Valleri, Vallera, wir ziehen nach Amerika
Wéi hun ech d’Hierz sou wéi!
Get mir main Dach fu Stréi
A méngem Duerf erem,
Ech gin iech alles drem!
An Amerika (Michel Lentz 1820-1893)
How my heart is aching!
Give me back my thatched roof
In my village,
I would give everything for it!
In America (Michael Lentz 1820-1893)
[Translation: Fausto Gardini]
In the nineteenth century Luxembourg was a poor country. In the first part of the century, Napoleonic wars, political instability and isolation from Europe’s main commercial and industrial arteries hampered the emergence of a significant local commerce and industry. Improved living conditions and hygiene followed, leading to a considerable growth in population which increased from 256,729 in 1818 to 311,608 in 1831, a gain of 54,869 souls in less than a generation. Traditional subsistence farming, small trade and seasonal occupations could absorb only a fraction of the new work force coming of age. Furthermore the administration of King William of the Netherlands, following the Vienna Congress also Grand Duke of Luxembourg, imposed new taxes on all imaginable and unimaginable tangible and intangible goods and assets, which included, for instance the number of windows a home featured.
EXCERPT FROM FAUSTO GARDINI’S E-BOOK
William I Frederick (Willem Frederik Prins van Oranje-Nassau) – (1772-1843) King of the Netherlands (1813-1840) and Grand Duke of Luxembourg (1815-1840), dictatorial and intolerant, is ominously to blame for the Belgian Revolution and the subsequent partition of Luxembourg. William I has generally only the interests of his Dutch Kingdom at heart and often uses the territory of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg as a bartering pawn in the international arena, and for extracting wealth from his possession. On October 7, 1816, in a treaty between Prussia and the Netherlands, signed at Cleves, he relinquishes to Prussia the Luxembourg territory of Oberbillig, against a compensation favoring his Dutch Kingdom. Historians have surmised that it is William who first proposes to dismember the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in favor of territorial gains in Limbourg. On October 14, 1831, he agrees to cede the Arlon area territory to Belgium against Dutch gains in the Limbourg region. On August 28, 1820, he has the magnificent castle of Vianden sold at auction. The King and Grand Duke continues selling off Luxembourg’s assets (reaping a documented 1,629,858 Guilders) to cover the Dutch public debt amounting to 1,719 million Guilders in the 1820s [Albert Calmes La Restauration de Guillaume Ier Roi des Pays-Bas. L’Ere Hassenpflug 1839-1840, Bruxelles-Luxembourg, 1947]. Except for a very brief visit at Arlon in 1817, he never visits the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. In 1838, when he finally relents and accepts the treaty negotiated in 1831 in London, Belgium has administered the whole Grand Duchy of Luxembourg for several years and, had they been asked, the majority of the Luxembourgers would have preferred to remain united with the Kingdom of Belgium. [Gilbert Trausch, Le Luxembourg à l’époque contemporaine, Luxembourg 1981].
In desperation, and to seek a better future for their children, many considered emigrating to nearby countries, usually France and Belgium, but increasingly to more distant shores. From the middle of the nineteenth century the emigration trend to distant lands gained momentum, becoming also a lucrative business proposition.
At various locations throughout Luxembourg, agents established themselves, representing foreign shipping companies and selling, on a commission basis, passages and related services to would-be emigrants. In the first half of the nineteenth century Brazil and Guatemala were some of the faraway destinations in the Western Hemisphere. Later Argentina and overwhelmingly the United States became target destinations. Less known and explored is the fate of emigrants to the Eastern Hemisphere. Gaspard Rodenborn, later Rodenborn & Crocius, established in the city of Luxembourg, was a particularly busy emigration agent up to the 1870s. In the Luxemburger Wort newspaper of Sunday, August 6, 1848, Gaspard Rodenborn advertised free transportation to Sydney, Australia for 200 qualifying winegrower families as follows:
The undersigned is empowered to offer a free passage from London to Sydney, Australia, to people knowledgeable in the cultivation and management of wine. All those contemplating [this offer] must be able to furnish proof of their ethical behavior and of their skill; they must be married, and at the time of boarding, not over the age of 50. All children, age 14 and above, are also given a free passage; for younger children the parents must pay for the passage which costs 165 Fr. per head. Whoever accepts these conditions, must indenture himself for two years and receives 376 to 500 Francs annual pay, a little house for dwelling, and the following weekly ration: 10 pounds of meat, 10 pounds of flower, 2 pounds of sugar and half a pound of coffee or a quarter-pound of tea.[NB: 1 US$ = 5 Francs.]
