A Day At Castle Garden Immigration Station - 1871
A German Immigrant Family At Castle Garden. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1871. GGA Image ID # 14b40de14a
In the lower part of Broadway, on our way down to the Battery, we met groups of immigrants, newly landed, strolling along on the sidewalk, and bestowing a look of wonder on everything they saw.
Trinity Church and the new magnificent "Equitable Building" on the corner of Cedar Street seemed to be unique objects of attention. In passing, I heard a German woman say of the latter building, "Das muss der Palast sein (This has to be the palace)," an opinion that seemed to be instantly shared by her companions.
For a city without a "Palest" of some kind or other is an impossibility in Germany. At length, we passed through the old iron gate into the Battery grounds. Sad sight What was years ago a blooming garden is now a barren waste, on which hardly a sprouting grass is to be seen.
It looks like a large drilling field, with a few trees standing in clusters near the entrance on Broadway. In the background looms Castle Garden, with its outbuildings, hospitals, and offices—all encircled by a large wooden wall.
Before long, the grounds of the Battery will have assumed their old, almost forgotten, aspect. The landscape is being surveyed and laid out. Gangs of laborers are at work with pickaxes, shovels, and wheel-barrows to improve the grounds of the Battery. Before another summer, we may hope to see the Battery as it ought to be—one of the most attractive parks in the city.
The location could not be better. There is the fresh sea, with cooling breezes in the hot summer; nearly opposite lies Governor's Island and in the distance the Jersey shore and the verdant hills of Staten Island.
Entering the Grand Castle Garden
Battery and Castle Garden, New York City, circa 1892. Detroit Publishing Company # 7607. Library of Congress # 2016816901. GGA Image ID # 14b51660a7
Here the groups of immigrants became more frequent. As we approached the entrance to Castle Garden, we found it almost impossible to make our way through. The passage was blocked up with vehicles, peddlers of cheap cigars, apple-stands, and runners from the different boarding-houses and intelligence-offices that abound in the neighborhood.
However, we succeeded in getting through, after encountering an outpouring stream of new arrivals, and being nearly deafened by the repeated shouts of " D'ye want a conveyance?" "Hotel Stadt Hamburg!" " Zum goldenen Adler! (To the golden Eagle)" "This way, gents, this way !" etc.
We presented our passport to the officer on guard at the entrance and were admitted. They ushered us into the yard of Castle Garden amidst a crowd of passengers, children, and baggage of all kinds. Into this yard, open the different offices connected with the Garden. We enter the main building, which a sign over the large doorway announces as " Castle Garden" proper.
A Clerk at Castle Garden Registers the Name of Incoming Immigrants. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1871. GGA Image ID # 14b41ae410
Indeed it looks like a "castle," but the "garden" is less observable. Open port-holes stare us in the face as we approach, but excite no alarm. In the good old times, when this pile was built for a castle, it must have answered its purpose pretty well; the walls are at least fully six feet thick and made of massive square blocks of brownstone, tightly cemented.
The old nail-studded gates of the fort are there yet, but they are never closed now, a lighter and smaller gate having been made to supersede them.
Passing through the gateway, on the left side, we have a roomy and cleanly kept wash-room for females. On the opposite side, one for males, both plentifully supplied with soap, water, and large clean towels on rollers, for the free and unlimited use of all immigrants. From these rooms, we emerge into the rotunda —the main feature of Castle Garden.
Landing of Immigrant Steerage Passengers
Immigrants Landing at Castle Garden. Drawn by A. B. Shults. Harper's Weekly, 29 May 1880. GGA Image ID # 1482c22ab1
The steamer Holland, from Liverpool, had just arrived, and the steerage passengers were being landed. It was a motley, unusual throng. Slowly the newcomers pass the two immigration officers whose duty is to register every immigrant's name, birthplace, and destination in large folios. Work that is often somewhat more difficult than it would first appear to be.
In the first place, the officer in charge must be able to speak and understand nearly every language under the sun. This, however, can be learned and mastered; but then arises a second difficulty—the remarkable want of intelligence and the regularly recurring misapprehension shown by some of the passengers. These latter instances are very numerous, and to deal with them requires a great deal of patience.
Some of the immigrants' responses are exceedingly comical. For instance: a young fellow in corduroy knee-breeches and nailed shoes was asked in my presence if he was alone.
