There is quite a list of motivations that have lead to leaving the fatherland for brighter horizons. I have evaluated many thousand emigration files that hold the applications for permits for emigration. I have not encountered a single application that expressed : I wish to leave Schleswig-Holstein for political reasons. Sure, there were the famous Fourty-Eighters,
intellectuals mainly, like teachers, advocates, officers, and priests who could no longer serve under the Danish-colored rule that they had meant to abolish, in favor of a self-determined, free, united Schleswig-Holstein. They can certainly be seen as politically motivated emigrants. But how many were they ? 200 ? Up to 400 ? Even if they were a full thousand in numbers, they play only a minor role in the overall statistics. And nobody can tell how much their other reasons for emigration weighed. They were however early emigrants, pioneers, and their success stories that were written down in letters to their dear ones in the old fatherland certainly attracted many young people and whole families to follow their example in the years after the lost war 1848 – 1851. The all-German emigration reached a peak in 1854, the year that 215,000 Germans left their country. That number dropped to a third (71,000 or a bit more, depending on whose statistics one uses) in 1855 and was only reached again in 1882, when a quarter of a million Germans emigrated. I cannot say if the Schleswig-Holsteiners had reasons especially in 1854 to leave the country in vast numbers. There was no singular occurrence here that may have caused the peak. Not one that I would know of. A crop failure maybe ? Or the general progress of the industrial revolution that deprived weavers of their existence when cheap fabrics from England's factories flooded the markets ? Many poor landfolk, too, made a little extra money by home-weaving, but nobody wanted their products any longer. Machines, mechanical devices, replaced dozens of men in the harvest. Steam engines, not yet on wheels but firmly stayed into the ground at the end of a field, pulled heavy ploughs up and down. Manpower was cheap, and it was not going to become more precious over the years. Families grew bigger as fewer children died in infancy than in times before vaccination against smallpox was made compulsory. Those who fled to Hamburg in order to find jobs in the new industries dwelled in damp cellars or drafty attics. They could not afford anything else. Seeing this poverty, and seeing that their fathers and forefathers had been poor, as well, and seeing also that their children would grow up in poverty, with hardly a chance of climbing up the social ladder to join the class of houseowners or even landowners, this stagnation in improving their conditions of life, no matter how hard they worked, caused many laborers to look for better fates on the other side of the ocean. There was land in abundance, whereas here, land was not available or simply not affordable. The dreams of a self-determind life above the minimum subsistence level were nourished by newspaper reports about America and Australia, also by letters from there that were shared with the neighborhood. These people knew what hard work was, they knew every aspect of farmwork. Or they were skilled craftsmen, like carpenters, smiths, and shoemakers. With the help of their older children, they knew that bettering their conditions of life in transoceanic countries was a goal that could be reached, if maybe not for themselves, then at least for the next generation. And that is also the motivation that I found in most applications for permits for emigration. Just a better subsistence. That much for poverty.
Other reasons :
The sons of farmers who could not inherit their father's farm. They were maybe used to make their way to Sunday morning services on horseback, high and proud, alongside the family's horse and carriage. What should become of them if they found no occasion to marry into a vacant property, like the place next door where there were only girls and the old farmer was going to retire ? Working for other people was not really an option of their choice. Learning a trade, yes, maybe. But there was farmland in America, cheap and readily available, and that was known in every village. Their legal share of the father's inheritance plus a generous sponsoring would ensure a good start on the other side of the ocean. Many others had made it before.
Avoidance of recruitment, especially after the Prussians had incorporated the twin-duchies in 1867. Three years of active service in the best years of their lives plus four years of reserve duties. Abolition of privileges of the young men from the North Sea islands. They did not have to serve until the Prussians took over. So many youths left before their seventeenth birthday, because there was no law to stop children from emigrating. Those who were seventeen or older could only emigrate together with the whole family, but if they were already in active military service, they would not get a permit for emigration. Many left without undergoing the process of application, giving good reasons, submitting themselves to the decisions of a draft board. They were later accused of leaving the country without the required permit or, if drafted already, of desertion. Persons totally unfit for military service were usually granted permission for emigration.
