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New beginnings for Arthur & Ernest


This picture is a souvenir, circa 1890, from the steamship and is what could have been bought at the time Arthur and Ernest had crossed the Atlantic. Click on picture to see a larger representation

Crossing the Atlantic

Arthur Edward Webbe and his youngest brother Earnest Albert Webbe crossed the Atlantic on the City of New York Steam Liner. They Crossed on the ships final Liverpool to New York sailing as a passenger liner in February of 1893."

Front cover of ship passenger list - Click on picture to see larger representation     Ship passenger list A thru K - Click on picture to see larger representaion     Ship passenger list K thru Y - Click on picture to see larger representation

The passenger list shown above is the one carried by Earnest Albert on the voyage. The rear cover (shown below) shows a profile of the ship. Here you can see the 3 masts and the three funnels of the ship. This style seemed typical of the day, using both wind and steam to power the liners.

City of New York - Inman Line - Back cover of original ship manifest - Click on picture to see larger representation

"City of New York"

Inman Line

The "New York" of 1913 was built by J & G.Thomson, Glasgow in 1888 for the Inman Line as the "City of New York". She was a 10,499 gross ton vessel with a clipper stem, length 527.6ft x beam 63.2ft, three funnels, three masts, twin screw and a speed of 20 knots. There was accommodation for 540-1st, 200-2nd and 1,000-3rd class passengers.

Launched on 15 March 1888, she left Liverpool on her maiden voyage for Queenstown (Cobh) and New York on 1 August 1888. In August 1892 she made a record crossing between Sandy Hook and Queenstown and on 8 February1893 commenced her last Liverpool - New York voyage. On 22 February 1893 she went to the American Line and was put under the US flag. She was then renamed "New York" and her accommodation altered to carry 290-1st, 250-2nd and 725-3rd class passengers. On 25 February 1893 she sailed from New York on her first voyage to Southampton and commenced her last voyage on this service on 16 April 1898. She then became the US Armed Cruiser "Harvard" until 11 January 1899 when she resumed the New York - Southampton service as the "New York". 

On 14 January 1899 her starboard engine broke down and was repaired at Southampton and she resumed service from Southampton - New York on 25 March 1899. On 20 April 1901 she left Southampton for her last voyage to Cherbourg and New York before being rebuilt with new triple expansion engines, number of funnels reduced to two, and her size increased to 10,798 tons. On 15 April 1903 she resumed the New York - Cherbourg - Southampton service and in 1913, her first class passenger accommodation was downgraded to second class. Commenced her last voyage Southampton - Cherbourg - New York on 1 August 1914 and was transferred to the New York - Liverpool run on 14 August 1914. In April 1918 she made her last run from Liverpool to New York and then became the US Transport "Plattsburg". On 19 February 1920 she resumed the New York - Plymouth - Southampton service as the "New York" and her masts were reduced to two. On 2 November 1920 she made her last run from Southampton to Cherbourg and New York and in 1921 was sold to the Polish Navigation Co. who retained her name and used her for one round voyage New York - Antwerp - Danzig - Southampton - Cherbourg - Brest - New York. She was then seized for debt and sold. In 1922 she went to the Irish American Line and later the same year to the United Transatlantic Line. On 10 June 1922 she left New York for the last time for the American Black Sea Line on a voyage to Naples and Constantinople where she was sold at auction by order of the US government, and was scrapped at Genoa in 1923.

[North Atlantic Seaway by N.R.P.Bonsor, vol.1, p.244] [Posted to The ShipsList by Ted Finch - 21 October 1997]


The following is a description of what it was like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the time that Arthur Edward and Ernest Albert came to the United States. The description was found in the Liberty State Park Website. http://www.libertystatepark.com/immigran.htm



For many, the decision to leave was a family affair. Advice was sought and help was freely given by mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, and even entire villages. It was not unusual for an entire family to work for the money for a single family member to make the trip.