"No, Sir," he said, boldly; and upon being asked who was with him, then, he answered, "Sure my box."' Another wanted to register two gamecocks he had brought with him from Tipperary.
"Sure I paid for their passage," he said. Still another—an old woman—on being asked her name, said that that was on her box. "An' if we wanted to know, sure we could go and see." Upon being asked by a bystander how, then, her box would be found, her answer was, "Ah, be jabbers, an isn't me name painted plainly on it?" It was with difficulty that her name was finally ascertained.
Some do not understand a word of English, and can only speak Irish, but these are few and are nearly always elderly people.
Booker - Railway Association Clerk
Onward, the immigrants passed one by one, in a single file, until a few steps farther down they came to the desk of the so-called "booker," a clerk of the Railway Association. His duty was to ascertain the destination of each passenger. He would then furnish a printed slip that stated the number of tickets wanted along with their cost.
After receiving this, the passenger is passed over to the railway counter, where, he may purchase his ticket. He can then decide which railroad to patronize and whether to go by the first-class or the immigrant train.
This arrangement is very productive. By buying the immigrant's ticket here, he will only be charged the just price, and get the full value for his money if he pays with foreign currency. It is too often the case that passengers, buying their tickets in outside offices, are shamefully swindled; the daily press exhibits numerous instances of this fact.
That it is not always easy to furnish an immigrant with the proper and correct ticket. This may be conjectured from one example. A Swedish passenger desired to go to Farmington. Still, as there are no less than twenty-one cities and Tillages of that name in the United States, this address was hardly satisfactory. He was asked by the Danish clerk attached to the Railway Bureau what State that particular Farmington was in, but this he did not know.
He had no further details of an address other than Farmington, US. It was probably out West, as nearly all the Swedes were far travelers, with Illinois or Iowa being consequently suggested, but he did not know.
Finally, he remembered something about "Da," or " Dada," or "Dakota." It was found to be "Farmington, Dakota County, Minnesota," a fact which was proved correct by letters which he afterward produced from his trunk. He received a ticket accordingly and went on his way rejoicing the same afternoon.
Exterior View of Castle Garden from the Battery. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1871. GGA Image ID # 14b44093f9
Instances where passengers know only the name of the city to which they are destined, but not those of county and State frequently occur, give a great deal of trouble to the railway employees.
It is of the first importance to ascertain the right place, and it sometimes requires considerable skill and experience to avoid mistakes. In some instances, it becomes wholly impossible to discover the destination and forward the passenger.
The Railroad Ticket Office at Castle Garden. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1871. GGA Image ID # 14b44490c8
The Railway Agency is under the strict control of the Commissioners of Emigration. It is held responsible for the purchaser of a ticket for any mistake that may occur. Few outside ticket offices, not so controlled, care about exercising the same care and vigilance in forwarding a passenger; they only want his purchase of a ticket and departure out of the way.
The immigrant is lucky if he arrives at his destination unless it is somewhere such as Chicago, or of similar importance, where mistakes cannot easily take place. And if he gets a couple of hundred miles out of the way, what does it matter? He paid down his money, and is too far away and too unsophisticated to complain!
Foreign Exchange Brokers
Directly opposite the railway counter are the desks of the exchange brokers, which are at present occupied by four firms, each working in its own interest. A blackboard conspicuously displayed announces the current rates at which foreign and domestic coins are exchanged—at a rate that is but a trifle below the Wall Street quotation.
Whenever a change takes place in the street, it is instantly reported to the brokers in the Garden, and the rate on the blackboard altered accordingly. And this, too, seems to puzzle our transatlantic friends. An Englishman comes along and changes a sovereign, for which he receives, say $5.70, according to the then-present rate. A moment later, gold goes down one percent or one and a half in Wall Street; it is instantly recorded at the Garden, and the prices are altered accordingly.
Our friend comes along again with some more sovereigns to change for himself and comrades, but now he only receives $5.65 for his gold. "Ay, Sir, you have made a mistake," he says. The broker's clerk says he has not, and tries to explain. But it is no use. Less than two minutes ago, he got $5.70 for his sovereign, and now he gets five cents less!
That surpasses his comprehension. "No, no," says he, shaking his head incredulously; "gold is gold. This 'ere is good British money; no change in that; that stands to reason." He is offered his sovereigns back if he chooses, but lets it pass, scratching his head and saying, "Blast the durned paper-money, that one can't make neither head nor tail out of!"
