No. 487.
Mr. Andrews to Mr. Evarts.

No. 408.]

Sir: Having been struck by the recent remark of one of the leading daily newspapers of New York, that the swarm of Norwegian (and Italian) shipping in that port was the phenomenon of the time, it occurred to me that it would be useful to present to the Department a statement of the average wages and cost of subsistence of seamen on American and on Norwegian merchant vessels at the present time. Accordingly, in June last I addressed inquiries on those points to the collectors of customs at New York and Boston, and to the United States consuls at the two principal ports of Norway—Christiana and Bergen; all of which officers I take pleasure in saying, responded fully with the utmost promptitude. And although their answers have been on my table for several days, I have not had time till now to make use of them.

According to the statement of 12th July of this year, by Mr. Hopper, as furnished by the collector of New York, the wages of seamen (ordinary seamen understood) at that port on foreign voyages were from $18 to $20 per month, with one to two months’ pay in advance; and in the coasting trade $25 per month. The statement of Mr. John Babson, United States shipping commissioner at Boston—also of July 12—as furnished by the collector at Boston, shows that the average wages of seamen there were, for coasting, West Indies, Europe, & c, $18 per month—one month’s pay in advance; and for the East Indies, Melbourne, California, & c, $15 per month—two months’ pay in advance.

The average wages of ordinary seamen at Christiania, Norway, say the last of June, were from $8.75 to $9.75 per month in gold. At Bergen the average rate was $10 per month. The wages of “able” seamen at Christiania were from 48 crowns ($12.84) to 56 crowns ($15) per month. The wages of a first mate in Norway are 80 crowns ($21.44) per month; those of a master the same and 5 per cent, of the freight.

[Page 821]

In regard to subsistence it appears that both at New York and Boston, seamen usually waive the ration fixed by law and accept such as is usually provided on ships.

The ration common on vessels out of New York is stated to be as follows:

“Sunday: Salt beef, pork, potatoes, and pudding. Monday: Salt beef, pork, and potatoes. Tuesday: Same, with beans or pease. Wednesday: Same, with rice. Thursday: Same, with beans or pease and pudding. Friday: Salt beef, pork, or fish. Saturday: Salt beef, pork, and beans. In addition, tea, coffee, sugar, molasses, and vinegar; also government allowance of lime-juice. Sometimes canned meats are substituted for others.”

The shipping commissioner at Boston, after quoting the ration required by law for the crew, which is, in brief, one pound of bread, one-eighth ounce tea, one-half ounce coffee, two ounces sugar, and three quarts water per man a day, with one and one-half pound beef, four times a week, one pound and one-quarter pork, and one-half pound flour three times a week, in addition to the issue of lime and lemon-juice, and with some privileges of substitution, states that—

This scale is not generally followed, as seamen are not satisfied with it, but prefer and agree to leave it with, the master to furnish. On a majority of American ships canned fresh meats are used from which soups are made; twice a week baked beans and pork are provided: and Saturdays salt fish when there are potatoes on board. Duff with or without plums twice a week, coffee, soft bread, sometimes butter, Irish stew or hash for breakfast. Tea with cold meat and hard bread generally for supper. In a majority of ships a pot of hot coffee is prepared for the morning watch. A barrel of hard bread, with plenty of water, is placed in the forecastle to be eaten whenever the men desire it.

It would seem that the ration in use for our seamen is about as good as the Army ration, except perhaps the supply of fresh meat; and our Army ration is well known to be ample.

Mr. Consul Gade reports that the ration for a seaman on vessels belonging to Christiania is as follows: One pound of salt meat three times a week; half a pound of salt pork three times a week; half a pound salt fish once a week, generally Saturdays; one pound of bread a day; one pound of butter a week; two pounds of coffee a month; and the quantity of tea, barley, pease, sugar, and sirups that the master judges necessary. Potatoes, mustard, and pepper are allowed on some vessels. When salt fish is not at hand salt pork is issued instead. The cost of the ration at Christiania is estimated at 32 cents per day.

The ration agreed upon by the Shippers’ Union of Bergen, as furnished me by Mr. Consul Gran, though estimated to cost the same, appears to be more liberal than that at Christiania; at least the allowance of salt meat, pork, and fish is a quarter of a pound more as to each article per man than at Christiania.

Barley grits, which are a wholesome and common article of food in Norway, are allowed four times a week without stint in the Bergen ration, and they are probably common in the ration of the Norwegian seamen.

I have the impression that the living on American vessels is better than that on Norwegian vessels; and yet it is hardly probable that the cost of the American seaman’s ration is over 32 cents per day, the amount which is stated as the cost of the Norwegian ration. As to the cost of subsistence, the merchant marine of the two countries would seem, then, to be about on an equal footing.

But in regard to wages we have seen that there is quite a difference, though not so much as would perhaps be expected; the seaman at Boston [Page 822] receiving as low wages as $15 per month, and the seaman at Bergen receiving $10 per month.

I am, & c.,