The practice of one member of a family going to America first, then saving to bring others over, was common. From 1900 to 1910, almost 95 percent of the immigrants arriving at Ellis Island were joining either family or friends. Sometimes the father would come alone to see if the streets really were paved with the gold of opportunity before sending for his wife and family. Sometimes the eldest son immigrated first, and then sent for the next oldest, until the entire family was in America. Often those who arrived first would send a prepaid ticket back home to the next family member. It is believed that in 1890 between 25 and 50 percent of all immigrants arriving in America possessed prepaid tickets. In 1901, between 40 and 65 percent came either on prepaid tickets, or with money sent to them from the United States.

Since all steerage tickets were sold without space reservations, obtaining a ticket was easy. Principal shipping lines had hundreds of agencies in the United States, and "freelance" ticket agents traveled through parts of Europe, moving from village to village, selling tickets. After 1900, in addition to a ticket, however, an immigrant had to secure a passport from local officials, and a United States visa from either the nearest American consular office of from the local consul at the port.

For many, simply getting to the port was the first major journey of their lives. They would travel by train, by wagon, on donkey, or even on foot. Sometimes travelers would have to wait days, weeks and even months at the port, either for their paperwork to be completed or for their ship to arrive, because train schedules were not coordinated with sailing dates. Assuming their paperwork was in order and a ticket had been purchased, some provision was usually made for the care of the emigrants who were forced to wait for the ship. Steamship companies were required by the governments to watch over the prospective passengers, and at most ports the travelers were housed in private boardinghouses. Some port cities even boasted their own "emigrant hotels."

After the 1893 immigration law went into effect, each passenger had to answer a series of 29 questions (recorded on manifest lists) before boarding the ship. These questions included, among others name, age, sex, marital status, occupation, nationality, ability to read or write, race, physical and mental health, last residence, and name and address of the nearest relative or friend in the country from which the immigrant came. Immigrants were asked whether they possessed at least $30, whether they had ever been in prison an almshouse, or an institution, or it they were polygamists or anarchists.

Steamship lines were also held accountable for medical examinations of the immigrants before departing the port. Most seaport medical examinations were made by doctors employed by the steamship lines, but often the examination was just too rapid to disclose any but the most obvious diseases and defects. Disinfection (of both immigrants and baggage) and vaccination were routinely performed at the ports. Finally, with questions answered, medical exams completed, vaccinations still stinging, disinfectant still stinking, the immigrants were led down the gangplank to first-class, second-class, or steerage accommodations. Steerage passengers walked past the tiny deck space, squeezed past the ship's machinery, and were directed down deep stairways into the enclosed lower decks. They were now in steerage, their prison for the rest of their ocean journey.


Three types of accommodations on the ships brought immigrants to America first class, second class, and steerage. Only steerage passengers were processed at Ellis Island. First- and second-class passengers were quickly and courteously "inspected" on board ship before being transferred to New York.

But steerage was enormously profitable for steamship companies. Even though the average cost of a ticket was only $30, larger ships could hold form 1,500 to 2,000 immigrants, netting a profit of $45,000 to $60,000 for a single one-way voyage. The cost to feed a single immigrant was only about 60 cents a day!

For most immigrants, especially early arrivals, the experience of steerage was like a nightmare. (At one time, the average passenger mortality rate was 10 percent per voyage.) The conditions were so crowded, so dismally dark, so unsanitary, so foul smelling, that they were the single most important cause of America's early immigration laws. Unfortunately, the laws were almost impossible to enforce; steerage conditions continued to remain deplorable almost beyond belief. As late as 1911, in a report to President William H. Taft, the United States Immigration Commission said of steerage

"Imagine a large room, perhaps seven feet in height, extending the entire breadth of the ship and about on0third of its length. This room is filled with a framework of iron pipes, forming a double tier of six-by-two-feet berths, with only sufficient space left to serve as aisles or passageways.Such a compartment will sometimes accommodate as many as three hundred passengers and it duplicated in other parts of the ship and on other decks.