Often, of course, the opposite thing happens, and the price of gold is advanced in the interim between a customer's changing his coin. Then he gets a higher price for the last lot, but, in this case, never complains.
Currency Exchange Broker's Office at Castle Garden. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1871. GGA Image ID # 14b4530efa
All kinds of money are here exchanged, and often in considerable quantities. They informed me that as much as two to three hundred sovereigns, and one to two thousand Prussian thalers, were often changed into paper-money by one individual.
While I was there, a passenger exchanged a bag of sovereigns containing at least fifty pieces, for the full value in United States currency, with a memorandum of the transaction signed by the broker.
This Currency Exchange Broker's Office at Castle Garden is under strict control and surveillance by the Commissioners, who look out for the interest of the immigrants.
Sovereigns and Prussian thalers form the bulk of exchange. Still, other coins, of nearly all countries and denominations, are also daily exchanged. American gold is very frequently brought over, and, if not changed at the Garden, often leaves the unsuspecting immigrant's pocket at par.
Twenty-dollar pieces, eagles, and half-eagles are the denominations most used. Still, many bring over small one-dollar gold pieces. About one in every four or five are perforated with a hole as if used for a charm.
Interior View of Castle Garden. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1871. GGA Image ID # 14b46c8b0e
This is an artifice frequently resorted to on the other side; the pieces are drilled, by which they lose on an average about fifteen to twenty percent of their value. But are still, of course, sold for the full price, and often more, to the emigrants at Liverpool. The fine dust thus drilled out makes a handsome extra profit for the unscrupulous broker.
Others bring bags full of American silver of small denominations, which they have also obtained in Liverpool, where it is imported at a considerable discount from Canada.
Strange to say, spurious coin or paper is seldom found in possession of the immigrants. However, one would naturally suppose that there would be a broad and comparatively safe field for imposing these upon emigrants previous to their departure from Europe.
Passengers via Bremen very often bring with them American greenbacks, having changed their money previous to their departure, and the currency is almost always genuine. In some instances, a corner is missing or a bill otherwise somewhat mutilated.
The Mecklenburger Farmer at Castle Garden. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1871. GGA Image ID # 14b4713d1f
Some time ago, a Mecklenburg farmer arrived, who had quite a considerable sum of money in greenbacks on his person. To keep it safe, he had sewed it in the lining of his shirt, where he had worn it during the whole voyage.
When he came to open his package, he found that two fifty-dollar bills had become stuck together. This was caused by the sweat of his body and some adherent matter, probably sticking to the paper. It was found impossible to detach them. They stuck together as one bill as nicely as if they had been glued together by an artist.
Loud were his lamentations and great his distress. He tried to peel them carefully asunder with his thumb-nail but only succeeded in tearing the paper. He commenced crying when somebody advised him to give the refractory bills a cold-water bath.
He caught the idea and did so, and lo! the bills came apart as nicely as two sheets of mica, and his one fifty dollar-bill was made suitable for a hundred dollars. Great now was his joy, and he was shortly after seen treating at least a score of his shipmates to schnapps and lager.
One poor fellow, who came over in the Holland, a Frenchman, brought with him a Parisian bank-note for fifty francs—all the money he had. Under other circumstances, the note would have been exchanged at the Garden at par value. Unfortunately, owing to the present uncertain value of French paper-money, caused by the war, it could not be redeemed there.
He could not possibly understand how a note for fifty francs on the Bank of France could not be equal to the same amount in bright silver or gold. It was at par at home when he left, and his faith in the Bank of la belle France was unshaken. He refused to change it at a discount, and left, doubting and disgusted, to be fleeced by some outside sharper.
The paper-money of Prussia has also been depreciated by the war. Formerly the paper tinder stood a trifle above par. (probably one-quarter percent.), for the facility in carrying, but now it stands about two and a half percent, below. This puzzles German immigrants.
The thaler is in their country a thaler, whether silver or paper and if the latter even a little more; and why should it be otherwise here? "Das Kann ich nicht verstehen (I can not understand that)," they say. However, as a class, they are easily satisfied that it is correct, and accept their fate without grumbling.
Most of them bring "harte" (silver) thalers, but when they do, it is generally in large amounts. It is not seldom that one paterfamilias brings with him a chest full of bright thalers that it takes two or more men to carry.
