contents ©2016 by Harold Pfohl


The emigrants made their way to the German ports, sailed across the ocean, likely landed in New York City (not certain), and then continued their journey to Wisconsin.  Niemann and Fromm families emigrated in 1852, Lüders in 1854, and Brüss in 1859.  No research has been done to determine the ships that carried the families but it is reasonable to assume that they experienced the common lot of the hundreds of thousands of emigrants crossing the Atlantic in that era.  With that in mind the typical experience of the ocean passage for such voyagers is shown below.

Mecklenburg & Pommerania to Wisconsin ~ 4,400 Miles

Sailing across the Atlantic in an immigrant ship was crowded, foul, prolonged, and could be dangerous depending on the weather, the condition of the ship and the competence of the crew.  Below are images of the conditions that typical emigrant travelers experienced in traversing the sea in that era.

Inside a Packet Ship, 1854

From the Smithsonian Museum of American History – Die Gartenlaube Leipzig Fruft Neil

This cutaway reveals how travelers, immigrants, and cargo sailed together. Travelers with enough money purchased “cabin passage” and slept in private or semiprivate rooms. The vast majority of passengers, usually immigrants, bought bunks in steerage, also called the ’tween deck for its position between the cabins and the hold.

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The Embarkation, Waterloo Docks, Liverpool

From Illustrated London News, July 6, 1850, Smithsonian Museum of American History

The scene above would have been typical of German port embarkations as well.  European emigrants sailed from Le Havre, France; Bremen and Hamburg, Germany; and Antwerp, in Belgium as well as Liverpool in Britain.

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In Steerage

Steerage passengers slept, ate, and socialized in the same spaces. They brought their own bedding. Although food was provided, passengers had to cook it themselves. On rough crossings, steerage passengers often had little time in the fresh air on the upper deck. If passengers didn’t fill steerage, the space often held cargo.

Among the emigrants in this story, only the Brüss siblings were poor.  The Niemann, Lüders and Fromm families were people of considerable skills, but not wealthy.  They are almost certain to have experienced the conditions shown above.  The voyage was the honeymoon for Johann and Minna Lüders!

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Emigrant sailing conditions


The Fromm family’s ship was at sea for 66 days during which time little three year old Caroline died and was buried at sea.  Note center right in the illustration above.

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Principal New York City point of entry for emigrants in the 1850s & 1860s

From: South Street NYC emigrant debarkation point

“South Street was the principal landing place for immigrants in the 1850s and 1860s. Under the current Brooklyn Bridge, the docks along South Street provided employment to many Five Pointers.” (note – Five Points was a port in SE Manhattan near Wall Street).  By Patrick Young, Esq.

Next – the journey from New York City to Milwaukee




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