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Status: Emigration from Southwest-Germany > Famous Emigrants > The Crossing

The Crossing

Before thousands of emigrants could enter the "Promised Land" they had to weather the dangerous voyage across the North Atlantic, which lasted several weeks. Diseases and epedemics broke out on board of the sailing-ships due to the terrible hygienic conditions, the shortage of food and its lack of variety and caused the deaths of many people.

Unter Deck eines Auswanderer-Schiffes, 19. Jahrhundert

In his book "Der Deutsche in Nord-Amerika" (the German in North America), Stuttgart and Tübingen 1818, page 33-42, Moritz von Fürstenwärther describes the conditions of the crossing from Holland to the United States:

Before departure a contract will be signed between the passengers and the entrepreneurs. The main items are: A) Payment: an adult has to pay 170 Gulden (Dutch currency), but 190 Gulden when the money is paid after the landing. Children under four travel free of charge. B) Regulations about food and its quality. The contracts, however, are not kept. Usually there are too many people on board, there is always a shortage of food, the hygienic conditions are not satisfactory. And the doctors, if available, quite often turn out being barbers. This results in a growing death-rate, children suffer most, especially the very young who are not able to take the food and those who are breast-fed. It is estimated that a tenth of the passengers die during the passage or shortly after landing.

Such or similar reports persuaded the Government of Württemberg to give top priority to mass emigration and its attendant circumstances. Therefore since the 1840s, emigration was controlled by the State. Contractors were authorized and consulates were established in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. They looked after the interests of the emigrants from Württemberg.