With their money exchanged, they purchase their railway tickets. Then they head West, buy lands, settle down, and form one of the most desirable classes of citizens of this great republic.
Immigrants From Many Countries
Registering Emigrants at Castle Garden. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 20 January 1866. GGA Image ID # 14b6092d2a
The German immigrants seem altogether to be those who give the least trouble in the Garden. They are willing, obey instructions, and try to help each other along.
If one of their party is short a couple of dollars in the purchase of a railway ticket, he can often raise the shortage with the assistance and cooperation of a few countrymen.
The Irish are a little more troublesome from their frequent and repeated questions. Still, the most annoying and patience-exhausting fellow-creatures are undoubtedly the Swedes.
They are an excellent class of people, and form outstanding and most desirable citizens, but cause a great deal of trouble on their arrival. In the first place, the smell of a compound of leather, salt herring, onions, and sweat, difficult to describe, but most apparent to the sense. Then they talk a language that none but a native Scandinavian can understand.
They are though their very nature, suspecting, and doubting. This trait is made more pronounced by people in the old country who try to guard them against Castle Garden and its provisions as if it were some terrible institution.
Therefore they are challenging indeed to deal with. The Swedes shun questions and often refuse to give explanations. But after some time, when they learn to know the country and the character of its inhabitants better, they find out that we are not so bad as we are painted. They assimilate with us and become hardy laborers and honest citizens.
Swedes are nearly all travelers to the midwest, finding their way to Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota. There they find a climate, not unlike their own, and soon become settled down as thrifty farmers.
Of late years the Swedes have formed a very conspicuous part of our annual immigration. Not less than 23,453 arrived during 1869, nearly 10,000 more than arrived in 1868, and approximately 20,000 above the arrivals during 1867. Of these, it is safe to say that ninety percent go out West as agriculturists.
According to the annual report for the year 1869, published by the Board of Commissioners of Emigration, the total arrival of immigrants landed at Castle Garden from foreign ports during 1869 was as follows:
- Germany, 99,605
- Ireland, 66,204
- England, 41,090
- All other countries together (including Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, etc.), 52,090
... thus making a total for 1869 of 258,989 souls.
The arrivals from France are comparatively few, only 2,870 arriving during that year. Among the other nationalities are five from Greece, five from the Celestial Empire (whether shoemakers or not, I do not know), twenty-three from Africa, four from Australia, two from Armenia, seven from Turkey, and two from Jerusalem—the latter probably the Wandering Jew and his brother.
Immigrants Reading Letters from Friends. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1871. GGA Image ID # 14b4767b2e
With his money changed and railway ticket purchased, if he is a traveler, he proceeds to have his 'baggage weighed and checked through to his point of destination.
But before he does that he has probably received a letter addressed to him at the Garden, which has been awaiting him there, or perhaps he desires to announce by letter his safe arrival at New York to friends far away. If so, he will find a clerk at his proper desk, ready to write for him and forward his letter free of charge.
If there is a letter for him, his name is called out loudly after the landing. First, registrations are performed, and before he is permitted to leave the premises, he is furnished with a card announcing that there is a letter awaiting him. This card enables him to receive the letter upon presentation of the card at the letter desk.
If there is money for him, it is paid him promptly, or a ticket is purchased for part of it if the sender so desires. If he wishes to telegraph, there is a telegraph-office at Castle Garden and the operator at his post. After accomplishing these tasks, if he feels faint and hungry, there is a restaurant over in the corner. All these functions are under one roof and one management.
To be sure, the fare in the restaurant, or bread-stand, is of the most everyday kind, consisting chiefly of white and brown bread, pies, coffee, milk, and sausages. Still, it is good, substantial, and cheap, and tastes well after the hard-tack and salt mess they had on board ship.
Before he starts for his new Western home, there is the washroom already mentioned, where cold water, stone troughs, and fresh towels invite him to a bath and a change of linen.
The Landing of Immigrants
Passing the Inspecting Physician at Castle Garden. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 20 January 1866. GGA Image ID # 14b5b595ca
Once this has been done, he prepares to start. Outside on the dock where the passengers are landed are where the baggage-room and scales are located. Here his boxes and "kistes" are weighed and checked according to his ticket. There, also, are several small wooden structures, containing offices for the Custom-house officers and police detailed for service at the Garden.
