Immigrants at Castle Garden - 1880
Henry J. Jackson, Superintendent of the Bureau of Emigration, Castle Garden. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 27 November 1880. GGA Image ID # 14ffd48f80
I crossed the Battery Park upon a glorious, sun-shiny morning of last week, and passing through a dense crowd of comfortably clad, clean, healthy and thrifty looking immigrants, speaking all the tongues that ever wagged at Babel, penetrated the precincts of Castle Garden.
A very courteous official met me in the Rotunda, and, having Informed him that I desired to see Mr. Henry J. Jackson, the Superintendent of the Commissioners of Emigration for the State of New York, I was shown up an iron staircase and through a large desk-laden office into a bright, cheery, oblong apartment, known as the Board Room, where I encountered the official of whom I was in quest—a bright-eyed, florid-faced, merry-looking gentleman, half way in the thirties.
"Here's more of it!" laughed Mr. Jackson, handing me an open letter. "Just read that, for in addition to all my other duties, it would appear that I am a matrimonial agent," The letter ran:
" November 12th.
" Mr. Jackson—I take the liberty to write to you to ask you to do me a kindness by giving me the address of some Western gentleman, as 1 would like to send my address to some one who is of good moral character—a dark-complexioned man preferred. By sending my address to such a man would add to the happiness of my life; and please oblige a lonely girl who wishes to secure a husband.
" Address: Miss Rosalind Sweetman.
" Henby, Pa."
"Bless you," said Mr. Jackson, "since ever a letter addressed to me from a German Immigrant wanting a wife was published In the Herald, I have been besieged by letters from men and women. Look at this pile!" he exclaimed, flinging a great tied bundle of missives upon the table; "and this is only a fragmentary portion of what 1 receive."
After glancing over the contents of some of those letters, which were as quaint as they were straightforward and amusing, Mr. Jackson resumed :
"This year has proved the largest emigration year for a quarter of a century, and the class of immigrants is exceptionally good, the German element especially so. and Indeed I can say the same for the Irish.
Mr. Davitt, the Irish agitator, to whom I spoke the other day In reference to the cleanly and comfortable appearance of the Irish emigrants now arriving, laughingly remarked, 'Maybe It's because they have forgotten to pay the rent.'
We have had as many as 8,000 emigrants to house in that Rotunda this season, while all our licensed boarding-houses were crammed to the uttermost limits of their capacity. This is our Board Room. The Board of Emigration Commissioners meets here and hold investigations."
"What Is the nature of these investigations ?" I asked.
"Principally inquiries into the want of civility of subordinate officers on board the steamers, and the quantity and quality of the food furnished."
The walls of the Board Room are adorned with rare old prints of Castle Garden and the Battery. One of these dates from the visit of Jenny Lind, and the name of the gifted cantatrice appears in large letters over the entrance to the Garden.
A very line portrait of Governor Cornell occupies one wall, while photos of some of the ragged, homeless girls taken from the street-scrapings of Liverpool by Father Nugent, and brought out to Minnesota last year, teach a wondrous lesson, since in little less than a twelve months these girls, from being literally hatless and shoeless, are now gorgeously arrayed in those fardels so dear to the feminine heart, and earning from $10 to $12 per month.
"The routine of Castle Garden may be briefly summarized," observed Mr. Jackson. " After examination of their luggage on shipboard by the Customs officers, the immigrants are transferred to this landing depot, where they are received by the officers of the Commission, who enter In registers kept for the purpose all necessary particulars for their future identification.
The names of such as have money, letters or friends awaiting them are tallied out, and they are put into immediate possession of the property, or committed to their friends, whose credentials have first been properly scrutinized. Such as desire can find clerks at hand to write letters for them in any European language, and a telegraph-operator within the depot to forward dispatches.
Here, also, the main trunk lines of railway have offices, and while the immigrant can buy tickets and have his baggage weighed and checked, brokers are admitted (under restrictions which make fraud impossible) to exchange the foreign coin or paper of immigrants.
A restaurant supplies them with plain food at moderate prices; a physician is in attendance for the sick: a temporary hospital ready to receive them until they can be conveyed to Ward's Island, where we have our chief hospital and Its efficient and numerous staff.
Those In search of employment are furnished It at the labor bureau connected with the establishment, such as desire to start at once for their destination are sent to the railway or steamboat; while any who may choose to remain in the city are referred to boarding-house keepers admitted to the depot, whose charges are regulated under special license, and whose houses are kept under constant and rigid supervision by the Commission."
"Are these services rendered gratuitously, Mr. Jackson?"
"Yes, sir. Without any fee or charge whatever to the immigrant."
New York City -- The Great Work of the State Commissioners of Emigration -- Superintendent Jackson Listening to the Complaints of Emigrants in His Office at Castle Garden. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 27 November 1880. GGA Image ID # 14ff92ba22
At this moment some Suabian and Irish Immigrants, who had Just arrived, demanded a hearing, having a series of alleged grievances to bring before the Board.
In a twinkling they were admitted, and as I quitted the Board Room the Irishman was engaged in stating his case with all the rhetoric for which his nation is so justly famous.
"Immigrants at Castle Garden," in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 27 November 1880, pp. 197, 201.