First, it's important to know that Ellis Island didn't open it's doors until January 1, 1892 (120 years ago today). The federal government had just taken over control of immigration in 1890. Before then it was the role of officials from the city where the port was located to process new arrivals. Before Ellis Island, Castle Garden Emigrant Landing Depot functioned as the New York state immigration processing center, between 1855 and 1890. But the Horst family arrived in 1846, years before such official processing took place.
|A Packet Ship Off Liverpool|
Horst Family Sets Sail for America
|Passenger List from Gladiator, August 1846|
[l to r: Name; Age; Sex; Occupation; Nationality (German, Do=ditto), Destination (America)
[It's interesting to note, when they arrived in August 1846 into New York Harbor there was no central facility for the new immigrants to get information for housing, food, jobs or medical care. So it was common for new arrivals to be robbed, taken advantage of, and mistreated. If they were fortunate when they arrived they may have been assisted by the Deutsche Geselleschaft, the German Emigrant Society that had been organized in the city to help relocate newly arriving Germans, provide information on travel, housing and jobs, and protect them from the bands of thieves that populated the harbor area. German Catholic Churches were also set up to help new immigrants.]
Families brought with them all of their worldly possessions as they resettled in the new country, but this was only part of what they carried with them onto the ship. They were also required to bring their own mattresses (stuffed with hay or horsehair) for their family’s bunk bed, and sometimes even all their own food and cooking supplies for the long journey. Water would be available but good hygiene was not.
The emigrants were also advised to take along equipment, such as a water pail, (the size according to the needs of each family, about 3 quarts a day per person) cooking pot, coffee kettle and dishes and eating utensils. They had to prepare their own food on the ship's galleys placed up on deck. Often there were no more than a couple of these to be shared by all the passengers. The lines for preparing food could easily become long, when there were several hundred passengers. There are reports about ships where some passengers never made it to the stoves -- it was a matter of the survival of the fittest. A passenger traveling on theAtalanta in 1871 told this from his journey: "Now our place as emigrants was in the hold, on the between deck. Everyone had a chest of food, a keg of milk and one of beer, all of what was stored in the mid of the deck, held in place by ropes."
"From Liverpool each passenger receives weekly 5 lbs. of oatmeal, 2 1/2 lbs. biscuit, 1 lb. flour, 2 lbs. rice, 1/2 lb. sugar, 1/2 lb. molasses, and 2 ounces of tea. He is obliged to cook it the best way he can in a cook shop 12 feet by 6! This is the cause of so many quarrels and...many a poor woman with her children can get but one meal done, and sometimes they get nothing warm for days and nights when a gale of wind is blowing and the sea is mountains high and breaking over the ship in all directions."—Anonymous, New-York Daily Times, October 15, 1851 [This report of conditions in steerage was written by a doctor who had crossed the Atlantic many times on large American packet ships. “Reform must be made,” he wrote, “to better the condition of the poorer classes of emigrants.”]
|Steerage ca. 1851|
Light was admitted through open hatchways and partly through skylights in the deck. There was canvas in the hatchways, but during storms and rough seas these often had to be covered, and if this continued for any length of time the air in the room below occupied by the emigrants often became frightfully bad.
Sometimes those in steerage were not allowed on deck or may only be allowed for a short time. Some captains had a strict routine for the steerage passengers to follow, including what time to wake and sleep, when meals were made and a list of chores to be done daily, including cleaning the steerage floor every morning for the men; other captains didn’t make the effort. Besides watching their children or caring for the sick, women would spend their time cooking sewing or knitting. Games were played and there was often dancing and music provided by those on board. The captain usually held Sunday services on deck.
Illness was common given the poor hygiene, lack of ventilation and cramped living conditions passengers had to endure. Seasickness was very common and there was no medicine to relieve it. Sometimes sick passengers were kept on deck to keep the steerage area cleaner. But with bad weather, passengers stayed in, hatches were closed and ventilation was non-existent. Primitive toilets, if they existed, were kept on deck, with sometimes only one or two available for the several hundred emigrants to use.
|Inside a Packet Ship ca.1851|
[click to enlarge]
So now picture it - there were eight Horst family members boarding this ship, carrying with them all of their worldly belongings - two parents and six children, including one infant. They joined over 200 other passengers from various countries, all strangers sharing a very small area inside the dark ship for over six weeks. No electricity or air conditioning. Windows closed during bad weather. People getting sea-sick. Babies crying, Men snoring. People talking. No televisions or radios to keep the children entertained. No showers. Passengers getting sick. Several passengers even dying. Then having a service onboard before dropping the bodies into the ocean. Martin Horst was just 16 years old. What a difference his decision, and his family's decision to come to America made in the lives of his descendants.
The Gladiator & Audubon
An interesting note about the ship - John James Audubon (1785-1851), the renowned French naturalist and painter, sailed with his son John (1812-1862) from Portsmouth, England, to America on August 2, 1836 on the packet Gladiator. With them they brought 260 live birds, 3 pointers and "a brace of tailless (Manx) cats". They reached New York in thirty-three days. Audubon wrote in his journal:
"August 1. Somewhat before the setting of the sun, we went on board, ate and drank, and laid ourselves down in those floating catacombs, vulgarly called berths. When the Gladiator left St. Katharine's Dock she had on our account two-hundred and sixty live birds, three dogs received as a present from our noble friend, the Earl of Derby, and a brace of tailless cats...." [John James Audubon]By the end of the trip only fifteen of the birds had survived; "the cats are well", Audubon wrote his wife Lucy. One of the pointers had delivered seven puppies.
I can find no picture of the ship Gladiator.