(possibly from the Latin capanna, little house), a room or space in a ship partitioned off by bulkheads to provide a private apartment for officers, passengers, and crew members for sleeping and/or eating. The 13th-century explorer Marco Polo reported that Chinese junks used by merchants had as many as 60 cabins for their passengers. In Europe the first cabin as such was probably the carosse, an open space under a galley's poop deck where the admiral or captain had his bed. In later ships, the same space was enclosed by bulkheads to provide the ‘great cabin’, which was the admiral's or captain's living quarters, often divided into sleeping cabin and day cabin, where he kept his ‘table’, served by his private cook and servants. Forward of the great cabin, in larger ships, was another cabin known as the coach where in flagships the flag-captain lived. As sailing ships, particularly warships, grew larger, with additional decks, there were two coaches, upper and lower, to provide additional cabins for officers. From about the early 17th century to mid-19th century, most officers of ships below the rank of captain were allowed temporary cabins, created by canvas screens or removable wooden bulkheads, in which a cot and a clothes chest took up most of the available room. These cabins could be quickly dismantled when necessary.
The use of iron, and later steel, as the main building material for ships, combined with the 19th-century expansion of travel and trade, brought about the construction in ships of permanent cabins for officers, and in ocean liners for some of the higher-paying passengers, although during the period a majority of passengers still travelled in the steerage. The continuing growth of travel led inevitably to the provision of cabins for all passengers, and ocean liners later had staterooms as well as luxury cabins. See also huddock.
Subjects: Maritime History.