Engines of Empire
Steamships and the Victorian Imagination
Douglas R. Burgess Jr.

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Introduction

Annihilating Space

In the main saloon of the Great Western, the side of beef had been consumed. It was time for toasts. Alderman Hoxie Talmadge, representing the city of New York, led off. “Victoria Regina!” he cried, “The dominion of youth and beauty extends throughout the world!”1

It was the spring of 1838. Victoria had reigned for exactly eleven months, so the alderman’s toast was not ironic. The whole company, Americans and British, stood and raised their glasses. Then it was Captain James Hosken’s turn. Speaking as the master of the steamship Great Western, and for its backers in London, he saluted: “The Navy of the United States! May we never be brought into other than friendly collision!” What exactly a friendly collision might look like Captain Hosken did not say, but everyone was well lubricated and full of beef, so they joined his toast with enthusiasm.

Then a hush fell. The next speaker was a small, rotund man of middle years with a shock of black hair and hooded, piercing eyes. His speeches were so famous, even then, that he would one day be given the fictional task of defending a man in the Devil’s own court. But Daniel Webster had a terrible head cold. Snuffling, flourishing a handkerchief, he lumbered to his feet and gave one of the shortest speeches of his career.

“It is our fortune to live at a new epoch,” he began, hoarsely. “We behold two continents approaching each other. The skill of your countrymen, sir, and my countrymen, is annihilating space.” Then he raised his glass and sat down.2

Tremendous applause. The Great Western had crossed from Bristol, England, to New York in just over two weeks at an average speed of 16 knots. She was the largest, fastest ship in the world, and the first steamship expressly designed for the North Atlantic run. Her architect wanted to come along for the ride, but on the day of her maiden voyage Mr. Brunel had fallen over 20 feet into the engine room and had to be carried off at Canvey Island. Toasts were raised to his convalescence.

The great cabin where these men sat was 75 feet long and 21 feet wide, roughly the same size as the whole of Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria. In the bloated hyperbole of the age it was described as “wadded in a most luxuriant style . . . only dreamed of in the descriptions of the Arabian Nights, and the tales of faery.”3 Trompe l’oeil paintings lined the walls, obligatory cherubim sported around rural landscapes that might have been Cornwall or the Hudson Valley, depending on one’s point of view. At the Great Western’s bowsprit an immodest Neptune pointed his golden trident at lower Manhattan.

By rights Senator Webster’s toast should have been last, but in the ensuing commotion Alderman Talmadge called upon another guest to speak. His pedestrian name, John Ridge, belied his lineage: John Ridge spoke for the only nation in the room as yet unmentioned, the Cherokee. Why he was there and what he was supposed to say can only be imagined; in all likelihood Ridge had been included to give a certain exoticism to the party. Europeans and Englishmen persisted in the belief that America was still primarily an Indian nation, and Americans themselves often manifested an odd pride in this distinctiveness. But Mr. Ridge was determined to disappoint. Picking up on Webster’s image of the steam engine annihilating space, Ridge pointedly reminded the assemblage of what that space contained. If it was the Indians’ destiny to be driven from their homes and hounded across the wilderness, then so be it. The Cherokee warrior “would retreat to the highest peaks of the Rocky Mountains, there to breathe a long, lingering farewell to the land of his fathers, and to die in defense of his life and liberty.” John Ridge raised his glass, alone.4

Can the whole history of an era be read in a single exchange of words? Alderman Talmadge and, most especially, Captain Hosken were articulating a new and lasting rapprochement that would become central to world politics. Sixty years after the Revolution, and only twenty-five after that brief, odd skirmish known as the War of 1812, Britain and the United States were finally coming together. Two nations that had almost everything in common (“Except their language,” Oscar Wilde would famously amend) recognized the fact, and celebrated it.

