Class distinctions were clear on the immigrant sailing ships that arrived in New Zealand from 1840 onward. People of higher social standing travelled cabin class. The cabins, which were located above deck where they could receive more air and light, were relatively spacious and private, and there was a separate bathroom, messroom (dining room) and saloon (sitting area). Cabin passengers had sole use of the poop deck at the stern of the ship, and received better food than the steerage passengers.
In contrast, the steerage section, for lower-classes travelling on cheaper fares or assisted passages, was located below deck and was dark and stuffy with little room. Minimal privacy was maintained by sections for single men and single women at either end of a space for families. Each person's only private space was a bunk bed.
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Alexander Turnbull Library
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