There is one lady-inspector whose duty it is to examine the dresses of suspicious-looking female immigrants. Often she makes a plentiful harvest of laces, pieces of velvet or silk, jewelry, or the like, that is concealed upon the person in the most ingenious manner.
Police stand guard at entrances to Castle Garden. Additionally, police are stationed on the steamship during the transfer of passengers to the barge that takes them to Castle Garden.
There are two barges attached to the landing department, each about 80 or 160 tons each. The passengers and their luggage are transferred from the steamer and brought ashore by the assistance of a tug-boat. It is curious to see such a heterogeneous crowd land.
The Swedes are easily distinguished by their tanned-leather breeches and waistcoats, and their peculiar before-mentioned exhalations. You cannot miss the Irishman with his napless hat, worn coat, and corduroy trousers; the Englishman you know by his Scotch cap, clay pipe, and paper collar.
The Teuton you detect at once by his long-skirted, dark blue woolen coat, high-necked, and brass-buttoned vest, and flat military cap, or gray beaver. Indeed, one of the immigration officers told me that he could exactly tell what part of Germany each individual came from the clothing alone they wore.
Then there are the Bohemians (the genuine ones), with their many-colored scarfs and glaring jackets for the women, and natty military caps for almost all the men. The French in their blue linen blouses. And, finally, the Norwegians in their curious national dress. Their Folk Costume consists of a gray woolen stiff-necked jacket, which covers only about one-third of their back. At the same time, the front slopes down to a greater length, and is profusely ornamented with large silver buttons set close together and appear to overlap each other.
Their breeches, of dark woolen stuff, therefore reach nearly up to their neck behind, only a small strip of jacket with an enormous stiff collar being between.
You can not correctly say "a Norwegian in a pair of breeches" but must say "a pair of breeches with a Norwegian in them." This, of course, only applies to the farmers from the interior parts of the country, the "Dalkuller" and "Troensere," etc.
One of the most essential bureaus of Castle Garden is Ward's Island and medicinal departments. These offices are situated in a long wooden building of one story located on the right as you enter the Garden from the Battery. These departments have done a great deal of good and allayed terrible sufferings and suspense.
Ward's Island - Immigrant Hospital
Ward's Island is a little island in the East River, about five miles from the heart of New York. The Board of Commissioners is on Ward's Island, an immigrant refuge and hospital, both densely populated.
Here, immigrants without means are kept and taken care of at the expense of the Board, until assistance arrives from their friends in the shape of money or tickets, or they find work as laborers.
I shall not here go into the details of this particular institution, as these alone would fill up and justify an exclusive description. But I will merely remark that the buildings are large and excellent and that their inmates enjoy all the care and comforts suited to their circumstances.
In 1869 there were admitted on the Island 11,471 sick or destitute immigrants, 439 children were born, and 11,356 passengers discharged during the same period. On December 31, 1869, there remained in the institution 1,951 souls.
On entering the Ward's Island department, we pass through the areas set aside for the reception of immigrants by their friends. This is a large, well-ventilated room, with wooden benches for the accommodation of the visitors. A large blackboard shows the name of the steamers or ships that are reported "up," whose passengers are being or will be landed.
Meeting of Friends and Family Members at Castle Garden. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1871. GGA Image ID # 14b47e5589
If a friend is arriving in the steerage of SS City of Paris, read the list of arrivals in your paper every morning about the time the steamer is due. When you find that she has arrived, you go down to Castle Garden to this office, to which there is a separate entrance from the Battery. There you give to the clerk in charge the name of the passenger you are expecting.
This will be called out inside in the rotunda, and if she has been on board, she will be sent over to you, when there will be any quantity of questions to put and answers to make. It certainly is fascinating to witness these meetings, as I did.
When the name of a comely Irish girl is called out, she enters blushing, and in the next moment in the arms of her faithful sweet-heart, who left his home in Ireland three years ago. He has now sent for her to make her his bride.
There is kissing and crying and squeezing, and applause from the bystanders, who far the moment forget that in a few minutes, they will probably do the same sort of thing. That is a new version of "Pat Malloy," and, I think, the right one.
Father and son, sister and brother, meet here in fond embraces, with tears of joy, after years I of absence. What shaking of hands, and assurances of love, and inquiries for those dear to the heart, that are still thousands of miles away!