"The open deck space reserved for steerage passengers is usually very limited, and situated in the worst part of the ship subject to the most violent motion, to the dirt from the stacks and the odors from the hold and galleys.The only provisions for eating are frequently shelves or benches along the sides or in the passages of sleeping compartments. Dining rooms are rare and if found are often shared with berths installed along the walls. Toilets and washrooms are completely inadequate; salt water only is available.

"The ventilation is almost always inadequate, and the air soon becomes foul. The unattended vomit of the seasick, the odors of not too clean bodies, the reek of food and the awful stench of the nearby toilet rooms make the atmosphere of the steerage such that it is a marvel that human flesh can endure it. Most immigrants lie in their berths for most of the voyage, in a stupor caused by the foul air. The food often repels them It is almost impossible to keep personally clean. All of these conditions are naturally aggravated by the crowding."

In spite of the miserable conditions, the immigrants had faith in the future. To pass the time a crossing could take anywhere from 10 days to more than a month depending on the ship and weathering would play cards, sing, dance, and talk, talk, talk.

Rumors about life in America, combined with stories about rejections and deportations at Ellis Island, circulated endlessly. There were rehearsals for answering the immigration inspectors' questions, and hour upon hour was spent learning the strange new language.

By the time the tiring trip approached its long-awaited end, most immigrants were in a state of shock physically, mentally, and emotionally. Yet, even with the shores of a New World looming before their eyes, even with tears of relief streaming down their faces, their journey was not at an end.

A final fear gripped their hearts Would their new home accept or reject them?


Medical inspectors boarded incoming ships in the quarantine area at the entrance to the Lower Bay of New York Harbor. Ships were examined from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Vessels arriving after 5 p.m. had to anchor for the night.

The quarantine examination was conducted aboard ship and reserved for first or second-class cabin passengers. U.S. citizens were exempt from the examination. Passengers were inspected for possible contagious diseases cholera, plaque, smallpox, typhoid fever, yellow fever, scarlet fever, measles, and diphtheria. Few cabin-class passengers were marked to be sent to Ellis Island for more complete examinations. For example, in 1905, of 100,000 cabin passengers arriving in New York, only 3,000 had to pass through Ellis Island for additional medical checks. During the same year, 800,000 steerage passengers were examined at the island.

For steerage passengers, quarantine was simply a time of heightened frustration and ever-increasing anxiety.

After the visiting medical inspectors climbed down ladders to their waiting cutter, the ship finally moved north through the Narrows leading to Upper New York Bay and into the harbor. Slowly, the tip of Manhattan came into view. The first object to be seen, and the focus of every immigrant's attention, was the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps her overwhelming impact can best be described in the words of those who saw her in this way for the first time

"I thought she was one of the Seven Wonders of the World," exclaimed a German nearing his eightieth birthday.

A Polish man said "The bigness of Mrs. Liberty overcame us. No one spoke a word for she was like a goddess and we know she represented the big, powerful country which was to be our future home."

Just beyond the statue, about a half mile to the northwest, was Ellis Island. After the ship had docked in Manhattan, while cabin passengers were being released to the freedom of New York, steerage passengers poured across the pier to a waiting area. Each wore name tag with the individual's manifest number written in large letters. The immigrants were then assembled in groups of 30, according to manifest letters, and were packed on the top decks of barges, while their baggage was piled on the lower decks.

Soon very soon they would arrive at the island's landing slip and be led to the Main Building's large reception room. Here, at last, immigrants would take the final step in their journey to freedom in America.

When they finally landed, the ground still swaying like waves beneath their feet, the shrill shouts of a dozen different languages assaulting their ears, they met their first American, a nameless interpreter. In retrospect, it may be that these interpreters were the unsung heroes of the entire immigration screening process. Their patience and skill frequently helped save an immigrant from deportation.

The average number of languages spoken by an interpreter was 6, but a dozen languages (including dialects) were not uncommon. The record for a single interpreter was 15 languages.

