Immigrants entering the United States through Ellis Island
The year 1847 was a unique year for emigration. Famine in Ireland leads the list of reasons for the increase in the number of emigrants in that year. However, if one reads newspapers of the day other facts soon come to light.A report from England stated that the emigration of 1847 would probably go to 200,000 or 300,000 from Ireland alone. Governmentagents in other countries were also reporting large increases in the number of people heading to the port cities of the continent. Ships were being hired at an every increasing pace and Captains were carrying full compliments of passengers, some exceeding the legal limits. Some 6,000 Germans, the papers reported, were already at the ports of Breman, Le Havre and Antwerp preparing to sail.
Traveling to the America could be hazardous. Immigrants suffered many dangers when crossing the Atlantic. This included fires and shipwrecks. In August, 1848, the Ocean Monarch, carrying immigrants from Liverpool to Boston, caught fire and 176 lives were lost. As ships got larger so did the deaths from fires. In September, 1858, an estimated 500 immigrants died after a fire on the steamship Austria. Another 400 died on the William Nelson in July, 1865. In 1834 seventeen ships shipwrecked in the Gulf of St Lawrence and 731 emigrants lost their lives. In a five year period (1847-52) 43 emigrant ships out of 6,877 failed to reach their destination, resulting in the deaths of 1,043 passengers. In 1854 the steamship City of Glasgow carrying 480 emigrants went missing after leaving Liverpool and was never heard of again.
A major problem for emigrants on board ship was disease. There were serious outbreaks of cholera in 1832, 1848 and 1853. Of the 77 vessels which left Liverpool for New York between 1st August and 31st October, 1853, 46 contained passengers that died of cholera on the journey. The Washington suffered 100 deaths and the Winchester lost 79. All told, 1,328 emigrants died on board these ships on the way to America. The most common killer was typhus. It was particularly bad when the passengers had been weakened by a poor diet. In 1847, during the Irish Famine, 7,000 people, most of them from Ireland, died of typhus on the way to America. Another 10,000 died soon after arriving in quarantine areas in the United States.
From The Atlantic Ferry, by A. Maginnis, 1892
(extracted from the New York Herald, October 26, 1853)
“Among the arrivals in this port of emigrant ships during the past few weeks, a very large number of deaths have been reported.
In one vessel, the Charles Sprague, the unusually large number of forty-five persons died on the passage from Bremen; and in another, the Winchester, from Liverpool, the number of fatal cases amounted to no less than seventy-nine”
Before 1855, there was no immigrant processing center. The shipping company presented a passenger list to the Collector of Customs, and the immigrants made whatever Customs declaration was necessary and went on their way.From August 1, 1855 through April 18, 1890 they came through Castle Garden (also known as Castle Clinton). The State of New York opened the very first examining and processing center for immigrants on an island off the southwest tip of Manhattan (Castle Garden).
Before 1855, there was no immigrant processing center.
The shipping company presented a passenger list tothe Collector of Customs, and the immigrants made whatever Customs declaration was necessary and wenton their way. From August 1, 1855 through April 18, 1890 they came through Castle Garden (also known as CastleClinton). The State of New York opened the very first examining and processing center for immigrants on anisland off the southwest tip of Manhattan (Castle Garden).
From 1882 the reception of immigrants was handled as a joint State/Federal system. The Secretary of theTreasury signed a contract with the New York State Commissioners of Emigration to continue its services atCastle Garden. On April 1, 1890, the Secretary terminated the contract and on April 18, 1890, the TreasuryDepartment assumed total control of immigration in the Port of New York. The New York State authoritiesrefused to allow the federal government to use the Castle Garden facilities. Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892. An account of its early days can be found in The Illustrated American of July 23 1892. The picture shows the original Ellis Island Immigrant Station, which was constructed of wood and slate, not the familiar brick structure that replaced it.
What many immigrants faced upon arrival to New York, Philadelphia or Boston was a harsh reality of what was to be their new lives. Just as people have illusions of leprechaun-laden Ireland, they had a vision of what to expect in America as well. Their thoughts were of no hunger, no landlords and complete freedom. What they got was the reality. In truth, America proved very hard, a bitter struggle for new arrivals. Work was not easy to find. The sheer number of people coming into both New York and Boston harbors was overwhelming. A staggering average of 300 were disembarking daily, every day for six years: on some days more than a 1,000 would arrive on a single tide”. Most flooded to cities and towns where there were already large populations from their own country.
The wave of migration starting with the transatlantic mass exodus of 1840s and ending at the beginning of the 1890s had two phases of decline. The decline was caused by events that took place between 1858 and 1864/5 (economic crisis and the War of Secession 1861-1865) and 1879 (economic crisis 1873-1879).
Many destitute and sick people were turned back at Ellis Island as immigration legislation and practice became more selective in the second half of the 19th century. Since the shipping companies had to pay the costs of the return journey in these cases, they were increasingly reluctant to allow anyone aboard in Europe who looked as though they might be rejected.
During the 19th century everybody was welcome in the United States and this fact must have stimulated migration. This changed however at the end of the 19th century as some people were not allowed to come anymore. More importantly, the outbreak of the war in Europe in 1914 put an abrupt end to the surging mass migration to America.
Actual emigration from Holland only became significant in the nineteenth century. Many Dutch people left for the ‘New World’, the United States, while a small number of them traveled to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.Early in the 1800s, Europe experiences the beginning of the ‘Industrial Revolution’. This leads to the massive migration from rural areas to industrial cities. Death rates declined, population exploded and poverty increased dramatically. The Dutch people left when industrialization began in northern Europe.Besides that, after the final defeat of Napoleon in Waterloo, The Netherlands became a kingdom under the House of Orange. But not until 1848 did the monarchy became a constitutional one and the country a parliamentary democracy in the modern sense of those words.
The first king was William I, who was an authoritarian. It was under his rule that a movement started in the Dutch Reformed Church which lead to the last mass emigration from Holland to the United States. The separatists movement organized a form of Calvinistic worship along strictly dogmatic lines. The Dutch Constitution recognized freedom of religion for the existing churches, but King William refused that privilege to a newly formed congregation. Religious meetings of the separatists were suppressed and some leaders imprisoned. Naturally such oppression gave further impetus to the movement.
So nearly half of the Dutch departing between 1845 and 1849 belonged to a dissenting Protestant denomination called the ‘Afgescheidenen’, or ‘Seceded’
The wave of Dutch emigration between 1847 and 1857 may also be attributed to the failures of three consecutive potato and rye harvests in the mid-1840s. Again, the great agricultural crises of the 1880s and 1890s and the agricultural restructuring they entailed is mirrored in the wave of emigration that occurred between 1880 and 1893: common to all Dutch migrants was a need for land. A period of suppression by the Dutch State in the 19th century led many to flee to North America. The American domestic economy between 1840 and 1900 was of even greater importance: prospective Dutch emigrants responded directly to American conditions. ‘Land booms’ stimulated the immigration of the Dutch, while economic depression discouraged migration. Just like the areas from which they came, the areas to which the Dutch in the 19th century migrated were rural, concentrated mainly to the east of Lake Michigan.