At the end of the two years, he can indenture himself for additional time, establish himself on his own, or do what pleases him, and enjoys in Australia the same rights as any other colonial settler. The acre land costs 25 Francs. The climate of this colony is very pleasant and healthy, the land very fertile.
The emigrant is responsible for his travel to London, and besides his clothing, he has to procure his bedding and eating utensils, which if desired, can be supplied, for 9 Thaler. The transfer and the food from Coblenz to London will be supplied against 11 Thaler. As soon as 150 people have signed up, who wish to resettle to Sydney under above conditions, you will be given the day on which you have to be in Coblenz, from where you will be accompanied by an authorized agent of the English government to London and there you will be handed over to the Colonial administration.
Detailed information will be provided post-free upon request at:
in Luxembourg, Großstraße Nr. 105.
Original German text:
Der Unterzeichnete ist beauftragt, 200 Familien, die den Weinbau und die Behandlung des Weines verstehen, eine freie Überfahrt von London nach Sydney in Australien, zu gestatten. Alle hierauf Reflectirende müssen Zeugnis ihres sittlichen Betragens und ihrer Fähigkeit bringen können, sie müssen verheirathet, und zur Zeit der Einschiffung nicht über 50 Jahre alt sein. Allen Kindern non 14 Jahren, und darüber, wird gleichfalls eine freie, Überfahrt bewilligt: für jüngere Kinder müssen die Eltern die Überfahrt, welche 165 Fr. per Kopf kostet, selbst bezahlen. Wer diese Bedingungen annimmt, hat sich auf zwei Jahre zu verdingen und erhält von 376 bis 500 Franken jährlichen Lohn, ein Häuschen zur Wohnung und die folgende Ration per Woche zur Kost: 10 Pf. Fleisch, 10 Pf. Mehl, 2 Pf. Zucker und ein halb Pf. Kaffee oder 1 viertel Pf. Thee.
Nach Ende der zwei Jahre kann er sich auf weitere Zeit verdingen, sich aus eigne Faust etabliren, oder thun was ihm gefällt, und genießt in Australien dieselben Rechte wie jeder andere Kolonist. Der Acker Land kostet 25 Franken. Das Klima dieser Colonie ist sehr angenehm und gesund, der Boden sehr fruchtbar.
Die Reise nach London muß von dem Auswanderer selbst bestritten werden; auch hat derselbe außer seinen Kleidern sich noch sein Bett und Essgeräthschaften anzuschaffen, die, auf Verlangen, für 9 Thlr. geliefert werden. Die Ueberfahrt und Kost von Koblenz bis Lonbon werden für 11 Thlr. besorgt.
Sobald 150 Personen eingeschrieben sind, die unter obigen Bedingungen nach Sydney übersiedeln wollen, wild ihnen der Tag angezeigt an dem sie in Koblenz eintreffen müssen, von wo sie dann von einem Bevollmächtigten der englischen Regierung bis nach London begleitet und dort der Colonialverwaltung übergeben werden.
Nähere Auskunft wird auf portofreie Anfrage erteilt bei:
in Luxemburg, Großstraße Nr. 105.
How many responded favorably to this solicitation and whether the voyage took place is not known.
FAILED EMIGRATION ATTEMPTS
There were no laws protecting emigrants from shady dealmakers who pocketed the little money emigrants had scraped together and often provided no or inferior services. Many times emigrants were stranded at the ports of Bremen, Germany; Le Havre, France; Liverpool, England or Antwerp, Belgium; when the promised passage did not materialize. The fate of some of the Luxembourgers who embarked on overseas voyages to Brazil is well known. In 1828 about 2500 Luxembourgers departed with destination Brazil, including 106 people from Beaufort, who left on April 24, 1828. The group included no less than sixty-nine children with the family of Bernard Weyland alone accounting for eleven children. They made it as far as Bremen, Germany where they arrived on May 11, 1828. There, they realized that additional fees where due to register for a passage with the Brazilian consul, and that the Brazilian government was by then only interested in men who were able and willing to enlist in its army. All, but two families are said to have returned to Luxembourg, poorer than when they left. Some dejected, now destitute, would-be emigrants settled near Grevels, in one of the poorest areas of Luxembourg, located between Eschdorf and Grosbous, which became known as Grevels-Brésil (Grevels-Brazil).
