Crossing the Atlantic Ocean before the invention of airplanes
, 2022-11-14 14:00:00,
The 2014 documentary series I was a Jet Set Stewardess by the Smithsonian Channel recounts a bygone time when traveling by airplane was a glamorous experience, even when you rode economy class. Today, commercial air transport is anything but. After American president Jimmy Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, igniting a price war, cocktail parties and seven-course meals gradually made way for peanuts, pretzels, and overpriced beer. Where travelers used to board planes wearing their Sunday best, now they prefer to fly in sweatpants and worn-out t-shirts.
The extravagance seen in Jet Set Stewardess echoes another earlier period in the history of cross-continental travel. Long before Orville and Wilbur Wright managed to take to the skies, people were traveling back and forth between Europe and America by ships. The commercial ocean travel industry emerged in the 1870s. Its development was spurred in part by the American Civil War, which saw the introduction of new technologies to move men and military supplies across the country’s coastlines.
As Mark Rennella and Whitney Walton explain in “Planned Serendipity: American Travelers and the Transatlantic Voyage in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries”:
“After 1865 ships clad in iron and steel, following the prototype of the battleships Monitor and Merrimac developed to batter the fragile hulls of wooden sailing ships, grew in…
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