The steamship was the metaphorical bridge to bring these two brothers back together. Now for the first time one could embark on a vessel and confidently expect to arrive on the other side of the Atlantic in two weeks, rather than months. The steam engine was indifferent to prevailing winds, its twin paddles churning through the water with regular, measured, reassuring speed. Just as Talmadge’s mention of a youthful queen was meant to suggest a new era of friendliness, Captain Hosken’s clumsier talk of friendly collisions was a reminder of all that had gone before: decades of enmity and mutual distrust, punctuated by an almost constant war at sea. A new queen, a new era, and now a new device: the steamship, which would replace wooden walls and 20-pound guns with tourists, emissaries, and deep holds filled with mutually profitable goods.

Daniel Webster had spun that metaphor out yet further. The new epoch he invoked was not merely one of renewed friendliness, but empire. Just as the steam engine closed the gaps between like-minded nations, it would stretch their purview and open up new worlds as yet unknown. Isambard Brunel, architect of the Great Western, was already turning over in his mind a vastly larger steamship capable of making the voyage from Liverpool to India without refueling, a distance of over 10,000 miles by sea.5 Webster could not have known this, but he had nevertheless unerringly identified—in three sentences—the birth of imperialism. Annihilating space meant bringing every corner of the world closer to its center, a contraction and consolidation of myriad different peoples, languages, cultures. Where that center would be located was, of course, a matter of dispute.

But John Ridge, of the Cherokee Nation, saw something different. From his perspective, annihilating space was a profoundly violent concept. Daniel Webster had perhaps envisioned empty tracts of sea and wilderness; Ridge filled them in, and inserted himself. His words were a cri du coeur from a survivor of Andrew Jackson’s infamous Indian Removal Act of 1830, a policy still underway as the dinner party ended. Alexis de Tocqueville, the most celebrated visitor to the United States after the Marquis de Lafayette, watched in horror as Choctaws were expelled from Memphis, Tennessee: “There was one who could speak English and of whom I asked why the Chactas were leaving their country. ‘To be free,’ he answered, [and I] could never get another reason out of him.”6 Liberty and open space, the qualities that defined American identity, were meeting their cruel inverse—in Tennessee and in the cabin of the Great Western. John Ridge was reminding the group of a principle that would bring suffering to millions throughout the next century: One society cannot expand without displacing another.

Sitting in the splendid ocean liner’s saloon, the Cherokee emissary recognized a new and disturbing development. Distance had always been the one impenetrable obstacle to imperial dominance. It kept the traffic between Europe and Asia to a mere trickle, enough to transfer goods but not maintain an army. Pashas, emperors, and chieftains maintained cordial relations with the Europeans, secure in the knowledge that their isolation protected them. The exigencies of distance and communication bedeviled even those colonies that had been attempted: the most famous, of course, being the Americas. For decades American colonists created their own laws and flouted those of England, certain that there was little England could do in response. When it finally tried, the colonies revolted. And won.7

Now a new and dangerous change was on the horizon: a device that, by “annihilating space,” could bring the western world up to and into those places where it had never been before. If a man could leave London and arrive in New York two weeks later, how long would it be before he could circle the globe with equal impunity? Just what sort of power did that confer, and how would he use it? John Ridge dreaded the answer, and would live to see it borne out.

The concept of annihilating space was hardly unique to that moment.8 In fact, it seemed to lend itself especially to maiden arrivals: Just two years later, with the coming of Samuel Cunard’s Britannia to Boston, local Brahmin Josiah Quincy raised his glass to “the Memory of Time and Space—famous in their day and generation, they have been annihilated by Steam.”9 So, too, were John Ridge’s fears shared by other chroniclers. Not long after the Great Western’s arrival, a New York merchant would confide in his diary anxiety over this new era:

This powerful agent, which regulates just now the affairs of the world; this new element, which like the other four, is all-potent for good and for evil, has almost annihilated distance, and overcome the obstacles which nature seems to have interposed to locomotion . . .10

Indeed, so ubiquitous was the expression that one historian, in his own recent account of steam imperialism, dismissed it as “cliché” not once but twice.11 Familiarity may breed contempt, but this response seems reductive: recognizing the popularity of the phrase without acknowledging the real significance behind it. Indeed, a similar dismissive attitude extends to the subject of maritime steam history.

