Immigration Process At Castle Garden (1871)
The State of New York has established a Landing Depot for Immigrants at Castle Garden in the port of New York. The work centering there is done in departments, of which the following description is abridged from a pamphlet on Immigration, by Mr. Friedrich Kapp, late of the Commissioners of Immigration of the State.
I. The Boarding Department
On arrival at the quarantine station (six miles below the city), every vessel bringing immigrant passengers is boarded by an officer of this department.
He is stationed there for the purpose, who ascertains the number of passengers, the deaths, if any, during, the voyage, and the amount and character of sickness.
He examines the condition of the vessel in respect to cleanliness and receives complaints, of which he makes report to the General Agent and Superintendent at Castle Garden.
He remains on board tie ship during her passage up the bay, to see that the law prohibiting communication between ship and shore before immigrant passengers are landed is enforced.
On casting anchor in the stream, convenient to the Landing Depot, he is relieved by an officer of the Metropolitan Police force, detailed at Castle Garden, and the passengers are transferred to the care of
II. The Landing Department
From which the Landing Agent proceeds with barges and tugs, accompanied by Inspector of Customs, to the vessel. After an examination of the luggage, it is checked, and the passengers with their luggage are transferred to the barges and tugs, and landed at the Castle Garden pier.
On landing, the passengers are examined by a medical officer, to discover if any sick have passed the health authorities at quarantine (who are thereupon transferred by steamer to the hospitals on Ward's or Blackwell's Island), and likewise to select all subject to special bonds under the law, as blind persons, cripples, lunatics, or any others who are likely to become a future charge.
This examination being ended, the immigrants are directed into the Rotunda, a circular space with separate compartments for English-speaking and other nationalities, to
III. The Registering Department
Where the names, nationality, former place of residence, and the intended destination of the immigrants, with other particulars, are taken down. The passengers are then directed to
IV. The Agents of the Railroad Companies
From whom they can procure tickets to all parts of the United States and Canada, without the risk of fraud or extortion to which they are subjected outside of the Depot. In the meanwhile, the baggage and luggage are stored in the baggage room.
A brass ticket, with any letter of the alphabet from A to F inclusive, and a number from 1 to 600, is delivered to the immigrant on landing, and a duplicate fastened on his piece of baggage.
The trunk or box is then placed in the baggage room. This room has six bins, designated by the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and each bin has six hundred numbers. Accordingly, when the immigrant produces his ticket, a baggage man at once goes to the bin indicated by the letter and number on the ticket, and delivers the baggage required.
The immigrants destined inland, on the delivery of their check, take their baggage to the weigher's scales. After having been weighed and paid for, it is sent free of charge to the depot of the railroad or dock of the steamboat by which they leave. Such immigrants as design remaining in this city and vicinity are directed to
V. The City Baggage Delivery
Which ascertains the address to which the immigrants may desire to have their luggage sent, and takes their orders, exchanging the brass check *received from the Landing Agent on shipboard; for a printed paper one.
The luggage is then promptly delivered in any part of this city and vicinity at a moderate rate of charges, approved by the Commission. At die same time, those having gold or silver which they may wish to have exchanged for United States currency are directed to one of three
VI. Exchange Brokers
Admitted into the Depot, who change foreign money for a small advance on the market rate, set forth in a conspicuous place for the observation of the immigrant, the daily fluctuations in rates being duly noted.
These list three departments are conducted by responsible parties, who, while not officers, are nevertheless under the close and constant supervision of the Commission, and are required to keep a record of all transactions, subject to the inspection of any member of the Board.
VII. The Information Department
When the preceding operations are completed, the immigrants are assembled in tile Rotunda, and an officer of the Commission calls out the names of those whose friends attend them in the waiting-room at the entrance of the Depot, and to whom they are directed.
