Friday, 24 October 2014

America, the Promised Land

Ready to go?
Recently, I have visited two exhibitions that has the same theme; emigration or immigration,
depending on from which view you see it. The exhibitions tells about two ship lines that carried people who wanted to leave their own countries in search for a better life in America; The White Star Line and The Red Star Line

The White Star Line

This exhibition is about Titanic, the most famous ship of the line and the most tragic. The exhibition is now running on the last month here in Brussels and I visited it on Thursday. It was very interesting. Although you think you know most of the things about this disaster, it is another thing to see items from the boat, personal items from people lost and interiors of how it looked like on the ship. There was also a scientific part with information on how the accident happened and the story of how the wreck was found.

The Red Star Line

This is a permanent exhibition in Antwerpen and tells the story of this line which was founded in 1873 by Peter Wright&Sons. They specialised in oil export from the US to Europe and wanted to carry passengers from Europe to the US.

The exhibition is set in the actual terminal of the shipping line and you walk through rooms which once hosted medical examination units, luggage rooms, ticket and passport control. Since there were very sever restrictions from the US side, all passengers had to go through a medical examination to see that they were healthy. Furthermore, the luggages needed to be disinfected so it was quite a procedure to be able to travel to the US.

In 1921 the US decided to cut down on immigration, leading to a big drop in numbers of people going 'over there'. Nevertheless, in 1923 the Red Star Line could celebrate their 50th anniversary. The shipping line has transported hundreds of thousands of immigrants during the years, not only from Belgium but from other European countries. They had first to make the trip to Antwerp which was a special adventure in itself.


In the 1930s the Red Star Line had some problems and it was sold to a German ship owner. In 1939 the German government sold it to the Holland-America Line, which was based in Rotterdam. They continued to operate a Red Star Line route between Antwerp and New York until the Fifties.


1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this post. I have always been fascinated by people who travelled to the USA by ship. I know all of my ancestors on my father's side emigrated from France in the 1600's to Quebec and then down into Ontario and then into the USA (Michigan) where I grew up. I am now in Australia but did not come by ship. I love books about ship travel as it seems so romantic but I'm sure it wasn't as romantic as we sometimes think. Enjoyed.

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