Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Which Immigrant Ancestors Saw the Statue of Liberty?

Recently I completed a 14-page "memory booklet" outlining the family histories of Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) and Isaac Burk (1882-1943), my paternal grandparents.

I tried to get a sense of what it was like to be an immigrant arriving in steerage, getting my first glimpse of the city I hoped would have streets paved with gold.

Henrietta and her younger siblings were children when they arrived at New York's Castle Garden in late 1886, just around the time the Statue of Liberty was dedicated (on October 28, 1886).

However, Henrietta's father, Meyer Mahler, arrived in 1885, so his ship didn't pass Lady Liberty on the way to New York Harbor. Still, living in New York and awaiting his family's arrival, he would have been aware of the statue's purpose and the hoopla surrounding its dedication. Ken Burns has a wonderful timeline of the statue's history and the progress leading up to the dedication by President Grover Cleveland.

Henrietta's future husband, Isaac Burk, came to North America by way of Canada, and took a train south to the Vermont border, so he didn't see the Statue of Liberty on his incoming trip.

Both of my maternal grandparents arrived in the 20th century, which means their voyages ended with the Statue of Liberty in full view (and they were processed through Ellis Island, not Castle Garden). Minnie Farkas (1886-1964) sailed into New York Harbor in 1901, two years before Emma Lazarus's now-famous poem was inscribed on the base. Similarly, her future husband Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965) arrived in 1902, the year before the poem was put on the base. In later years, did they ever take a ferry to the statue to get a closer look?


Jana Last said...

My grandparents and their family immigrated to the United States in 1952 via ocean liner. They passed the Statue of Liberty and took a photo of it from the ship. I have that photo and have shared it on my blog.

Marian Burk Wood said...

What a wonderful memory it must be when they (and you) look at that photo!

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

The Statue of Liberty; many, many of our ancestors saw her there to welcome them. We can only guess at their emotions: excitement for a new life, fear of the unknown; sadness at what was left behind; awe at the size of the statue and the city behind her. Lady Liberty is a great topic for a blog post. Thanks for sharing!

Marian Burk Wood said...

Colleen, I was quite surprised when I compared the dates and realized my g-grandfather would NOT have seen Lady Liberty! That's what prompted my post. I'm sure you're correct that she inspired many emotions among immigrants -- if only we could ask them now. Thanks for reading.