In recent decades, the role of the railroad in societal change has undergone a necessary and welcome reappraisal. Beginning with Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s seminal study The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century, a cadre of scholars have devoted themselves to examining the transformative impact of mechanized speed on the landscape, social relations, tourism, perception of distance, even the concept of time itself.12 Railway travel, we are told, detached passengers from their surroundings, bound them (and their colonized peoples) to a unified system of time embodied by the station clock, and created an artificial sense of place by hurtling persons in an enclosed car over a rapidly changing and almost indistinguishable landscape.

Yet the fact that steamships carried these effects even further—divorcing passengers from the landscape altogether, creating self-contained artificial communities onboard for weeks rather than hours, becoming worlds unto themselves whereby passengers would descend (quite literally) into brief and transient contact with foreign ports—has never been fully considered. True, in most studies of technological imperialism, a single chapter is often devoted to the steamboat, but always for its role in maintaining military order along rivers or displacing indigenous communities.13 The cognate impact of steam tourism, specifically the way in which steamship travel altered passengers’ understanding of foreign locales (and their own place within them), has never been explored.

This is odd, since tourism itself has, like railway travel, provided considerable material for research.14 “Recent scholars,” wrote one, “tend to stress the dichotomy between travel and tourism, viewing it as an integral part of modern tourism itself.”15 Yet studies of Victorian tourism, which focus heavily on the railway excursion and Thomas Cook’s package tours, rarely give the steamships more than a mention.16 One commented in her introduction on the emergence of critical analysis for rail travel “and to a lesser extent steamships”; on examining the footnote, however, only railroad works were cited.17 Hemmed in on every side by studies on railways, tourism, technological imperialism, and so on, the steamships exist like a blank void at the center of all this scholarship. Indeed, it seems as though there is a curious reluctance among scholars to—if I might make a bad pun—get their feet wet.

A quick glance at the maritime stacks might provide one clue for this hesitation. Ocean liner history has been the traditional province of amateur enthusiasts; nearly every title is a panegyric to the liners, or the way of life they represented.18 There is little if any critical analysis in these works. The field, moreover, is severely limited. Perennial fascination with the Titanic has spawned an endless stream of titles resurrecting every facet of the lost ship from hull density to Second Class dinner menus;19 beyond that, other histories cater to a relatively small community of self-described “liner buffs.” Again, the authorship is primarily amateur, and the circulation extremely narrow. It is possible that the sheer enthusiasm of these authors and readers has unwittingly deterred more serious consideration. In addition, maritime history has always seemed to exist rather apart from other disciplines, almost as if the ocean itself were a kind of metaphorical barrier.20 My purpose with this book is thus twofold: first, to extend the same methods of analysis employed by Schivelbusch and others to the as-yet unexplored subject of steamship travel; second, to reach beyond that analysis to a broader consideration of the impact of the steam vessel, in all its maritime forms, on the Victorian mind.

The parameters for such a study were suggested nearly thirty years before, in Michel Foucault’s comment that the ship was essentially a “heterotopia . . . a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the sea and . . . [is] the greatest reserve of the imagination.”21 A ship is thus artificial in every sense: a created vessel for a created community, isolated from all other creations and communities, transient, yet bound by the same symbiotic rhythms that define all such places and communities ashore. Chroniclers of the 19th century intuited this, even if they lacked the psychological lingo to describe it. Many wrote of the ship as a world unto itself; when the shore disappeared on the horizon, it was as if the vessel and her passengers had passed into a solipsistic void where the only reality was themselves. Such freedom encouraged flights of imagination, as Foucault understood. Passengers bonded with the vessel in a more direct way than any other man-made object or building: Freudians could get a great deal of mileage from the dozens of diarists that described themselves ensconced in the “womb” of the ship. Moreover, long voyages compelled passengers to create new communities, and it was inevitable that these created spaces would both mirror and contrast with those on shore.22 Left to themselves, passengers drew from the social norms they left behind in constructing new shipboard societies, yet reveled in the comparative freedom to redefine social barriers and interact with others beyond their usual circle of acquaintance—“heterotopia,” as Foucault describes it. Interestingly, we find the same phenomenon even on overnight passages: Mississippi steamboats, for example, were a constantly morphing kaleidoscope of humanity that altered its pattern with each new arrival and departure, yet preserved an essential unity throughout.

