Odd Baggage of the Immigrants
Money Brought by the Immigrants
The Immigrants as Citizens
In an open ditch, red and raw under a broiling
sun, sixty-five Italian immigrants, stripped to the necessities,
toiled silently with shovel and pick. A hard-faced, red-necked
man, their taskmaster, walked up and down the trench, and wherever
he stopped the men worked with feverish speed. Temporarily,
at least, this will be the fate of thousands of the other immigrants
who flowed in through Ellis Island in this year's spring flood
— the greatest in twenty years.
Magyar Woman and Child
During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1901,
there were landed at New York 388,931 immigrants; in May alone,
92,485, and on one day in May, 6,490. The highest previous monthly
record in twenty years was in May, 1893—the flood is always
heaviest in spring—when 73,000 were landed. Persons with contagious
or incurable diseases are sent back, and a far greater number
of other on the ground that they are likely to become public
charges. The others give their occupations and enter, but not
always to take up the occupation given, for many calling themselves
musicians have been found later working as waiters in restaurants
or toiling as laborers on public works.
Just From Holland
The Government assumes jurisdiction over the
aliens as soon as their steamer has been passed at quarantine.
Inspectors go aboard from the revenue cutters down the bay and
obtain the manifests of alien passengers, which the steamship
companies must supply. These manifests must show:
A Polish Woman
Full name—age—sex—whether married or single—calling
or occupation—whether able to read or write—nationality—last
residence —seaport for landing in the United States— final destination
in the United States— whether having a ticket through to such
destination—whether the immigrant has paid his own passage,
or whether it has been paid by other persons, or by any corporation,
society, municipality or government—whether in possession of
money, and if so, whether upward of $30, and how much, if $30
or less— whether going to join a relative, and if so, what relative
and his name and address— whether ever before in the United
States, and if so, when and where—whether ever in prison or
almshouse, or supported by charity —whether a polygamist—whether
under contract, expressed or implied, to perform labor in the
United States—the immigrant's condition of health, mentally
and physically and whether deformed or crippled; and if so,
from what cause. It is a searching census, indeed.
Waiting in One of the Railway Detention Rooms
When the steamship reaches her pier the inspectors
discharge such immigrants as they may deem it unnecessary to
examine (usually not over fifteen or twenty). All the others
are transferred to barges and taken to Ellis Island. There on
the main floor of the big immigration building they are divided
into groups according to the manifests, and separated. Later,
in lines set off by iron railings, they undergo "primary
inspection." Each immigrant is questioned to see if his
answers ally with the manifests. If they do, he is discharged;
if they do not, he is detained for "special inquiry,"by
boards composed of four inspectors, who decide all questionable
cases. Only the Secretary of the Treasury can overrule their
decision. The immigrants are kept in the big detention room
downstairs until the railway agents take them to board trains
to their final destinations. While on the island they are lodged
by the Government and fed by the steamship companies.
In the Detention Pen: Men who will be deported as not desirable
My concern has been not with the larger meaning,
but with the unkempt particles of this slow and constantly moving
glacier of humanity; from whence and why they came, how much
money they brought with them, the amount and character of their
baggage, how they procured employment, and how they were assimilated.
Young Irishmen Ready for Politics
A Typical Italian Family
Peasants From Norway on the Roof Awaiting Deportation
Until Her Friends Arrive
Swedish Girls on Their Way to Wisconsin.
Odd Baggage of the Immigrants
I welcomed Florio Vincenzo when he came over
to become one of us. He had no doubts of the future for he wooed
the Goddess of Good Fortune boldly. Florio is fourteen; he came
from Palermo. He traveled light. When he opened his cheap paper
valise, it was apparently empty, save for a pair of discredited
and disreputable old shoes. Florio bowed, cap in hand, and his
white teeth flashed as he smiled suavely:
"I am a poor man, nobleman, seeking my fortune. "
On Ellis Island: Polish women going from a barge to the
Landing on Ellis Island: The immigrants are brought in
barges from the ships to the Island.
There was an odor that an old inspector knew.
He picked up one of the shoes and extracted from it, after some
manipulation, a creased and crumpled hunk of Bologna sausage.
The other shoe was stuffed with a soft, sticky and aggressively
fragrant mass of Italian cheese. These articles and a sum of
Italian money equivalent to about $1.80, and the clothes he
stood in, formed the basis on which Florio expected to rear
Released Italians Awaiting the Boat To New York
Pietro Viarilli was gray-haired, round-shouldered,
and weazened. He, too, had come make his fortune. His impedimenta
consisted of one padlocked canvas valise lined with paper and
containing two striped cotton shirts, one neckerchief of yellow
silk blue flowers and edges, one black hat (soiled and worn),
one waistcoat, two pairs of woolen hose of gay design, one suit
of underwear, one pint of olive oil and about half a peck of
hard bread biscuits. Until his arrival the list included a quart
of Vesuvian wine of the rich purple hue one may buy in cheap
cafes in Naples. Carelessly Pietro had slung his valise from
his shoulder, and had smashed his bottle, drenching his store
of biscuits. He and his companions had munched them greedily
until the supply was exhausted.