General factors :
Steamships replaced sailing vessels by and by. They were cheaper, safer, much faster, and more comfortable. There were regular services from the ports of Bremen and Hamburg to the Americas and Australia. As British shipping companies offered even cheaper passages, many emigrants changed ships in England or Scotland. This was called the indirect route.
The Suez Canal was opened in November 1869. Destination Australia was not a matter of several months anymore. There were subsidized emigrations to Australia to bring farmers, craftsmen, and wine-growers into the country. Queensland, a new colony since 1859, offered good chances for all kinds of agriculture and cattle-raising.
Personal factors :
Religious freedom played no role as a motivation for emigration from Schleswig-Holstein.
Young people followed their older siblings. The old folks followed their children to avoid spending their last years in the poorhouse.
Personal shame : mothers of illegitimate children often emigrated with their children.
Fathers of these made away to avoid being made to pay for their offspring.
Criminals were sometimes convinced to leave the country on a one-way ticket.
One could call that deportation.
A milder form of deportation was the sponsored emigration of poor families. Rather than
having to take care of their daily food and lodging, some communities offered them a ticket to
wherever, far away. The cheaper solution.
A child that grew up in a stepfather's family, most often a child born out of wedlock, was predisposed to emigrate.
He / she had not much to expect from anyone and nothing to lose.
Incidents that lead to emigration :
Goldrush in California 1848, in the colony Victoria (Australia) in 1854, later diamond fever.
The fire that destroyed Chicago in 1871 attracted many carpenters and other craftsmen to that city.
The Homestead Act of 1862 in the USA : 160 acres of undeveloped land for everyone over 20 years old who stayed on the land for five years and cultivated it.
Equivalent in Queensland (1869) : those who had paid for their passage themselves had the right to 40 acres of land for each adult plus 20 acres per child up to 12 years old.
This land became the property of the family after 3 – 5 years, provided they stayed.
(Klaus Struve, Sept. 28, 2015)
A dwelling for resident workers in the manorial estate Cronsburg
Between Bovenau and Cronsburg, within eyeshot of the stately manor house, you will find
a cottage for the resident workers which could compete with the most pitiable Irish hut, as
far as inner and outer shabbiness is concerned. This cottage belongs to the owner of the
manorial estate Cronsburg, Herr Dohrn.
The outer appearance of the cottage is even worse than the picture above may convey. Instead
of window panes, half-rotten rags fill the broken frames. The house has two entrances, but the
doors are only 4 foot 7 inches in height. Once you have crawled through them to the inside, you
find yourself in a gloomy cave, the walls covered up with shiny soot that comes from four
glimming fireplaces. They allow now and then a glance at the poor dwellers : resident workers,
a cow, and a goat. This cave is the hall of the building. From this hall, four doors open into four
rooms for the resident workers, used by five families. In the first room, there are father, mother,
son, and the son's wife. In this habitation for two families, filled with beds, some wooden chairs,
trunks, etc., things do not look all too shabby, because eight hard-working hands toil for the
well-being of these two families.
In the room next door however, you get the full view of an impoverished family of resident
workers. It is a widow with her five children. She has given one of them away into the care of a
farmer, so it would not starve. When we visited the poor widow, her oldest child, a daughter of
fourteen years, was ill and in bed. The girl covered her face with her hands and started weeping
when the mother, with her youngest child in her arms, told us : the girl had the age for being
confirmed (in the Lutheran faith) but she fell ill when she was to be prepared for that by the
preacher, and she had nothing to put on or around herself. (The clothing problem for the poor
girl's confirmation has in the meantime been taken care of.) She, the widow, has stayed at home
on this day, a Sunday, to apply a little cleanliness to her children. Usually, she goes to work to
the manorial main farm every day for a payment of 8 shilling. At the time her husband died, she
still owned a cow, but had to sell it to pay for the doctor's and the druggist's bills. She was dirt
poor now, she said, and could barely clothe her children in coarse linen.
In the third room lives an invalid old laborer. He became poor because his bones, brittle after
half a century of toiling, could not achieve the hard work anymore which would entitle him to
a higher daily wage than normal. The things in this room are what was left by another poor
dweller. In the so-called bed there is the old laborer's wife, ill. She has consumed herself
completely, working for the lords of the manor.
The fourth room presented a sight of blatant misery as it would not even be found in Ireland.
