German Immigration to American: Historical Context of the Voyage Part 1

The Daleidens arrived from the port of Antwerp in Belgium in the late 1850s to New York. According to Genealogist Steve Szabados in his book German Immigation to America: The Who, Why, How and Where ( 2020), “. . . Antwerp was an essential trading center in the low countries before it became a major departure port for emigrants“. The city’s “connection to the Rhine River traffic and it’s link to ships traveling to America was an essential factor to attract immigrants“.

There was several developments enabling the surge of immigration to America. Two primary developments were the lowering of costs of travel and the increase of railroad transportation connections to ports. Steerage fares were introduced around 1850. The cost for Steerage was around $16 per person. $16 in 1850 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $581.98 today (2022). For the Daleidens this would have cost $3,491.88 in 2022 ( $96 in 1850s).

Steerage was the “part of a sailing ship below the quarterdeck. Sailors called it the steerage area because the steering tackle ran through this area to connect the helm to the rudder of the ship”. The building of railroads in Europe were used as a convenance by immigrants to Antwerp and other ports of departure. Trade agreements also kept goods moving to America via the immigrant ports and this increased the number of ships traveling available to immigrants traveling back and forth between America and Europe.

The first wave of my Schlick family (Casper and Margaret) arrived from the port of Bremen in Germany in 1852 to New York. Breman was a port of departure for immigrants starting in 1825 and by 1830 according to Szabados, “The port began serving as the embarkation point for the majority of immigrants from central and eastern Europe bound for America“. The port authorities of Bremen, “tried to improve the quality of life for immigrants, and their rules earned a reputation as the best port from which to emigrate“. Ship owners had to supply “Bremen authority’s with passenger lists for each voyage, and the harbor officials required that the shipowners had to absorb the expense for each emigrant who the United States immigration officials rejected“. This information exhibits the fact that the Schlicks left from a well tended Port. Szabados’ book (page 44) offers a great description of travel on a ship in the 1850s. This description provides a sense and some context on what it may have been like to travel thousand of miles to a new home and country:

Steerage passage on sailing ships in the 1850s meant our German ancestors found themselves in converted cargo holds with hammocks strung up to provide places to sleep. These quarters were small and crowded, and many times the passengers shared the hammocks with one or two other immigrants with each taking their turns sleeping. They endured unsanitary conditions, cramped quarters, disgusting odors, and little privacy. Toilet facilities in steerage consisted of a few buckets with private screens. The steerage passengers used cooking stations that were set up on deck to prepare their food that they had brought. Shipping companies did not provide food to the early steerage passengers on the voyage. Illnesses developed quickly among the young and elderly, and diseases spread quickly. Many passengers arrived in their new land sick, and many died at sea.

I encourage you to purchase or locate this book in your local public library for more in depth information on the German Immigrant experience.

In part two of this two part blog together we will look at what life was like coming into America at the port of New York.

About Schlick Daleiden Families - DuPage and Kane Counties of Illinois

Kevin Davis is a retired Public Library Director. He is a Board member of the Winfield (IL) Historical Society. Davis has over 35 years experience working in public libraries. He is deeply interested in local Chicagoland, Dupage, and Kane County History. Davis earned a BA in History and an MA in Library Science from Dominican University. He is a volunteer researcher for the St. James Farm Forest Preserve part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County in Illinois. His work includes extensive writing and research on the McCormick family line who were former owners of St. James Farm. He is an avid family historian / genealogist and has done extensive research on the Schlicks and Daleidens of DuPage and Kane County Illinois.
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1 Response to German Immigration to American: Historical Context of the Voyage Part 1

  1. Pingback: German Immigration to America: Historical Context to the Voyage Part 2 | Schlick Daleiden Family DuPage/Kane Co. Blog

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