At the same time are called out the names of those for whom letters or funds are waiting, which is then delivered to the proper owners through the Forwarding Department. Immigrants who desire to communicate with friends at a distance are referred to
VIII. The Letter Writing Department
Where clerks, understanding the various Continental languages, arc in attendance to write. The immigrant, while waiting for a reply, if destitute, finds a home in the institutions at Ward's Island.
IX. Boarding-house Keepers
Licensed by the Mayor and properly certified as to character by responsible parties, are admitted to the Rotunda, after the preceding business has been completed, to solicit for their respective houses such immigrants as a desire to remain in the city for any length of time.
These boarding-house keepers are subject to specific regulations, and every precaution is taken to guard the immigrant against the abuses and imposition to which he was formerly liable.
X: The Forwarding Department
Receives, through the Treasurer, all communications and remittances from friends of immigrants, sent either before their arrival or in response to letters written by the Letter Department.
XI. The Ward's Island Department
Receives all applications for admission to the Refuge or Hospital there. Attached to this department are two physicians, whose duties are to examine all sick and destitute applicants for relief, and to visit all such at their residences in the city, and report to the General Agent.
XII. The Labor Exchange
Each immigrant on arriving is requested to enter his or her name, ship, date of arrival, and character of employment; while every employer is required to enter his or her name, residence, recommendations, references, and description of labor wanted.
This Labor Exchange furnishes an intelligence office, without charge, for immigrants desirous of (binding employment or service in the city or at a distance; and undertakes to supply all sorts of skilled mechanical and agricultural labor to employers in any part of the United States, who come with a proper guarantee of character and other necessary qualifications.
Such is the Commissioner's account. A few words from a pamphlet by a Scotch farmer give an immigrant's impressions.
Impressions from Immigrants
" When the shore is reached, the passengers, baggage and all, are driven to Castle Garden, between two lines of officials, in the same manner as the railway officials in the west put the wild Texas cattle into the cars, minus the whipping.
In the passage along Castle Garden, we were met first by one government official, and then by another, each of; whom asked a distinct class of questions and scrutinized the appearance of every immigrant Some of the questions were as follows:
- What is your name?
- Where is your former place of residence?.
- Whither are you going?
- What is your trade?
After the government inspectors were satisfied, we were pushed farther onto a large open area, where we had to remain till all had passed this ordeal. When this formal business was completed, we wanted to get out to a hotel to secure a bed and get rested, for we were very much used up.
The door-keeper told us that we must remain till the business was completed. I insisted on that flag out on the plea of sickness, and very sick I was, but that had no effect.
There I had to remain along with many moms to be assailed by a host of what were called very respectable lodging house keepers and to hear an almost endless string of names called over, which was only interesting to a few.
One would infer from the name of this place —Castle Garden — that he was entering into a paradise; but I could call it by another name.
It contains a Labor Exchange, -- a most essential and useful office for immigrants whose minds are not fixed on any particular place, and especially for those who have no money to carry them farther.. A meal can be got in the building for half a dollar, and immigrants can remain in it to wait the chance of employment.
TThere is no place for them to sleep, unless on the floor or a chair. If one possessed of money or Valuables wishes to remain for a time about New York, and knows of no place for their safety, he should hand them over to the General Superintendent of Castle Garden, in whose hands they are quite safe, and who will rant a receipt for them.
An immigrant can leave his baggage there for days or weeks, if it is not convenient for him to remove it but he should be careful always to get a check for each box, which is his guarantee for his property, from the Company's employees.
Every employee, while on duty, is obliged to wear and exhibit a badge, showing his position, which is an excellent arrangement to prevent imposition by sharpers.
All services rendered to immigrants by the servants are without charge. The Immigration Commissioners have established a hospital for immigrants prostrated by sickness, and not able to pay for medical assistance and comforts.
These and other arrangements at Castle Garden are all well meant, and have done well, and are possibly doing good still; but from the many complaints in and out of the place, it is evident there is a screw loose somewhere."
Source: Handbook for Immigrants to the United States. Prepared by the American Social Science Association with Maps. Published for the Association by Hurd and Houghton, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1871.