The Labor Exchange - Where Immigrants Find Work
The Labor Exchange -- Interior View of the Office at Castle Garden, New York. Sketched by Stanley Fox. Harper's Weekly, 15 August 1868. GGA Image ID # 14805c4868
Opposite this building is the Labor Exchange, to which there is also a separate entrance from the Battery. Not only immigrants, but whoever else wants work, can apply here, and will generally succeed in finding an employer.
Farm-hands and mechanics have the best chance, and there are always a number of them to he found there, mostly raw hands. Miners from Wales and other places are quite a specialty and are always in demand. Weavers also seem to find ready employment. Next come laborers on railroads, farm-hands, and gardeners.
There is but a reduced chance for office clerks and other nondescripts. Servant-girls form a significant proportion of the work-seekers. They may always be seen sitting there like hens on a perch, scrutinizing and criticizing the employers who apply at the office for help.
It is a mistake, however, to suppose that these girls are always green. To be sure, most of them were immigrants once, but that may have been five or perhaps ten years ago. As the office is open to all, it is liberally patronized. Applicants for help are plenty, and the officers in charge of the bureau do everything in their power to suit both parties and bring about a bargain.
The interests of those soliciting work are well looked after. Everyone applying for help must give their name and residence, and must furnish references. The wages are agreed on and entered in a book. In short, everything is done to guard against the admission of parties of a doubtful character.
German girls lately landed are significantly in demand at this establishment, and I was told that there are applications for them ten deep on the books. Still, they are very rarely to be found. German girls seldom come to this country alone; they are nearly always in company with their father, mother, and the whole family, and go with them out to the Western States.
If a stray one happens to stop in New York, she is picked up immediately, and her services secured at high wages. The wages at which girls obtain for work from this exchange vary from nine to fourteen dollars per month, sometimes higher. The pay is according to worth and specialty of work; cooks and chamber-maids receive the highest compensation.
By far, the more significant portion of the applicants is Irish. A good many of them are old "rounders," who take a job for perhaps a month and then leave it without the slightest notice.
Danish and Swedish girls are also in high demand, but difficult to obtain. Like the German girls, they very seldom leave the family where they are employed as long as they are paid decently and well treated.
The female department of the Labor Exchange is managed by a lady who tries to accommodate both employer and employee. No charge is made to or received from either party.
This makes the establishment extensively patronized; as will also be proved by the following statistics: In 1,559 situations were obtained for no less than 11,073 house servants, 438 cooks, laundresses, etc.; and, of the male branch, for 17,250 agricultural and unskilled laborers, and 5594 mechanics of various classes. This is a fair exhibit and helps to illustrate the vastness of the operations conducted at Castle Garden.
The City Express Office
From the Labor Exchange, we proceed to the City Express office, and here a busy scene awaits us. Wagons are being loaded, heavy boxes and trunks are rolled on trucks. Along with the smooth asphalt flooring, bundles, beds, and baskets are carried hither and thither, with confusion and noise everywhere.
For a small fee, every immigrant can have his luggage carried by express to any point of the city. Few fail to avail themselves of this opportunity. Consequently, there is a steady asking for and delivery of addresses in all the languages of the world.
The Boarding House Keepers
An essential feature in Castle Garden is the attendance of boarding-house keepers. A certain number are admitted into the Garden, where they ply their vocation after the landing of passengers, and alter these have passed the registering and railway officials, etc.
They are all provided with cards setting forth, in several languages, the name of their house, and the prices charged. These vary from $1 to $1.60 per day for Board and lodging, or $6 to $9 per week, all payable in currency, which is distinctly put forth on the card.
Their houses are mostly located in Greenwich and Washington streets, near Castle Garden. Most of them have very conspicuous and imposing names. Often they refer to the nationality of the proprietor, as for instance, Intel de Paris, Würtemberger Hof, Zuni Grüdi (Swiss House), Miners' Arms, and the Cork House.
Some have a Masonic title, as the Square and Compasses. In these, the immigrants can rest themselves for a day or two previous to their departure for the West. The Board furnished is said to be good and substantial, and complaints of extortion, etc., are seldom made.
It's quite different for outside houses, or those not represented on Castle Garden premises. Here, complaints are frequent, and justly so. As in many instances, these establishments are nothing but pitfalls for the unsuspecting immigrant. He is fleeced of his last dollar, and then thrust out into the street, sent to a brick-yard, or " shanghaied" on Board of some ship for a three years' cruise.
