“Passports are not necessary”

American LineWell, at least not according this brochure of the AMERICAN LINE, Philadelphia USA. The brochure which was issued till 1907 states… passports not necessary

Passports are not necessary for United States citizens to most European countries, but travelers frequently find it to their advantage to carry with them this evidence of their citizenship. They are useful as a means of admission to certain places of interest, and also for identification at banks or post-offices. Passport application blanks, Which can be secured at stationery stores, should be filled out, sworn to before a notary public and then sent with $i.00 to the Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., who will return the passport in due time. This should be attended to at least two weeks before sailing.” More details below…

The American Line passports not necessary

was the largest US-American shipping company at that time based in Philadelphia, founded 1871. It began as part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, although the railroad got out of the shipping business soon after founding the company. In 1902 it became part of the International Navigation Co., with the American Line generally handling traffic between the United States ports of Philadelphia and New York City and the British ports of Liverpool and Southampton. Sister company Red Star Line handled traffic between America and the European continent, primarily through Antwerp, Belgium.


Clement Acton Griscom by Fedor Encke painted in 1899.
Clement Acton Griscom by Fedor Encke painted in 1899. (Wikipedia)

Clement Griscom passports not necessary

The company’s most prominent president was Clement Griscom, who led the company from 1888 to 1902 and worked as a company executive for its entire existence. During its existence the company was the largest American shipping company, rivalled only by the smaller, Baltimore-based Atlantic Transport Lines, although this distinction is a marginal one as all American oceanic shipping concerns were dwarfed by British companies such as the White Star Line or Cunard Line and German ones such as HAPAG.

The company became much larger when it bought out the Inman Line in 1886. In 1902, Griscom decided to merge his company with several other lines to create the International Mercantile Marine Company. The American name continued to exist under the IMM banner, but it was not until the trust’s failure in 1932 that the American pieces of the combine were once again solely under the American flag, this time in the guise of United States Lines.

Many U.S. residents traveled overseas without holding a U.S. passport, for two main reasons:

  1. Not Required. As a general rule, until 1941, U.S. citizens were not required to have a passport for travel abroad. Exceptions to general rule:

    • Passports were required from August 19, 1861, to March 17, 1862, during the Civil War.
    • Passports were recommended, but not required, by President Woodrow Wilson’s Executive Order 2285 of December 15, 1915, which stated that all persons leaving the U.S. should have passports.
    • Passports were required from May 22, 1918 (40 Statutes at Large 559), until the formal termination of World War I in 1921 by treaties.
    • Passports have been required since the passage of the act of June 21, 1941 (55 Statutes at Large252) and subsequent legislation.
  2. Aliens were Ineligible. As a general rule, the U.S. government only issued passports to U.S. citizens.

    Exceptions to general rule:

    • Aliens who had declared their intent to become a naturalized citizen could obtain a passport pursuant to the act of Congress of March 3, 1863 (12 Statutes at Large 754) which was repealed May 30, 1866 (14 Statutes at Large 54). Few passports were issued under this law, however.
    • Aliens who had declared their intent to become a naturalized citizen could obtain a passport pursuant to the act of Congress of March 2, 1907 (34 Statutes at Large 1228), which was repealed June 4, 1920 (41 Statutes at Large 751).

Source: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Further reading…
US Passport History by Tom Topol for Keesing Technologies


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