As artificial communities, created in part by shipowners and in part by passengers themselves, these vessels are an invaluable lens through which to consider (or reconsider) Victorian society. The project is thus not unlike Marcus Rediker’s examination of pirate “libertalias” in the 1720s: A self-created community divorced from ordinary society can often be the most effective tool by which to understand that society.23 Yet Victorians’ relationship with steam was more than self-reflexive. The engine worked a profound change on those that encountered it, from ordinary spectators to tourists to imperial administrators bound for the colonies. Much of this transformation was unreservedly positive. The potential of the machine, conveyed through repeated spectacles, fired the boilers of human imagination: Suddenly, everything seemed possible. It is no exaggeration to claim that the image of a steamship’s hull waiting to be launched became the most recognizable symbol of both technological and societal progress in the 19th century. Yet on the obverse side, this same optimism led to overconfidence, an almost religious veneration of technology, and ultimately an equating of steam with “civilization” that had catastrophic consequences for subjugated peoples around the world.

If that sounds harsh, it is also a necessary corrective for decades of hagiography for men like Robert Fulton, Isambard Brunel, and Samuel Cunard, not to mention the ships themselves.24 Every national history has a special chapter set aside for its technological progress: the first transcontinental railroad, the first steamboats on its rivers, and so on. These are depicted as triumphs. Railway tracks across the wilderness, or the wake of a steamship, are tangible icons of progress and civilization. How many of us, for example, can call to mind the famous Golden Spike photograph of 1869: two men shaking hands for the camera with their respective crews and twin railway engines facing each other in the dry scrub and desert of Promontory, Utah? To subject this halcyon moment to cold historical analysis seems almost unkind. Yet it has already been done: in Ben Marsden and Crosbie Smith’s reconsideration of the “hero” engineer, in Richard White’s masterful study of the transcontinental railroads, in Walter Johnson’s examination of the “steamboat sublime” and its impact on race relations in the antebellum South.25 Traditional narratives, as Marsden and Smith write, “populated by the ‘gung ho’ imperialist, the simple untutored craftsman, the evermore gargantuan steamship . . . might well be visually pleasing and stylistically straightforward, adorning coffee tables and within easy reach on the bedside cabinet. But they comfort rather than challenge.”26

I propose to extend this critical reappraisal to the steamships specifically—as distinct from railroads, telegraphs, and other 19th-century technology—and there can be no better starting point than Rudyard Kipling’s famous dicta in 1905, “transportation is civilization.” Kipling was giving voice—almost seventy years later—to the same concept of annihilating space that captivated Daniel Webster. Now the comment was more valedictory than anticipatory. The steam engine had conquered. But what did this mean, and how did it happen? One thing is certain: The transformation was not only on the landscape of the world, but within the landscape of the Victorian mind.

Subjecting the wonder of steam travel to critical reappraisal is not intended to be a condemnation of the invention, the people, or the era. To be sure, they were wondrous times. My purpose here is not to denigrate Victorian achievements, or the awe with which they were regarded, but to understand both. In order to do so, we must take a step back and examine the phenomenon with a dispassionate eye. This breaks down into two related inquiries. First: What impact did the steamship have on Victorian and Edwardian society? Clearly a profound one, yet its actual dimensions have never been explored. Second: How did they themselves conceive of this impact? In other words, how was it incorporated into their imagination, their worldview, their sense of self and others?27 That is a more fascinating and much harder question. Consequently, this book is not primarily a history of ships or empire, but rather how both were understood and reflected by society itself. Such an insight can only be gleaned from examining a broad range of sources—from the fantastical imaginings of Jules Verne to the travelogues of Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray and (most importantly) to the recorded observations of hundreds of ordinary men and women who found themselves confronted in one way or another with steam.

