The Galveston Movement

Bringing Eastern European Jews to the American West.

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Unexpected Challenges

This work, successful enough in itself, has, however, by no means been entirely smooth. The fact that only one line of transportation from Europe to Galveston was available--the North German Lloyd steamers from Bremen--placed the emigrant who wished to come to Galveston more or less at the mercy of this single steamship company, and while on the whole the accommodation the latter furnished was reasonably satisfactory', a journey of 23 days in steerage quarters brought in itself discomforts, which frequently led to not always unjustified complaints on the part of emigrants.

But what has proved the greatest handicap was the attitude of the Federal Government, which, having an immigration station at Galveston, did not always show itself as sympathetic as the committee believed it was justified in expecting. The committee had assumed that its efforts to deflect immigration from the congested centers of the North Atlantic Coast and open a new route leading directly into the American "Hinterland," where the laborer is still much in demand, would meet with every encouragement on the part of the Federal authorities, who, however, to the contrary in recent times, since immigration has been transferred from the Department of Commerce and Labor to the newly created Labor Department, have shown what must be called a repressive policy, which has become most marked at Galveston, where the law is being now applied with a rigidity and deportation ordered for such slight reasons that the proportion of the excluded whose prompt deportation is insisted upon by the Government equals 5% as compared with an average of 1.21%, at all other American ports.

Legacy of the Galveston Movement

Under such conditions, the committee, after careful deliberation, has concluded that it is useless to continue the effort for which it was organized--to deflect emigration from the congested centers at New York and other North Atlantic seaports--and it has decided to discontinue the Galveston Bureau after next September. By that time some 10,000 Jewish immigrants will have been established through the Galveston Committee at numerous points in the Far West, Southwest and Northwest, where most of these new arrivals have been able to found dignified existences and happy homes.

Centers have thus been created, to which many others are certain to be attracted from the more congested places in the Eastern states, and at the same time the existence of these centers will induce many in Russia and elsewhere, who are forced to emigrate, to avoid the congested American seaport towns, and to go direct to the places in the "Hinterland," where their friends have already established themselves.

In this manner the "Galveston movement" is certain to continue and ultimately work out silently, but effectively, the problem for which it has been started.

While New York is already too overcrowded and the making of further larger additions to its Jewish population should obviously be sought to be avoided, there is considerable room yet in the comparatively thinly settled districts west of the Mississippi for those who wish to go there. To direct Jewish immigration into these districts will surely aid in promoting the happiness of the immigrant and prove a boon to the area in which he continues to be needed and where the immigrant will not only be able to find ready employment, but also more attractive surroundings than in the tenement districts of the Eastern city.

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Jacob Schiff was the driving force behind the Galveston movement. Schiff coordinated the Industrial Removal Office (IRO) in New York City, and the Jewish Territorial Organization (ITO) in Great Britain, to send Jewish immigrants to the port of Galveston, Texas.