The immigrants are repeatedly warned against these outside dens in Castle Garden, but, of course, sometimes they fall prey to their own folly in not heeding these warnings.
The outside labor exchanges or intelligence-offices, also located near Castle Garden, are mostly nothing but deceptions. That's where a dollar or two is exacted for the promise of procuring a job. Unfortunately, a job is very seldom furnished. When a job is found, the situation is of the meanest sort and poorest paid for.
Above the washrooms, on the second floor, are the various offices of the Commissioners of Emigration, their meeting rooms, Treasurer's office, and the office of the General Agent and Superintendent. This gentleman has, for many years, managed and directed the interior working of this vast establishment to the benefit of hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
The Commissioner is a man, steadfast in his duty, with years of experience and a warm heart. He looks out for the welfare of the immigrant. Assisting the Commissioner is the Board of Commissioners, who form a body of the most experienced and esteemed men of the metropolis, including the Mayors of the cities of New York and Brooklyn.
On the occasion of my visit, I had an excellent opportunity offered me to inspect this establishment in all its details, and I availed myself of this in the fullest measure. I have tried to describe what I saw, and hope to have succeeded in imparting to the reader some idea of what Castle Garden really is, and how it looks on a busy day.
The War in Europe
The war in Europe has made sad havoc with the emigration, the German steamships having stopped running, and but very few of this nationality arriving. It was quite interesting to note the landing of about a hundred passengers who had arrived on a sailing ship from Bremen.
They were mostly Germans, with a few French and Italians. They had left their homes before the war and spoke of their astonishment upon hearing the news up to the hour of their arrival can better be imagined than described.
The French looked downhearted, and the Germans exultant; the Italians were neutral. Some few of the Germans, young, strapping fellows, inquired for the way to the German consul, as they wanted to go home again and fight for "Vaterland."
Their enthusiasm, however, seemed to evaporate after some time, and they took tickets for Kansas. The French, on their part, in the meantime, regained their faith in la belle France and thought that it might not be so bad after all.
Statistics from the Board of Emigration
I can not refrain from adding a few figures out of the statistics of the Board of Emigration, as this will, better than anything else, show the importance of this establishment and the quantity of business transacted.
In 1869, there were written for immigrants to their friends, 2,884 letters, to which answers were received at Castle Garden containing $41,615.55. Remittances, amounting to $50,549.49, were also collected in anticipation of the arrival of passengers. 5,393 telegraph messages were forwarded, to which 1,351 answers were received. 504 steamers and 209 sailing vessels arrived with passengers during the year.
$10,876.89 was expended to pay the passage of destitute immigrants back to Europe. This included money provided to their friends in the interior, out of the funds of the Commissioners.
Problems After Leaving Castle Garden
When we left the Garden, we heard the same noises that had greeted us earlier in the morning. As we came out among a large party of newly landed immigrants, and the light was but feeble, we were evidently supposed to belong to them.
A fellow grasped my arm, and tried in half English, half German, to persuade me to go with him to some obscure " hotel," " das beste in der Stadt! (the best in town)" Not till we came within the full glare of a gas-lamp did he discover his mistake, and let me go, though I had not spoken a word. A minute later, I saw him carry off some really verdant ones with better success.
Immigrant Runner at Castle Garden. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1871. GGA Image ID # 14b47f5054
It is a standard dodge among these runners to seize a portmanteau, or, better yet, a baby, belonging to some large family, for then the whole crowd is sure to follow.
I encountered such a gang. The wily runner was carrying a massive bag in the left hand and had on the right arm a yelling baby, which he vainly tried to soothe or smother, I do not know which. Behind him came the mother with another baby in her arms, along with many children clinging to her petticoats. After her came "victor," smoking his Dutch porcelain pipe and carrying some bundles, and finally, "grossvater" and "grossmutter" made up the rear.
The lights were shining feebly on the Battery. The lamps are but few and far between, and almost total darkness prevails at some places. Behind me were the crowds of immigrants still emerging from Castle Garden, whose dome loomed up splendidly out of a sea of darkness—a beacon for the guidance of immigrants who arrive on our shores.
Louis Bagger, "A Day in Castle Garden," in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, Vol XLII, No. 250 (CCL), March 1871, p. 547-556.
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