly advanced, or return again to the mountains, to pass another term of years, in pursuit of that which has thus far eluded their grasp, or to die perhaps, (a case not unfrequent) in the rarified air of those high altitudes, to which they know with a saddening certainty the percularities of their constitution can never be adapted.

This is no overdrawn statement. Can it therefore be wondered at that such men, goaded on by the helplessness of their situations, should hold meetings in your public squares, to give forth an honest expression of their indignation which they but too justly feel, by being thus tampered with and duped.

When a standard rate of this character is adopted by the lines plying between San Francisco and New York, their proprietors will hear little and care less of the diversion made from the regular travel by sailing vessels chartered for that purpose and the cause for the anathemas and execrations which have been so liberally bestowed upon them by the traveling community will have been removed forever.

The only true policy for these transportation lines to pursue is to establish one undeviating price of passage and let the standard be at such a rate, that seasons of great demand may compensate for extra expense when travel is limited.

The main cause of the brilliant success of the Cunard line of steamers for the past thirteen years, has been that adoption in the outset of a standard rate of passage, and which policy has since been pursued by all other British ocean steam navigation companies, that no opposition will tempt them to depreciate nor no extraordinary demand will induce them to enhance. Thus an American traveler in Egypt or Palestine, from the standard rates of the overland route or by the Oriental and Peninsular Steam Navigation Line to England, may calculate with the utmost nicety the time he may indulge in his pleasant perigrenations with such pecuniary means as he may have at his command, and the precise cost of his return via London and Liverpool and thence by a Collins or Cunard steamship across the Atlantic to his home in new world, a sine qua non of as much consequence to this State, in the migratory movements of its people, as those of an older growth.

July 2, 1854, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California


The Collins and Cunard companies have increased the price of passage in their steamers between America and Liverpool. In the former, the price is now $130 in the first cabin, and $75 in the second cabin. In the latter, the prices are the same in their New York vessels as in the Collins' line; and from Boston the fare in the first cabin is $110 and in the second $60. The reason given for this increase is the advanced cost of coal, stores and wages.


For Liverpool. -- The favorite steamship CITY OF GLASGOW, William Wylie, Commander, will sail from Philadelphia for Liverpool on THURSDAY, May 6 at 9 o'clock A.M.

Passage in single state-rooms: $90
Passage in double state-rooms: $65
Passage in forward state-rooms: $55

Passengers will be furnished with Railway tickets to Philadelphia, free of expense, by the agent.


September, 29, 1854, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

Through Adams & Co.'s Express. The steamer New World arrived at her landing this morning, ten minutes past one. We are indebted to Adams & Co. for San Francisco papers and correspondence.

The price of cabin passage to New York, by the Independent Line, was reduced this morning to $125, and steerage passage by the Nicaragua Line, including Isthmus transit, to $70.

October 19, 1854, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

The New Arrangement

In speaking of the late combination of the steamship lines between San Francisco and New York, the Times and Transcript adds: It will appear to many that the prices of passage are fixed at too high a rate, but on the other hand it should be remembered that the two companies will be now enabled to meet the most essential wants of the community in furnishing safe, frequent, speedy and certain transportation on both routes, and that the difficulties and disappointments which have hitherto been experienced are not at all likely to recur.

It is due to both these lines that their endeavors heretofore to meet the frequent trying emergencies of the service should be properly appreciated. Under their present management there has been evinced a proper desire to deal justly and liberally with all who have had transactions with them. The Agents are identified with the interests of California, and occupy a position as representatives of well established and permanent companies, which enables them to comply with every requisition upon their resources. Supplied with a large reserve fleet of steamers on both sides, no accident can occur which will place it out of their power to remedy in the most expeditious manner.

Three-fourths of the travel between California and the Atlantic States is in the steerage, the inducement of low fares making this the preferred portion of the steamer, and the price of through tickets, including the Isthmus transit, placed at $150, has been settled upon as the lowest rate at which the business of transportation could be sustained on a remunerative basis. The impartial and unprejudiced will be led to conclude that health and security are considerations of quite as much magnitude as would be measured by the difference in the cost of travel between the present scale and that which has recently led to so much embarrassment and confusion.

