Every year on February 10th, Plimsoll Day honors Samuel Plimsoll. The Englishman was a politician and social reformer who is credited with making ships safer.
Samuel Plimsoll was born on February 10th, 1824 in Bristol, England. As a young adult who at one time lived in poverty, Plimsoll devoted his life to helping the poor. In 1867 he became a Member of Parliament (MP). He dedicated himself to making ships safer for their crews. At this time, shipping was the most popular way to transport goods. It was also very dangerous. Shipowners often put the crews in danger by overloading the ships. These ships became known as coffin ships because they claimed the lives of so many sailors.
The bills that Plimsoll introduced were often stifled in Parliament by members who were wealthy ship merchants. In 1872, he published a work called Our Seaman: An Appeal. Two years later, Plimsoll achieved his goal when Parliament passed the Unseaworthy Ships Bill. Under this bill, ship owners were required to place a special mark on the side of the ships. When this line disappeared below the waterline, it meant the vessel was overloaded. This mark became known as the Plimsoll line. This simple invention is believed to save 22 lives every day.
Following his time in Parliament, Plimsoll served as honorary president of the National Sailors’ and Fireman’s Union. As an honorary president, he drew attention to the horrors of cattle ships. Over-crowded conditions plagued the animals as they were transported on these ships.
HOW TO OBSERVE #PlimsollDay
Samuel Plimsoll died on June 3rd, 1898, in Folkestone, England. On this day, the community of Folkestone pays tribute Plimsoll with a wreath-laying ceremony on his grave. Other events include lectures about ship safety.
- Learn more about how dangerous ships were in the 1800s.
- Learn about how sailors and crews stay safe on boats, ships, and other watercraft.
- Watch the BBC historical television drama The Onedin Line, in which actor David Garfield portrays Samuel Plimsoll.
Share this day on social media with #PlimsollDay
PLIMSOLL DAY HISTORY
The date February 10th was chosen for Plimsoll Day in honor of Samuel Plimsoll’s birthday. Our research team is still trying to find the exact origin of this day.