It was a Sunday – good gracious, what kind of a Sunday in this hole, amongst creatures who are
apparently human beings, although the one who enters the room unprepared may doubt that for
the first moments. Nothing but primitive broken houseware, some boards and planks nailed
together, the gaps inbetween filled with straw and rags – meant to be bedsteads. In one of these
ragheaps, an almost naked infant played with the shreds of what was once a dress. At the
brickstone oven cowered five half-naked children whose gender we could not discern as boys
and girls were clothed alike, that is they were wrapped in rags. The oldest one of these poor
creatures, probably a girl, about 13 years old, when asked if she went to school, replied: no.
And where her mother was: she is at work at the manorial farm (today, on a Sunday!), where
she earns 8 shilling. – Eight shilling per day for seven persons, their food and their clothing!
The father was dead, she added.
Now all you men of means, aristocrats, lords of manorial estates, you noble masters, go to the
resident workers hut near Cronsburg and take a look, outside and inside, and if after that, you
still claim that the overall situation of the resident workers in the noble manorial estates is
nothing to be worried about, then we would wish that only one of you was locked up for only
24 hours in such a sty for human beings.
The resident workers' habitation mentioned last will be lithographed and prints can be ordered,
for the benefit of the poor people who live in it.
The Bovenauer Arbeiter-Verein (laborer's association) will continue to shame the noble lords
by having pity with the miserable and by providing the fortunate ones with pictures and
descriptions of the felicity of a resident worker's life in our cheerful fatherland.
Original German text by Carl Baurmeister, freely translated by Klaus Struve, Kiel, SH.
Source : Landesbibliothek (State Library) Schleswig-Holstein in Kiel, film 46.
To all who have asked me about the price of emigration
and to those who might be interested in this topic.
Company : Norddeutscher Lloyd in Bremen
1886, port of Bremen to New York, one way :
There were some "fast-steamers" (Elbe, Werra,
Fulda, Ems, Eider, Aller, Trave, Saale).
For them, a cabin ticket cost 250 - 500 Mark. Steerage compartment : 120 Mark.
All other ships : cabin 225 M, steerage 110 M.
A ticket from New York to Bremen cost 50 - 55 US$ in a cabin and 23 US$ in steerage.
Children up to 12 years : half price if two of them shared a sleeping-berth.
Children under the age of one : 10 Mark.
The tariffs for the route Bremen to Baltimore were very much the same.
Company : Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft
1884, port of Hamburg to New York, one way :
A cabin ticket cost 300 Mark. Steerage compartment : 80 Mark.
Children under 12 years : half price.
Children under the age of one : 9 Mark.
Two ships per week.
The US$ was a bit over 4 Mark, I think.
Now – can we say the tickets were expensive ? Or well affordable ?
What are the standards for an assessment like this ?
The only reasonable way : finding out about the costs of living and
looking at salaries and wages. Here is a handful of examples :
Prices 1886 here in Schleswig-Holstein :
per 100 kilogram :
wheat 15.58 M
oats 13.07 M
peas 20.50 M
white beans 33 M
potatoes 6.56 M
per 1 kg :
beef meat 1.75 M
pork meat 1.10 M
veal meat 1.20 M
butter 1.60 M to 2.10 M
60 eggs cost 2.55 M
cheap cheese : 0.25 M per pound (= 500 gram)
swiss cheese : 1.20 M per pound
1,000 envelopes made of hemp-fibre, with a printed logo : 4 M
the price of a piano : 550 M upwards
good soap : 3 pieces cost 50 Pfennig
pickled gherkins : 120 for 5 M
brown coal (lignite) : 90 Pfennig per hundredweight, free delivery
bed feathers : 60 Pfennig per pound (= half a kilogram)
a razor-knife : 3.50 M
the leather strap for sharpening it : 2 M
straw hats : 5 to 60 Pfennig
dentures : 4 Mark per tooth, 3 M per tooth for more than 5 teeth
carnation : 25 Pfennig
A farmer (self-owned farm) paid 660 M for his daughter's wedding -
he hosted well over 100 guests (in the year 1871).