We do not regard the new arrangement of the two steamship companies as dictated by a spirit of monopoly, but rather as a necessary measure of self preservation, and should it prove that they can reduce the rates and still sustain themselves by the increase of travel, we believe that they would unhesitatingly make such a change. A combination is necessarily a monopoly, and it is preposterous to suppose that prices of passage by long and expensive routes, such as those between San Francisco and New York, can be maintained at anything like the rates which have recently ruled.

The Times and Transcript does not regard the new arrangement as dictated by the spirit of monopoly; we deem it the legitimate result of that spirit. Every such combination is essentially and absolutely a monopoly. They are combinations of capitalists to protect themselves and insure a positive return of so much per cent, monthly upon the money invested. We admit that monopolies are not necessarily injurious to the communities in which they may be located; but the history of associated capital, the world over, proves that the tendency of all combinations to monopolize, is, to wring as much profit as possible from the necessities of those who are compelled to apply to them for accommodations.

The stockholders in these two famous steamship lines expect to be benefited by this combination. Are we asked how? Does it not give them the absolute control of the passenger travel from San Francisco to New York? Does it not enable them to fix the prices at such figures as will insure them a fine profit on their capital? Do they not own all the lines between California and New York? Did they not buy the Independent line of boats at an enormous price, and pay Mr. Vanderbilt $100,000 as a consideration for his not putting on another opposition line? Did not the combination intend when this was done to compel the traveling community to and from California to pay back this $100,000? Does not the fact that the companies possess the absolute power to do this, prove that they do possess as naked a monopoly as ever was created?

If the two companies were to buy up all the flour and wheat in the State, and fix upon the price of its sale to the hungry people, would it not be rightly called a monopoly? Where is the difference in principle between buying up all the flour to control its prices, and buying up independent opposition lines to control the price of tickets to New York? The only distinction we can see is in degree; in one case we should be urged by hunger to buy the flour, in the other, we might refuse to buy tickets, and remain in or out of the State.

Capital invested in steamships should pay to its owners a good interest; this we grant, it is no more than justice. Abstractly, its owners possess the right to combine for the purpose of making it pay five to ten percent, per month provided they can find a community willing or obliged to bleed thus freely. But we insist that capital in steamboat lines should take its chances for profit an it does in other branches of human enterprises. It will hardly do to say that these companies have not made money by the hundreds of thousands. The Nicaragua line was sold by Vanderbilt to the present company, before he went to Europe for some $300,000, and in less than one year it was advertised that the profits of the line had paid this enormous sum of money, and that, too, against an active competition. In fact, these two steamship lines have been and arc now the best paying of any in existence . . .

Emigrant Passage Ticket fom Chicago to San Francisco.

Dispatching a steamer weekly will prove advantageous to the State a plan which should have been adopted long since; but, as an offset, we pay a half per cent, advance on exchange and nearly or quite fifty percent, advance on passage. It will be seen at a glance that California is to be the sufferer. Her citizens pay the advance on exchange, most of the advance on passage, and, in addition, numerous families will be prevented from coming to the state, which is more to be regretted than either of the other considerations. Men in the State who were striving to earn means to send for their wives and children, will now give up in despair, and, as the only chance left them, will take a steerage passage, return to their families and abandon the State. As a matter of policy, we are confident the combination will find it for their interest to reduce the fare from New York to California. We are confident they would realize more money by adopting such a policy, and we know such a change would be greatly beneficial to California.

January 1, 1905, San Francisco Call


Queenstown: $59.25
Liverpool: $59.25
Londonderry: $60.50
Glasgow: $60.50
Scandinavian Points: $64.25

By Largest Steamers
and Quickest All-Rail Route
Proportionate Rates from Other Points.

To secure these rates you must buy now from
General Agent Pacific Coast C & N W Ry.
617 Market Street
San Francisco, California

The Naval Order of the United States has a history dating from 1890. Membership includes a wide range of individuals, many with highly distinguished career paths.

The San Francisco Commandery meets the first Monday of each month at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club in San Francisco, California and holds two formal dinners each year.

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.




Kindly Contribute to help us provide new information for you.


DALevy @
164 Robles Way
Suite 237
Vallejo, CA 94591

Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

Please inform us if you link from your site. Please do NOT link from your site unless your site specifically relates to immigration in the 1800s, family history, maritime history, international seaports, and/or California history.