1855 Passenger Act (An act to regulate the carriage of passengers in steamships and other vessels)
Sess. II, Chap. 213; 10 Stat. 715.
33rd Congress; March 3, 1855.
You can find the full text of this law as a PDF here .
The Act to Regulate the Carriage of Passengers in Steamships and Other Vessels was an act used to regulate the proportion of passengers to the tonnage on steam vessels. The limit was one passenger per two tons of vessel. Each passenger was to be allowed sixteen feet of deck. Many fines were in place for captains who broke these rules. Cargo was placed in lockers; however, the lockers could not count as vessel space. Hospitals on the other hand, did count as vessel space. This act also regulated the health and well being of passengers on vessels. The ships were required to have more space for passengers, and offer more services. Ships now contained berths with strict regulations. The ships must have houses over the passageways. They were required to have sufficient food and water for all passengers, as well as ventilators. These duties lay on the captain of these ships. The vessels were also required to have a privy where passengers could shower. They were required to enforce some type of discipline among passengers as well. Vessels were required to be inspected by customs, and report deaths, which cost ten dollars per death. These provisions also included Africans. If these rules were broken, the vessel was required to forfeit and pay the United States two hundred dollars for violations of the ventilators, and fifty dollars for violations of cleanliness or lack of a sufficient number of privies on the ship. The provisions were to be taken into effect in thirty days on the eastern side of Europe, sixty days on the western side of Europe, and six months everywhere else in the world.
(Summary by Jesse Niebruegge)
American Cultural History - Kingwood College's website giving specific immigration statistics and a history during the 1850s.
Story of Immigration in the US - This article (from The Brown Quarterly) focuses on Ellis Island, and the historical events going on at the time that the Island was created (significantly later than the Passenger Act).
Globalsecurity.org - A website describing what type of conditions passengers lived in during their travel on steamships in the 1800s.