True Immigrant Tales: H.G. Wells Visits Ellis Island

[British novelist H.G. Wells (War of the Worlds) visited Ellis Island in 1906 and described his impressions in his book, The Future in America: A Search after Realities. Here is an excerpt.)  I visited Ellis Island yesterday. It chanced to be a good day for my purpose. For the first time in its history this … More True Immigrant Tales: H.G. Wells Visits Ellis Island

True Immigrant Tales: Sexual Harassment in Steerage

[Unpleasant steerage conditions often extended to sexual harassment and abuse, as described by a female government inspector, disguised as an immigrant aboard ship, reporting in 1909 to the Dillingham Immigration Commission.] “From the moment we boarded the steamer until we landed, no woman in the steerage had a moment’s privacy. One steward was always on … More True Immigrant Tales: Sexual Harassment in Steerage

True Immigrant Tales: Steerage Challenges in Getting Fed

[Steerage conditions varied greatly, depending on the steamship line and the ship’s size, but all were unpleasant to say the least. Below is more testimony from a government inspector, disguised as an immigrant, reporting in 1909 to the Dillingham Immigration Commission about eating facilities on a smaller ship that carried less than 200 immigrants.]             … More True Immigrant Tales: Steerage Challenges in Getting Fed

True Immigrant Tales: Traveling in Steerage

Steerage conditions varied greatly, depending on the steamship line and the ship’s size, but all were unpleasant to say the least. Below is testimony from a government inspector, disguised as an immigrant, reporting in 1909 to the Dillingham Immigration Commission about the poor sanitary conditions on a smaller ship that carried less than 200 immigrants. … More True Immigrant Tales: Traveling in Steerage

True Immigrant Tales: “Are you a polygamist?”

[In 1913, Scottish travel writer Stephen Graham (1884-1975) left Liverpool, England, as a steerage passenger. This is another excerpt from his book, With Poor Immigrants to America (1914). In the previous installment, he described events leading up to his inspection at Ellis Island. Here, he tells of his observations on the island itself.] “Once more, … More True Immigrant Tales: “Are you a polygamist?”

True Immigrant Tales: “It Was the Tombstone of Columbus”

[In 1913, Scottish travel writer Stephen Graham (1884-1975) left Liverpool, England, as a steerage passenger. This is an excerpt from his book, With Poor Immigrants to America (1914), in which he described events leading up to his inspection at Ellis Island.]                             … More True Immigrant Tales: “It Was the Tombstone of Columbus”

True Immigrant Tales: Smiling Through the Tears

[Maud Mosher worked for the Indian Health Service for eight years before accepting a position as a matron at Ellis Island. After serving from 1903 to 1907, she left and, in 1910, wrote several articles about her experiences in Coming Nation, a well-known periodical of the times. This is an excerpt.] “It was as surprising … More True Immigrant Tales: Smiling Through the Tears

True Immigrant Tales: Waiting Without Food and Water

[This is Part 2 of American journal Broughton Brandenburg’s account of a 1903 steamship voyage with immigrants in steerage, taken from his book, Imported Americans.] “. . . In mid-afternoon. . . when we reached the slip at Ellis Island we merely tied up, for there were many barge-loads ahead of us, and we waited our … More True Immigrant Tales: Waiting Without Food and Water

True Immigrant Tales: Reaching the Promised Land

[American journalist Broughton Brandenburg traveled on a German steamship with Italian immigrants in October 1903 and wrote about his observations in his book, Imported Americans.  This is part of his account.] “Sunday fell on the 11th, and it was a pleasant day till afternoon, when it began to get rough. The ship’s band was sent … More True Immigrant Tales: Reaching the Promised Land

True Immigrant Tales: “I Was Weak in the Knees”

      [Louis Adamic was a prominent Slovene-American writer who migrated to America in December 1913 at age 15.] “Now and then I glanced at the noisy, picturesque, garlicky crowd on the steerage deck; people of perhaps a dozen nationalities milling around the capstans and steam-hissing winches, pushing toward the rails straining and stretching, … More True Immigrant Tales: “I Was Weak in the Knees”