A cottage with a little garden around it cost 2,000 - 5,000
Salaries, per year :
A night-watchman : 342 M
An elementary teacher 453 M cash plus the income from land
belonging to the school, the countervalue of 10 tons of rye,
and free housing : total 1,100 M
A teacher who also worked as a sexton :
1,200 M plus free housing and a garden and firewood
A pastor : 1,969 M
A city accountant : 1,500 M
Wages, rural labor :
hard to tell as most laborers had free accomodation and food
that came with the job.
Day laborer, "self-catering" : 0.30 Mark per hour.
Harvest worker (mower) : 15 - 18 M per week plus good food.
Farmhands 300 - 500 M per year.
Senior farmhand, foreman : 368 M in the summer season (7 ½
Maid servants : up to 200 M per year. Probably plus board and lodging.
The week had 6 days and a day had 12 - 14 hours.
I honestly do not know how helpful this compilation is, but I can
imagine that a farmworker who was married and had five children
had to work for several years to save up enough funds for the tickets
alone. But he needed also money for a new start in America.
With greetings from your roots,
Klaus Struve, in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Aug. 29, 2014
German ports used for emigration
Based on an article that Mr. H. Beenke wrote about emigration to transatlantic
destinations since 1836, the Bureau of Statistics in Hamburg published the
following figures :
1836 - 1850 via port of Hamburg : about 40,000 persons of German States
1851 - 1870 via port of Hamburg : 466,809 persons of German States,
which is 79.32 % of the total number.
Contemporary source :
Kieler Zeitung – Abendausgabe – 12 November, 1872
Transcribed, summarized, translated, and commented by Klaus Struve, Kiel
1832 - 1835 via port of Bremen : an average of 10,000 persons per year
1832 - 1870 via port of Bremen : 1,196,363 persons of all origins
Assuming, as above, that 79.32 % of that number were of German origin :
1832 - 1870 via port of Bremen : 948,955 persons of German States
Which sums up to 1,455,750 persons of German origin in the timeframe of
1832 (Bremen) 1836 (Hamburg) through 1870.
The Bureau of Statistics in Washington published some figures for the years
1861 through 1868 : 607,032 immigrants of German origin. As in those years,
205,966 Germans left through Hamburg and
235,200 Germans left through Bremen,
the remaining difference of 180,000 Germans arriving in the US must have used
other ports than those two major German seaports. This was the difference that
resulted for a period of only 8 years that were evaluated. Which means some
29 % of those who left German territory (Germany did not exist as a state then)
used other ports than Hamburg and Bremen.
The author of the article hints that it must be noted that the figures include all
categories of passengers, not only the emigrants, but also businessmen and
visitors who would return to their German origins after a while.
No statistic data are available for this group.
The number of emigrants from German states rose significantly after the years
1848 and 1849, the years of revolutionary activities in many parts of the country,
which resulted in defeat and political suppression. The United States of America
became the land of hope for many of those who could not see a way of bettering
their fate at home. The year 1854 surpassed all previous years, and remained the
strongest year of emigration for another decade.
The years 1861 - 1865 (Civil War in the US) saw a decline in numbers of emigrants,
that rose significantly again thereafter, strongly influenced by the great number of
"new" Prussians, from the provinces Schleswig, Holstein, and Hannover, that had
been incorporated into Prussia. Not all of their inhabitants were happy with their
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 - 1871 brought the number of emigrants down
again. Permits for emigration were not issued to young and not so young men who
could hold a rifle. Or feed a horse.
Of all transatlantic destinations, the USA were the favorite of 81 % of the emigrants,
in the years 1836 - 1870. In the year 1871, they were destination of even 91 %.
Other destinations :
British North America, until 1868. Then the Canadian government stopped the
immigration of impoverished Europeans through their ports. Through Quebec, at least.
Brazil strongly attracted immigrants in the years 1854 to 1859, then again as of 1867.
Australia had a strong year of immigration in 1854, when the goldrush set in in the
The article ends with a chapter of statistics about trade and occupation (27 % farmers)
of the emigrants, and the ratio of males and females (60 % males).
Of an estimated number of 250,000 persons who emigrated out of Schleswig and
Holstein between 1830 and 1930, you will find a list of more than 25,000 individuals
on my website :
For your kind consideration.
Klaus Struve, in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Oct. 17, 2004