There are wonderful photographs for your family tree notebooks in A Pictorical History of Immigration by Oscar Handlin. Published in 1972, the text is informative on emigration and its causes, including . . .
Castle Garden opened as a receiving station in 1855. the Immigration Bureau took over in 1891, first operating out of the Barge Office at the Battery (Lower Manhattan and near Castle Garden), then closed the facility and moved into Ellis Island.
Castle Garden at Battery Park, New York
In 1866, 318,568 immigrants entered the United States. In 1867, 315,722 immigrants entered the U.S. Three million Germans came in 60 years.
The interior of Castle Garden’s great hall
In 1866 there were 36,801 miles of railroad track in the U.S. The next year 39,250. By 1883 there were 121,455.
In 1900 $20 could buy a steerage ticket from Finland or Sicily to New York.
On page 14 “For centuries, the people of Europe had lived by agriculture in small communities cut off from one another and from the outside world. Their self-sufficient little villages had long resisted change. Each family passed along its landholding and status from generation to generation so that there seemed an inevitability to every man’s place and station. In the good years, abundant harvests yielded food for all and the population increased; in the bad years, famine and plague decimated the households.”
From page 88 on the same subject, “Until (1820) farming had been a communal undertaking. The peasants lived in villages within which they organized their economic, social, and religious life. Each family was a household, a unit that held together in work, in prayer, in the joys of birth or marriage, and in the sorrows of death. All the families together formed a community of shared activities. In most areas, the cultivated land was divided into small plots, scattered throughout the village. …the community also possessed sizable common fields from which each member could take food, cut hay, or graze cattle.”
The emigrants’ farewell, from a painting by L.Bokelmann
Page 86: “The great migrations of the nineteenth century originated in profound changes in European society. An old order gradually crumbled as its economic foundations shifted. The process, which has already begun in 1820, continued through the next sixty years. It left millions of men and women without places and turned the thoughts of many of them to the possibility of a fresh start in the New World.” The mortality rate had declined in Europe, allowing populations to grow. In 1750 there were 140 million Europeans. In 1850 there were approximately 270 million. “The Industrial Revolution, which had begun in 18th century England, made such headway after 1820 as to threaten the livelihood of all artisans.”
Handlin describes the German emigrant farmer and I believe this would apply to Czechs: “Thrify, hard-working, and disciplined, the Germans preferred to exhaust their own bodies rather than the soil. The women and children toiled long hours, as did the men; and more effort went into the construction of barns and the care of animals than on comforts for the home or on the fripperies of dress. Prudence was the watchword. At least for the first generation, the memory of what they had escaped was too frightening to permit the risk of a decline back into dependence.”
Scenes of farm life in America, 1878. The family made its way across the prairie, crossed the river, broke the soil, and built fences.
Page 162 — “The immigrant farmer played an important part in the cycle by which the frontier advanced. The Europeans characteristically moved in just behind the American pioneers who opened the wilderness and made the first clearings. The newly arrived peasants, unfamiliar with gun and ax, preferred to buy land ready for the plow; their purchasees permitted the more restless natives to go ever farther west, while the immigrants settled down to the hard work of making the farms productive. …The immigrants, whether on the farms or in the cities, paid a heavy price in their adjustment to America. Apart from the thousands who died on the way and the many others who failed after arrival, even those who succeeded and became prosperous landowners never forgot the hardships through which they had passed. The pride of ownership could not obliterate the memory of being alone and helpless when an unknown ache or fever struck or when the unfamiliar, seemingly endless winter settled down on the family.”
On page 163, “Certain wild animals, scarcely known in Europe, were ever-threatening pests in the United States. The deer and raccoons nibbled away at the tender shoots, while the squirrels dug the corn and potatoes out of the ground as they were planted. To peasants accustomed to the cramped quarters and tight spaces of the Old Country village, a homestead pitched within an 80 or 160 acre farm might at first have seemed attractive. But they soon learned that the greater the size, the harder they had to work, and that with space came isolation and loneliness.
(All photos are from the same book.) JN