This study is divided into three sections, corresponding with the three distinct vantages by which 19th- and early 20th-century Anglo-American society regarded steamship travel.28 Part I, “Spectators,” examines the rise of steam from the perspective of the general public. From the very beginning, inventors and promoters marketed their vessels as mechanical wonders, self-consciously linking the “miracle” of steam with Victorians’ love of spectacle. Exhibitions and races were choreographed pageants designed to foster in the public mind sympathy for and identification with individual ships. Ordinary persons who might never cross the Atlantic were nevertheless encouraged to feel vicarious pride in their nation’s technological accomplishments and enjoy the thrill of the race when those vessels were tested against another’s. Thus steamships quickly became avatars of statehood, embodying not only the technological aspirations of their people but their patriotism as well.

Those early promoters were successful beyond their wildest imaginings. As the largest moving objects in the world, steamships were perfectly suited to carry within themselves the wonder and awe of a World’s Fair. Beginning with the Great Exhibition of 1851, which had a direct role in the conception and creation of the Great Eastern, ships became inextricably linked to the fair’s technological, patriotic, and even moral aspirations. Yet the need to produce such spectacles—to build vessels that were not only efficient and functional but “wondrous” as well—ultimately had devastating consequences. The general public came to expect each new ship to be a technological marvel, placing unrealistic and impossible expectations upon designers. Engineers overreached, creating ships that were more fantasy than fact. Thus by the end of the century the phantasmagoria of steam overtook the reality. Victorian imaginations, fired with possibility yet heedless to limitations, came to regard the steamship as an object of secular veneration, an embodiment of all the certainties of the age. Carrying the heavy weight of such symbolism, the ships inevitably fell short. When they did, it was an indictment not only of their designers but of society itself. Part II, “Tourists,” shifts perspective to consider the impact of the steamships on the imaginations of those who sailed aboard them. On the one hand, what they found on board was very much like what they left: Socio-economic classes were rigidly segregated, and each class of accommodation was tailored perfectly to its clientele. Hence First Class passengers were received into a luxurious enclave set high above the other decks, reinforcing their sense of exclusion and superiority; Second Class were the literal and metaphorical middle, close enough to First to share its aura of respectability yet still very much apart; Third were the laboring classes, housed in utilitarian dormitories that hinted at the darkest of their possible destinies: the workhouse or prison. Nevertheless, on smaller vessels, steam travel often became the means of escaping the strictures of class. A mélange of passengers assured anonymity: No one knew anything of his confrères except what they themselves revealed. Mississippi steamboats and side-wheelers on Long Island Sound became the setting for escapist fantasies, as their humble clientele reveled in the illusion of “fine living” for a night. In an era with few opportunities to escape the drudgery of daily life, where people were constantly reminded to keep to their place, steamboat journeys were rare and treasured transgressions.

As the notion of a pleasure cruise came into being midcentury, along with package tours and cut-rate railway excursions, Victorians discovered a new means of regarding the world and their place within it, as tourists. The cruise experience was unique, for it allowed the tourist to remain ensconced in familiar, comfortable surroundings while the world was brought quite literally to one’s door. Instead of being immersed in the wilds of foreign locales, passengers regarded their ship as a fixed point in a kaleidoscopic universe where cities simply passed by like slide images in a projector. With limited time in each port, one learned the novel art of experiencing all of Venice or Barcelona or even the Holy Land in a single day: Travel, with all its myriad inconveniences, gave way to brisk and efficient tourism. Forays ashore were limited to just enough time to see the major sights (often from the brisk trot of a hired carriage); interactions with locals were reduced to haggling for a souvenir on the pier. The effect on Victorians’ view of the world was profound. Instead of dispelling preconceived ideas and prejudices, cruising helped confirm them.

In Part III, “Imperials,” we examine the ways in which spectacle and steamship tourism combined to create a new kind of traveler: the imperial tourist. Steam imperialism began with the exportation of wonder: bringing the spectacle of steam to those still “sitting in darkness.” Aligned with this metaphorical conceit of steam as civilization was the actual impact the vessels had on the maintenance of empire. The vast fleets of the P&O (Peninsular & Oriental), British India, and other firms not only became Britain’s lifeline to empire, but for most passengers they were their first exposure to the “mysterious East.” Boasting names like Mooltan and Tanganyika, these ships nevertheless were bastions of Britishness within: combining mock-Tudor fantasies with the exigencies of a tropical climate. More significantly, such vessels served as training grounds for neophyte imperial administrators on their way to take up their posts: It was onboard that “griffins” (as they were called) first learned the language, customs, expectations, and privileges of their new station. Thus the liners had a crucial and yet largely ignored role not only in the preservation of the empire, but in the creation of the imperial mind.

