Immigration and Emigration in the 19th Century

The State Archive of Lucerne (Switzerland) is an excellent source for this topic. I found valuable information on emigration which is always also a topic of immigration. Maybe specific for the Swiss emigration was a large share of emigrants headed to foreign countries to be soldiers in foreign armies. immigration emigration 19th century

Example USA: Between 1815 and 1915, some 30 million Europeans arrived in the United States. For many, it was a long and arduous journey. In the early part of the century, just getting to a port of embarkation might mean days or weeks of travel on foot, by rivercraft, or in horse-drawn vehicles. Because regularly scheduled departures were rare in the age of sail, immigrants often had to wait in port for days or weeks before their ship departed.

In Northern Europe, many immigrants departed from Dutch or German ports like Amsterdam and Bremen. Later, when immigration from Central and Eastern Europe was on the rise, immigrants often had to travel down the Danube River to Black Sea ports like Constanta and Varna. From there, they had to endure weeks or months at sea aboard sailing ships subject to the vagaries of wind and weather. By the way the Emigration Museum in Bremen, Germany is an excellent museum and I recommend visiting this institution when you are there. I had a lot of fun and it was quite educating. immigration emigration 19th century

The spread of the railroads across Europe in the mid-1800s greatly shortened travel time to embarkation ports, while the introduction of steamships cut passage time from weeks to days, in the case of the fastest ships. Ships also increased in size, some carrying more than 1,000 immigrants in steerage class.

Except in places where immigration was restricted—like the Russian Empire—it was fairly easy to travel from an obscure European village to the United States by the late 19th century. A potential immigrant contracted with a shipping company agent, often a local cleric or teacher, who informed the head office at the departure port. The agent then received a departure date and ticket voucher, which he passed along to the immigrant, who boarded a train for the port city. If the port of embarkation was Bremen, immigrants could almost step directly from the train onto their ship—the city had a railroad track leading right onto the docks.

Between 1882 and 1917, the U.S. government introduced laws regulating immigration. In 1891, for example, Congress barred from admission those “suffering from a loathsome or a dangerous contagious disease” and those “convicted [of] a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude” like anarchists and polygamists. As a result, steamship lines became increasingly careful about whom they let on board. Immigrants had to have their papers checked and their health inspected before departure. Sometimes immigrants had to spend several days awaiting boarding, during which they were lodged and fed by the steamship company. immigration emigration 19th century

Swiss General Agency for Emigration Contract 1864
Interesting contract of the agents Wirth & Fischer 1864
FAQ Passport History
Passport collection, passport renewal, old passports for sale, vintage passport, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application, pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...