One interpreter was Fiorello LaGuardia, who would later become the famous mayor of New York City responsible for cleaning up the corruption of Tammany Hall. He worked at Ellis Island for an annual salary of $1,200 from 1907 to 1910. Interpreters led groups through the main doorway and directed them up a steep stairway to the Registry Room. Although they did not realize it, the immigrants were already taking their first test a doctor stood at the top of the stairs watching for signs of lameness, heavy breathing that might indicate a heart condition, or "bewildered gazes" that might be symptomatic of a mental condition.

As each immigrant passed, a doctor, with an interpreter at his side, would examine the immigrant's face, hair, neck, and hands. The doctor held a piece of chalk. On about 2 out of every 10 or 11 immigrants who passed he would scrawl a large white letter; the letter meant the immigrant was to be detained for further medical inspection.

Should an immigrant be suspected of mental defects, an X was marked high on the front of the right shoulder; a plain X lower on the right shoulder indicated the suspicion of a deformity or disease; an X within a circle meant some definite symptom had been detected. And the "shorthand" continued B indicated possible back problems; C, conjunctivitis; Ct, trachoma; E, eyes; F, face; Ft, feet; D, goiter; H, heart; K, hernia; L, lameness; N, neck; P, physical and lungs; Pg, pregnancy; S, senility; and Sc, scalp. If an immigrant was marked, he or she continued with the process and then was directed to rooms set aside for further examination.

Sometimes whole groups would be made to bathe with disinfectant solutions before being cleared not too surprising, considering how many were unable to bathe during the crossing. Again the line moved on. The next group of doctors was the dreaded "eye men." They were looking for symptoms of trachoma, an eye disease that caused blindness and even death. (This disease was the reason for more than half of the medical detentions, and its discovery meant certain deportation.) Rumors of this particular inspection terrified many an immigrant, but it was over in a few seconds, as the doctor tilted the immigrant's head back and swiftly snapped back the upper eyelids over a small instrument (actually a hook for buttoning shoes).

If immigrants had any of the diseases proscribed by the immigration laws, or were too ill or feeble-minded to earn a living, they would be deported. Sick children ages 12 or older were sent back to Europe alone and were released in the port form, which they had come. Children younger than 12 had to be accompanied by a parent. There were many tearful scenes as families with a sick child decided who would go and who would stay.

Immigrants who passed their medical exams were now ready to take the final test from the "primary line" inspector, seated on a high stool with the ship's manifest on a desk in front of him and an interpreter at his side.

This questioning process was designed to verify the 29 items of information contained on the manifest. Since each "primary line" inspector had only about two minutes in which to decide whether each immigrant was "clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to land," nearly all of the immigrants received curt nods of approval and were handed landing cards.

Most passed the test. (Only two percent of the immigrants seeking refuge in America would fail to be admitted.) After only a few more hours on Ellis Island, they were free to go. Their journey was nearly complete.


Those with landing cards in hand next moved to the Money Exchange. Here six cashiers exchanged gold, silver, and paper money form countries all over Europe for American dollars, based on the day's official rates posted on a blackboard.

For immigrants traveling to cities or towns beyond New York City, the next stop was the railroad ticket office. There, a dozen agents collectively sold as many as 25 tickets a minute on the busiest days. Immigrants could wait in areas marked for each independent railroad line in the ferry terminal.

When it was reasonably near the time for their train's departure, they would be ferried on barges to the train terminals in Jersey City or Hoboken. Immigrants going to New England went on the ferry to Manhattan. All that remained was to make arrangements for their trunks, stored in the Baggage room, to be sent on to their final destinations.

Finally! With admittance cards, railroad or ferry passes, and box lunches in hand, the immigrants' journey to and through Ellis Island was complete. For many it had begun months or even years before. Some, of course, still had more traveling ahead of them to the rocky shores of New England, to the Great Plains of the Midwest, or to the orange groves of California.

But whatever lay ahead, in their hearts they could read the invisible sign that proclaimed "Welcome to America."

Now playing - America!


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