This aspect took on even broader dimensions late in the century, when ships became more expressly patriotic. Following the example set by the German firms, steamships embodied within themselves the culture and form of their respective nations. On the most basic level this translated into choice of architectural styles, or the judicious placing (on German ships) of an imperial bust. By the end of the 19th century, however, steamships had become so intrinsic to notions of empire that even their nomenclature reflected the connection. At the same time as Admiral Mahan published his famous thesis linking sea power to a nation’s success,29 P&O vessels were given the names of the colonies owned by Britain, with the flagship Kaisar-i-Hind (“Empress of India”) holding dominion over all. Germans proudly titled their ships after the imperial family, as if they were avatars of the Kaiser himself. Cunard, more subtly, raised imperial echoes by naming its ships after Roman provinces. The implication was obvious: Ships were not merely agents of their respective nations, but floating embodiments of empire themselves. And so they would remain, until the final conflagration of the First World War.

It did not take long for the results of steamship imperialism to manifest, and we close this study by considering the later accounts by some of the same chroniclers that had once proclaimed the “wonder” of the steam age. By the turn of the century that fervor cooled, and those who were able to see the imperial world take shape were often horrified by the role of the steamship therein. “Steam as civilization” became the mantra for outright exploitation, subjugation, even genocide. From the Mississippi to the Ganges, steamboats displaced native populations and allowed for dictatorial control of local communities. Even the concept of steam tourism came under critical reappraisal: first as a means of bearing witness (as Mark Twain did) and second as an agent of imperial domination itself. The lofty vantage by which westerners viewed the outside world, from the top deck of a visiting steamer, became the perspective of the colonizer—detached, superior, ignorant, indifferent.

But let us begin as the Victorians did, with a burst of fireworks. They arced over the city of Port Said on the evening of November 17, as Khedive Ismail of Egypt turned a lever and the cataracts of the Suez released. “The barrier is down!” an observer cried ecstatically. It was 1869, annus mirabilis—the same year that the Golden Spike was driven in Utah, the White Star Line introduced the modern ocean liner, the Theodore Roosevelts set out to tour Europe, and Mark Twain published The Innocents Abroad. The first vessel to pass through the gates was the royal yacht Aigle, with Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, aboard. Following her was the steamship Delta of Britain’s P&O Lines. It was a moment of consummate technological and imperial theater, leading an overwrought correspondent to declare: “One of the most formidable enemies of mankind and civilization, which is distance, loses in a moment two thousand leagues of his empire. . . . The history of the world has reached one of its most glorious stages.”30

That remained to be seen.

Notes

1. See Christopher Claxton, The Logs of the First Voyage, Made with the Unceasing Aid of Steam, Between England and America, by the Great Western, of Bristol, Lieut. James Hosken, R.N., Commander; also an appendix and remarks, by Christopher Claxton (London: British Library, 1838). Courtesy of the New York Historical Society. A full description of this event may also be found in John Malcolm Brinnin, The Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic (New York: Delacorte Press, 1971), 66.

2. A more complete account of Webster’s speech appears in “On the Beginning of Transatlantic Steamship Service,” Bulletin of the Business Historical Society 12, 3 (June 1938), 40–43.

3. Thomas Haliburton, The Letter Bag of the Great Western (London: Lee and Blanchard, 1840), 28.

4. Accounts of this incident appear in the New York Albion, April 28, 1838, and New York Advertiser and Express, April 24, 1838. Courtesy of the New York Public Library, microforms division.

5. See Isambard Brunel, The Life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Civil Engineer (reprint ed., Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

6. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (New York: Penguin Classics, 2003), 587.

7. See Jack P. Greene, Negotiated Authorities: Essays in Colonial Political and Constitutional History (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1994).