Dutch Peasants: Mother, son, daughter-in-law and grandchild
come to make a home in the West.
The contents of the bags and boxes of the Scandanavians,
English, Scotch and Irish are usually more diverse. These immigrants
bring over articles of personal adornment or household ornaments
of a sentimental interest. The Scandinavians bring more baggage
than any others. Close behind come the English nd the French.
Roughly speaking, those from the North of Europe bring more
personal effects than those from the South. The 2,000 immigrants
who arrived on a Liverpool ship one morning this summer brought
1,185 pieces of checked baggage, exclusive of about 900 pieces
of hand baggage. This is about two-thirds more than the same
number of persons Southern Europe would have brought. For this
reason Hungarins, Slovaks, Greeks, Sicilians, and other South-of-Europe
peoples, are called "walkers" by baggage men.
During one month this spring 21,367 pieces of
baggage were received at Ellis Island, examined and sent to
various parts of the country, frail and poorly made, and awkwardly
shaped, much of it unmarked and the rest scrawled over with
undecipherable hieroglyphics. The Government makes no charge
for storage, and the immigrant, if he chooses, may leave his
trunk or box on the island for a year, yet seldom a piece is
It is said that the old customs inspectors tell
at a glance from the contents of a bag what part of Europe its
owner has come from. The Italians bring over wine, fruits, oil
or nuts; the English and the Scotch will have a piece of tweed
or heavy cloth, and the Irish bring frieze. In the main, however,
these immigrants come away from their homes to a strange country
bringing less clothing and fewer personal effects than the average
American workingman would drag out of a burning house, and chosen
about as wisely.
Money Brought by the Immigrants
At the examination the immigrants are asked to
show their money. Some craftily fail to show it all; others
willingly display their whole petty hoardings. The money is
carefully counted, and, after a record has been taken, restored
to them. Later, they are asked if they wish any money changed.
Many refuse for fear of being cheated; others stop before the
busy money-changers' booth at the end of the long examination
Last year the 388,931 immigrants showed $5,490,080,
an average of $14.12 The French led all the others with an average
of $39.37. The Hebrews stood at the foot of the list bringing
on an average $8.58. The Germans followed the French with an
average of $31.14. The other nationalities stood in the list
||Average per Capita.
| Bohemian and Moravian
| Croation and Dalmation
A pleasant-faced little man with trustful blue
eyes stood before the desk one afternoon. His wife, a typical
German woman, and three children formed a patient, waiting group
behind him. The man wore a suit of "copperas jeans,"
stained and worn, top-boots, and the high peaked cap of the
German peasant. He was fumbling through his pockets and in hidden
recesses of his garments and producing money. Thalers, marks,
Imperial treasury notes and gold pieces fell from his dirty
fingers until a tidy little heap was lying on the counter.
Some of the immigrant officers looked on in amazement.
The little German had seemed peculiarly unproductive soil for
such a harvest—which amounted to over $600 to be converted into
United States treasury notes. He grinned cheerfully when the
neat pile of crisp green bills was handed to him, and opening
his shirt, stowed the roll where he could feel it next his body.
But he was an exceptionally wealthy immigrant.
The Immigrants as Citizens
Getting a job is casual business with an immigrant.
Each seems to find an opportunity. In a big gray stone building
on the Battery is a low living room with white walls —bare save
for rows of benches. In one corner is a railed-off desk space
where sit two or three kindly faced old men. An iron railing
running the length of the room separates capital from labor.
On the benches are men waiting to be hired, of all sorts but
alike in having no friends and no work. They slouch like habitual
park loungers. A dull spirit of lethargy hangs over the room.
The waiting peasants read dirty scraps of newspapers, or chat
disconnectedly. Employers come in from time to time and tell
the man behind the railing their needs. A fair-faced blond man
in shirt sleeves, for example, came in one day and spoke briefly:—
"Who wants to work for a baker ? "
called the manager.
A young fellow stood up like a boy at school,
came forward and talked with the employer in German. Then he
went back and sat down. Another man looked up from his paper,
spoke to the baker, and the two departed chatting like old friends.
From 1,000 to 1,500 persons find employment every
month at this bureau, which is maintained by the German Society
of the City of New York and the Irish Emigrant Society. Usually,
however, the immigrants rely on friends or relatives for a start.
Women seeking domestic service are more capricious than the
men. They will not take a place outside of New York, not even
in Brooklyn. They can get higher wages in New York than in any
other place in the country.
Foreigners who have been in this country for
less than one year are still subject to the immigration laws.
