home Government Information Bon Voyage! Read about it in Government Documents

Bon Voyage! Read about it in Government Documents

Bon Voyage!  Read about it in Government DocumentsRecent news reports have drawn the nation's attention to the discomforts of air travel.  People feel "like cattle" and customer service seems to have reached new lows.  But a peek into MU Libraries' historical government documents collection shows that this may not be a new phenomenon.  As it turns out, customer service problems once afflicted rail travel in the same way.  And travelers' experience has long been a matter of interest to the federal government!  

Let's look at the 1920s and 1930s.  Passenger rail service had peaked in 1920, but automobiles and bus transportion were becoming increasingly preferred by the modern traveler.  Railroad companies that once enjoyed a captive customer base were compelled to consider why people were choosing other options.  Turns out that according to government publications, one of the issues was terrible customer service.  The Federal Coordinator of Transportation's Passenger Traffic Report (1935) gives a snapshot:

"A well nigh universal criticism of rail passenger transportation is the absence of personal helpfulness…. Impersonal, discourteous, indifferent, austere or insulting treatment of passengers must be ruthlessly eradicated by intensive training, supervision and discipline."

The document goes on to reflect nostalgically on how different it had been in the old days, when passengers were treated so kindly by crews on ocean voyages:

"Although the ship's captain of fiction is a grim and hard boiled citizen, the most pleasant memories which ocean travelers retain are those of the courteous hospitality of the captain and his officers."

Air travel was still quite new in the 1930s, but some had already experienced its pleasures.  According to survey results cited in the government report,  "Many passenger ballots contained comments on the excellence of airline personnel, and their courteous treatment of passengers.  No ballot contained a criticism."

So there you have it.  Traveling is always stressful, and passengers will choose another mode of transportation when things get too bad (if they can).

If you are interested to learn more about passengers' experiences in American history, don't forget to check the Government Information department at Ellis Library!  You don't have to journey far to find us, we are on the 1st floor, east side.

Happy Travels!


Marie Concannon

Marie Concannon is Head of Government Information and Data Archives, based in MU Ellis Library.

home Ellis Library, Government Information, Resources and Services Understanding Brexit through data analysis

Understanding Brexit through data analysis

Data Enthusiasts,

A blog post on the UK Data Service website titled “Making Sense of Brexit – the data you need to analyse” includes a great annotated list of data resources they make freely available.  There is a whole world of data out there!  The data services librarians right here at MU Libraries can help you find the data you need to complete your research.  Visit our Data Sets for Quantitative Research page for details and contact information.

home Ellis Library, Government Information, Resources and Services Finding a Dream Ship in Government Documents

Finding a Dream Ship in Government Documents

How would a Mississippi riverboat captain’s dream ship have looked in 1870?  For David De Haven of New Orleans, it would have featured spiral staircases, arched passageways, private promenades for the ladies and one for “gents,” and luxury cabins opening into sky-lit rotundas.  "Water closets" for passengers were to be tucked behind the two towering side wheels. Captain De Haven submitted his drawings to the U.S. Patent Office and received a patent for the innovative floor plan in 1870.  Although the designs and accompanying text are part of the U.S. PTO’s online database, they cannot be retrieved through a simple Google search.  

MU’s Government Information librarians are available to help you navigate the rich history of our nation’s innovations, whether they be physical machines, new ways of doing things, or artistic innovations such as steamboat designs.   We have been an official depository for federal government since 1862.  Our trained government information specialists are ready to assist library patrons search more than nine million U.S. patents dated from 1790 to the present.  Contact Marie Concannon at 573-882-0748 or email concannonm@missouri.edu for more information or to schedule training session for your class.


Steamboat cross-section view


D. De Haven, “Ship Building,” U. S. Patent #105,438.  July 19, 1870.  To view the patent online at high resolution, enter patent number 105438 at the US Patent Full-Page Image search page: http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/patimg.htm




Marie Concannon

Marie Concannon is Head of Government Information and Data Archives, based in MU Ellis Library.