From 1881 until 1914, the Hamburg-Amerika Line was the largest shipping line in existence. It transported hundreds of thousands of emigrants from Germany, Scandinavia, and eastern Europe to the United States, Canada, Latin America, and other destinations around the world.
The German city of Hamburg lies on the Elbe River, a navigable waterway that empties into the North Sea. Also accessible by railroad from the east and south, Hamburg became the most important emigration port in continental Europe during the last decades of the nineteenth century, outstripping its rival
By 1914, when
Under the directorship of
German emigrants boarding a ship at the port of Hamburg.
As the flow of emigrants needing accommodation began to overwhelm the capacity of Hamburg’s hotels and hostels, Ballin arranged for the construction of an emigrant village, the Auswandererhallen (emigrant halls), to be built on Veddel Island in the Elbe, on the outskirts of Hamburg. Able to accommodate as many as five thousand people at one time, the village provided dormitories, kosher and nonkosher dining halls, shops, a bandstand, and houses of worship, including a synagogue. It also had facilities for quarantine and further health inspections. When sailing day arrived, the passengers loaded their belongings onto tenders, which transported them down the Elbe to Cuxhaven, the city’s deep-water outport, where giant transatlantic ships awaited their boarding.
Between 1850 and 1938, approximately 5 million people emigrated from Europe aboard Hamburg-Amerika Line ships. During World War II, Germany’s Nazi government expunged Albert Ballin’s name and contributions from the historical record. The emigrant village he had built was demolished in 1962. During the 1970’s, the Hamburg-Amerika Line merged with the Norddeutscher Lloyd of Bremen to establish the modern Hapag-Lloyd shipping company. Hapag’s detailed passenger records, covering the period 1850-1934, have survived and are housed in the Hamburg State Archive, and Ballin’s reputation has been restored. Twenty-first century American tourists may visit BallinStadt, a re-creation of the Auswanderer village on Veddel Island and a center for family history research.
Baines, Dudley. Emigration from Europe, 1815-1930. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Fry, Henry. The History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation. London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1896. Groppe, Hans-Hermann, and Ursula Wöst. Via Hamburg to the World: From the Emigrants’ Halls to BallinStadt. Translated by Paul Bewicke and Mary Tyler. Hamburg, Germany: Ellert and Richter Verlag, 2007. Page, Thomas W. “The Transportation of Immigrants and Reception Arrangements in the Nineteenth Century.” Journal of Political Economy 19, no. 9 (1911): 732-749.
Pacific Mail Steamship Company
Russian and Soviet immigrants
Transportation of immigrants
World War I