From mid-1800 to mid-1900, there were around 60 million emigrants from all over Europe who wanted to improve their quality of life, leaving their homeland for a fresh start in America. From 1873 to 1934, the Red Star Line shipping company shipped almost two million hopeful people from the Port of Antwerp to the USA with dreams of a better life. Plan a trip to Antwerp today to walk in the footsteps of these brave emigrants and visit the excellent Red Star Line Museum.
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Why did so many people emigrate?
In the 1800s Europe was very different to the prosperous, peaceful land we know today. Millions of people faced job shortages, land shortages and crop failure leading to rising taxes, poverty, and famine. The USA on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean was perceived as a land of economic opportunity. In the first hand of the 19th century, America was predominantly an agricultural country with an abundance of space and land. One of the main reasons to travel to the US was the possibility of acquiring free or cheap land upon which to grow your own crops, start a business and provide for your family.
Antwerp to USA
The passage from a once-abandoned warehouse in Antwerp to another in Ellis Port in New York was a fairly quick and easy one compared to longer, more dangerous and destitute trips of decades past. Red Star had embraced steam power and the trip could be made in about 10 days and nights. There were clear class divides on the ships but even the lower classes were afforded some comfort. What is made clear is that the hardest part for travellers usually came before they boarded and after they disembarked the boat.
Photographs from the time show overcrowded conditions on rail cars and trains getting to Antwerp, trips that could take days and often ended in illness or death. Passengers came from all over the continent to board these ships for a chance at a better life. The final destination of the immigrant in American wasn’t often New York, where the ship docked, but often halfway across this strange new land with no maps or directions on how to get there. Many travelled with the promise of a job or a relative to help them, but many did not.
Red Star Line Museum Antwerp
This fascinating museum gives a voice to millions of Europeans who were courageous or desperate enough to leave their homes across Europe, sailing from Antwerp to New York in search of a better life for themselves and their families. The museum focuses on the stories of these emigrants, what led them to leave their homes and the long journey to the USA or onward to Canada. You’ll learn about some of the individual passengers, getting to know their personal journey first-hand and learning lots about the process of emigration from saving for a ticket to boarding the ship.
Discover for yourself the story of the shipping company, the building of ships, the city of Antwerp and its famous port and harbour. You can take part in a guided tour with knowledgeable and passionate guides, a city walk or attend a workshop or performance in the museum.
Plan your visit
The Red Star Line Museum is situated in the old port district, ‘t Eilandje, about 20 minutes’ drive or 30 minutes’ walk from PREMIER SUITES PLUS serviced apartments in Antwerp. Its located past the MAS, near the port, on the outskirts of the city. The museum offers lots of events and child-friendly activities during the year and can accommodate corporate or school groups and private events.
Tickets can be booked online https://www.redstarline.be/en/page/tickets-rates for €10 each (or €8 with a concession) and prices vary if you’d like access to their temporary exhibitions. The museum is taking every precaution to keep visitors safe from Covid-19 including staggered entry times, increased cleaning, and mandatory face masks.
To explore the Red Star Line Museum and all of the other excellent attractions in Antwerp, book your stay in PREMIER SUITES serviced apartments for a truly comfortable stay.