When the time came for the maiden voyage in 1915, a mere 115 tickets were sold. The very first person to buy one was the 28-year-old traveller Curt Bergström. Nels B. Benson became the millionth passenger when he boarded the ship Stockholm in the New York harbor 42 years later.
When it comes to presenting the passengers who travelled with the Swedish American Line during its 60 years of operation, it is impossible to generalize. Nevertheless, certain categories were more noticeable than others:
- Emigrants: Numerous emigrants, mainly from Sweden, but also a significant amount from Finland, were transported during the first 15 years that SAL were in operation. The number of passengers in this category did however drastically decline when the American government changed their immigrant quota. This change nearly coincided with the depression, and after that, hardly anyone emigrated anymore.
- Returning emigrants: Almost a fifth of the Swedes who emigrated to North America did eventually return to Sweden. A vast number of these people went back home on a SAL ship.
- Family travels: The direct line between Sweden and the USA made it easy for Swedes to visit family in North America, as well as for Swedish-Americans to come over to their home country.
- Cruises: Incomparably, the largest category of passengers was represented by Americans going on cruises.
- Tourists: Many people combined visiting relatives over there with sightseeing, and thus got to see places they had previously only dreamed about.
- Diplomats: Diplomats were regularly found in the passenger lists before it became more common to travel by airplane. Those found are mostly Swedish and Finnish diplomat names, though a significant part are, surprisingly enough, Russian, or Soviet as it was called back then. Apart from embassy personnel, there were also people who worked for the UN in New York.
- Celebrities: It is always interesting to find celebrities in the passenger lists. The use of the Swedish American Line for travels to, and from, North America was a completely natural occurrence among movie stars, athletes, and other famous people.