Summary of findings from preliminary research of Baltimore immigration history
A far from exhaustive search for published works detailing Baltimore’s history as an important historic port of entry for immigrants suggests that the subject has received very little in the way of scholarly attention.
Perhaps two examples provide clear evidence that the city’s central role in one of humankind’s most compelling stories—the mass immigration—needs and deserves to be more widely known and more completely understood.
First, Baltimore does not even rate an entry in the reference “Dictionary of Immigration History.” Second, the most comprehensive work that has been identified to date, is an eleven- page chapter about Baltimore in the book “Forgotten Doors: The Other Ports of Entry to the United States” authored by Dean R. Esslinger of Towson University.
The Baltimore Immigration Project was founded in part to address this history of neglect. The Project is committed to encourage, commission and support original scholarly research. Highlights of that research will then be presented in ways that make the information accessible and compelling for the general public.
During 1821-1914, Baltimore was the third largest port of entry for European immigrants with 1.5 million immigrants. New York had 22 million (2/3 of the 33 million who came here from Europe). Boston was second with 2 million, largely Irish and Italian; Baltimore placed ahead of Philadelphia which had 1.2 million.
• Before the Civil War, most immigrants arrived at Fell’s Point piers.
• By 1830, Baltimore had established firm trading links to Liverpool and Bremen, through its port of Bremerhaven, the leading port for the import of tobacco and Southern cotton.
• Bremerhaven was one of Europe’s major ports of embarkation, with more than seven million immigrants boarding ships at its docks. This number included not only many Germans, but after 1890 many emigrants from Eastern Europe.
• On January 21, 1867 the B&O Railroad signed an agreement with the North German Lloyd Company to jointly recruit and transport immigrants from Bremerhaven to Baltimore.
• A successful Baltimore businessman, Albert Schumacher, a German immigrant, was instrumental in arranging the partnership between railroad and steamship company. The son of a Bremen city counselor, he became a consul general for Bremen and Hamburg while on the board of the railroad.
• The first steamship to land at the B&O Railroad’s Locust Point pier was the North German Lloyd Line’s “Baltimore” on March 24, 1868.
• 1.5 million immigrants landed in Baltimore during 1821-1914, approximately 1.2 million at the B&O Railroad’s Locust Point’s immigration pier from 1868 to 1914. By the 1890s, 90% traveled directly to a destination further West, while the rest remained in Baltimore.
• Before 1890, Germans formed the largest immigrant group to arrive in Baltimore followed by the Irish. After 1890, Eastern European Jews and Poles were the largest groups. There was no direct steamship service from Mediterranean ports to Baltimore, so most Southern Europeans, such as Italians and Greeks came to Baltimore via other ports of entry.