8. Not even Webster himself could escape the phenomenon he described. Samuel Lyman, a contemporary and admirer of Webster, wrote of his farm that “the Northern Railway passes through it near the Mansion House, and several trains of cars, freighted with passengers and products of the country, with merchandise for the people, pass over it daily, almost annihilating time and space . . .” Samuel P. Lyman, Life and Memorials of Daniel Webster (New York: D. Appleton, 1852), vol. I, 152.

9. F. Lawrence Babcock, Spanning the Atlantic (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1931), 66.

10. Bayard Tuckerman, ed. The Diary of Philip Hone, 1828–1851 (New York: Dodd, Meade & Co., 1889), 127. Courtesy of the New York Historical Society.

11. Richard White, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011), xxix, 149.

12. See Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987); Giordano Nanni, The Colonisation of Time: Ritual, Routine and Resistance in the British Empire (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2014); Michael J. Freeman, Railways and the Victorian Imagination (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999); John R. Stilgoe, Train Time: Railroads and the Imminent Reshaping of the United States Landscape (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009).

13. One historian in particular has written extensively on the nexus between technology and imperialism. See Daniel R. Headrick, Power over Peoples: Technology, Environments, and Western Imperialism, 1400 to the Present (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010);        , The Tools of Empire: Technology and Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1981);        , The Tentacles of Progress: Technology Transfer in the Age of Imperialism, 1850–1940 (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1988). See also Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (New York: Belknap Press, 2013). For more studies of the often fraught relationship between technology and society, see Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1967); Samuel P. Hays, The Response to Industrialism, 1884–1914 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

14. See, for example, Alison Byerly, Are We There Yet?: Virtual Travel and Victorian Realism (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012); John Hannavy, The Victorian and Edwardian Tourist (London: Shire Library, 2012); Edward Swinglehurst, Romantic Journey: The Story of Thomas Cook and Victorian Travel (New York: Pica Editions, 1974).

15. Marjorie Morgan, National Identities and Travel in Victorian Britain (New York: Palgrave, 2004), 14.

16. See, for example, Emma Robinson-Tomsett, Women, Travel and Identity: Journeys by Rail and Sea, 1870–1940 (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2011).

17. Ibid., 7–8, 16.

18. See John Maxtone-Graham, The Only Way to Cross (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1997);        , Crossing & Cruising (New York: Scribner’s, 1992);        , Liners to the Sun (New York: Sheridan House, 1990).

19. The seminal work, however, remains Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember (New York: Henry Holt, 1955).

20. One notable exception is Freda Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism: The P&O Company and the Politics of Empire from Its Origins to 1867 (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2006), a splendid survey of the linkages between steamships and empire.

21. Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics 16, 1 (Spring 1986), 24–27.

22. Despite their critical importance, few scholars have studied these oceanic communities, and the handful of titles on the subject are authored by amateur enthusiasts. The most commonly cited was written over forty years ago: John Malcolm Brinnin, The Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic (New York: Delacorte Press, 1971).

23. Marcus Rediker, “Under the Banner of King Death: The Social World of Anglo-American Pirates, 1716–1726,” The William and Mary Quarterly 38, 2 (April 1981), 203–227.

24. It is worth noting that at least one pair of scholars has gone beyond hagiography to examine the relationship between Victorian engineers and empire. See Ben Marsden & Crosbie Smith, Engineering Empires: A Cultural History of Technology in Nineteenth-Century Britain (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

25. See, generally, Johnson, River of Dark Dreams.

26. Marsden & Smith, Engineering Empires, 2.

27. Such an examination is not without precedent. See Edward Beasley, Mid-Victorian Imperialists: British Gentlemen and the Empire of the Mind (New York: Routledge, 2005).

28. As Great Britain and the United States were the primary innovators for steam travel, limiting this study to their respective societies seems appropriate. We will, however, consider other nations in the chapters dealing with global imperialism.

29. Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783 (reprint ed., New York: Dover, 1987).

30. Charles Robert Longfield Beatty, De Lesseps of Suez: The Man and His Times (New York: Harper, 1956), 256.