If an immigrant becomes a public charge within twelve months,
or applies to a public charity for relief, he is deported at
the expense of the steamship company. The Outdoor Poor Bureau,
maintained by the City of New York, handles about 2,000 such
cases every year. The case of "Prince " Ranji T. Smilie
The "Prince" came into New York as
an Eastern potentate with a retinue of swarth retainers. He
was really only a curry cook and his coming had been cleverly
exploited to advertise an Oriental restaurant in which the "Prince"
was to cook and the retinue to become waiters. When the restaurant
failed the waiters applied for relief and were sent to Ellis
Island. Later they were deported. Some of the other cases have
had interesting features: Ario Tokian, who described himself
as a minister, thirty-one years of age, and did not know what
ship he came on (not an common occurrence), applied for relief
in June. He had $5.00 when he landed nearly a year previously,
and had $3.00 at the time he made his application. He had been
refused on a similar application last September, whereupon he
came back to the mainland and enlisted. He was discharged in
June. In less than a month he was "broke." Another
case was that of an English girl, an idiot and an epileptic,
here a little more than a year. Her sister gave the unfortunate
girl a good home, circumstances recently made it impossible
to support her longer. When application was made at the Outdoor
Poor Bureau, it was found that she was a British subject and
could not be committed permanently to an institution here, because
she had been in this country more than a year. The British Consul
refused to do anything. The final outcome of the matter is yet
to be determined.
Roughly speaking, the North-of-Europe people
make better citizens than those from the South of Europe. The
better class go to the country and the worst to the cities.
Greeks are considered about the least desirable of all; the
Italians from the southern portion of the peninsula also make
poor citizens; but those from the northern part of Italy rank
with the Swiss and other desirable nationalities. From 1821
to 1900, accord ing to a recent Census Bulletin, over 19,000,000
immigrants landed in the United States. Germany sent 5,000,000;
Ireland, 3,870,000; Great Britain, 3,026,000; Scandinavia, 1,246,000;
Austria-Hungary (including Bohemia), 1,000,000; and Italy, 1,000,000.
Once the stream came mainly from the North of Europe now it
comes chiefly from the South— the undesirable countries.
These Greeks and the Southern Italians, however,
who live by selling fruit from the push carts in the city streets,
earn considerable sums of money. An old Italian was detained
at Ellis Island, preparatory to being deported because he had
arrived here penniless. He sent for his son, a push-cart man,
who had been in this country just one year. The boy (he was
not more than twenty) brought his book showing deposits aggregating
$250. This money represented the sum he had saved. He impressed
upon the inspectors his ability to support his father, and the
old man was admitted. The boy said his expenses were about $7.00
a week, and that he did not work for a padrone, but was an independent
Others follow different paths, and meet strange
adventures. There is a man now honored in a Western State whom
I shall call Karl Ritter. His older brother emigrated from the
Black Forest to Wisconsin, where, laboring and living frugally,
he acquired a prairie farm. At the age of eight, Karl came over
with his name stitched on a square of white cloth on his breast.
Kindly men cared for him till on a dreary winter day he reached
Black Earth. When the day's work was over the station agent
drove him over the dull prairie to his brother's place, and
left him at the gate. He knocked, but getting no response, pushed
desperately in. An old man and older woman, with sinister vicious
faces, sitting there within the little farmhouse, told him his
brother had gone on a journey. After a fortnight, beaten down
with terrors, Karl ran away, and tramping up country, secured
a place on a farm.
Arrived at manhood, and owner of a farm of his
own, he was called one day to Black Earth, to learn that the
man and woman he net the day of his arrival had murdered his
brother the day before and hidden the body in the cellar.
I have heard another odd tale. Three Scandinavian
immigrant boys were each left a sixty-acre prairie farm by their
father. Mons was a fisherman—the more he thought the plainer
he saw his duty. To Nils he said:
"If I give you my farm, will you support
that I can fish ?"
Now Nils's 120 acres have increased to several
thousand, and his stock is the finest in the country. Mons fishes
all day in the lake, seldom catching anything, but content with
The final destination of the hordes pouring in
can be set down but roughly, though the objective point of all
the new-comers is a part of their record. Of the 138,000 arrivals
in May and June of this year the distribution of the largest
streams flowing in from Ellis Island was as follows:—
| New York City and State
|| 59, 786
| New Jersey
Of the Italians, not more than half come as permanent
settlers. Of the 533,245 immigrants from Italy in 1901, 281,688
according to their own declaration sought temporary employment
with the intention of returning to their old homes. Of these
temporary immigrants there were 20,221. They have shown no tendency
to settle in "colonies, " but seek work wherever it
may be had at tolerable wages. They are unlike the Swedes, Danes
and Finns, who usually go directly to Western lumber camps and
farms. Even these, like many of the immigrants, retain their
old home customs years after settling, and outward-bound ships
in the spring are filled with two and three-year immigrants
going home on visits. As soon as the coal strike had begun in
Pennsylvania, thousands of the strikers went back to Europe.
Homesickness drives certain of the foreign born residents of
New York to the Battery Park sea wall in the spring. On sunny
mornings the long rows of benches facing the sea are full of
men and women with bright head dresses and gaily colored shawls,
watching the ships come in. They chat animatedly and their manners
are vivacious. Their talk is of home, of Tuscan hillsides, of
the vineyards, of Cretan villages, and of the old Mediterranean
cities. At regular intervals, when the boat from Ellis Island
brings its load of newly arrived immigrants to the Barge Office,
there is a rush of the homesick ones to the edge of the sea
wall. The peasants on the boat wave their hats or brilliant
neckerchiefs, and sometimes there is a call of greeting from
across the water. Those who sit on the benches do not go to
the park for the clean, cool air, but to satisfy demands that