Throughout the 1860s the Rodenborn & Crocius travel agency and the Red Star Line representative, Adolphe Strauss of Antwerp, Belgium, carried out an acrimonious dispute by the way of a series of accusations and counter-accusations published as paid notices in the Luxemburger Wort. On March 13, 1870, after some twelve years of dithering, and in order to stem growing abuses, the Luxembourg government finally passed a law requiring emigration agents to become bonded, a prerequisite which put many lesser agents out of business because they could not afford the 2500 francs ($500) mandatory deposit. The law also regulated the contractual relationship between an agent and a client; for instance, if the ship was delayed the emigrant was owed two francs a day to cover his costs, and if the ship was delayed more than ten days, then the emigrant could rescind his contract with the agent. On September 3, 1870, the government finally issued five emigration agent licenses to Pierre Fellens, innkeeper Diekirch; Jean Joseph Derulle, innkeeper, Luxembourg-city; Pierre Gruber-Stronck, agent, Grevenmacher; Michel Welter-Neuens, merchant, Diekirch; and Henri Rausch, merchant, Wasserbillig. Michel Welter died and the deposit was returned to the family on March 15, 1872. On May 4, 1872, the obligatory bond was raised to 5000 francs, at the time the equivalent of $1000. Between 1871 and 1880, twenty-one additional licenses were issued of which eight were withdrawn, returned or surrendered for various reasons.
STAYING IN TOUCH
While communications were not as easy as in our twenty-first century’s electronic age, Luxembourgers in the nineteenth century strived to remain in touch throughout the United States Lëtzebuergesch communities and with folks back home in the old country.
In the years 1879-1886 there were no less than 207,740 letters sent from Luxembourg to America and 210,850 were mailed from America to Luxembourg [Quoted by Dr. P. J. Muller in Tatsachen aus der Geschichte des Luxemburger Landes, Bourg-Bourger, Luxembourg 1968].
Another way to remain in touch was to send news back home through the local newspapers. Some times this correspondence would be used for advertisement purposes. In the Luxemburger Wort newspaper of July 1, 1855, we find the following article in the advertisement section.
We, the undersigned passengers, who have concluded with Mr. Nex from Herzig, near Arlon, our contract for the American domestic railroad travel, are pleased to bear witness herewith, voluntarily, that the price for the passage charged to us in Herzig and Luxembourg was identical with the price that is charged here in New York by the railroad company, and that therefore, we have saved several expenses, and that we were taken care of and transported better than those who did not have a contract with the railroad and therefore fell victim to deceitful hands. We can therefore, since every service was delivered as promised by Mr. Nex, only recommend him and advise to contract with him.
New York, May 24, 1855
Bernard Loos aus Wellenstein,
Bernhard Hingtgen a. Hostert,
Meyer M. a. Wormeldingen,
Mesenbourg a. Wormeldingen,
Hein Nik. a. Wormeldingen,
Louy Johann a. Merzig,
Zwei Kirch a. Greiveldingen, [translation: Two Kirch]
Lacroix Johann Baptist aus Hachy,
Blong Johann Baptist aus Hachy,
Huberty Mathias aus Hachy,
Conrad Nikolas aus Hachy,
Gregoire Johann Baptist aus Hachy,
Blong Baptist, für einen andern, [translation: for someone else]
Heinen Nikolas aus Contern,
Haas Peter aus Contern.
[Notes: Text translated from German. Herzig is the Lëtzebuergesch name for Hachy, now Belgium, but Lëtzebuergesch territory until 1839. The names of the passengers and villages are shown as in the original German text.]
Most of the listed passengers had sailed aboard the Connecticut from Le Havre, France and had arrived in New York on May 23, 1855. None is listed as from Luxembourg. Those identified are listed as: Loos Bernhard, age 27; Hentgen, Bernhard, age 25; Mesenburg Nict, age 20; Hein Nicol, age 20; Louis Jean, age 24; Kirch Math, age 20; Kirch Joh, age 28; Lacroix Joh Bapt, age 39; Blong Bapt, age 21; Huberts Math, age 56; Conrad Nicol, age 21; Gregoire Joh Bapt, age 36.
The passenger manifest lists nine passengers by the name Blong, six by the name Gregoire and two additional passengers by the name Hingtgen/Hentgen. Heinen Nikolas and Haas Peter could not be located among the 555 passengers of the Connecticut.
DERULLE-WIGREUX & SOHN
Pierre Derulle (1789-1877) was born in Fontenaille, Belgium and he was a tax inspector in Grevenmacher, Luxembourg. His wife, Marie Catherine Bodet, was born in Houdremont, Belgium in 1791 and died in Grevenmacher, Luxembourg in 1843. Their son, Jean Joseph Derulle, was born January 15, 1820, at Houdremont, Belgium. He married Marie Françoise Wigreux from Altwies, Luxembourg. The couple settled in the nearby village of Nospelt. On May 3, 1849, Jean Joseph Derulle, négociant à Nospelt [merchant in Nospelt], was granted the Luxembourg citizenship as reported in Luxembourg’s official gazetteer, the Mémorial législatif et administratif du Grand Duché de Luxembourg No. 76 of 1849:
We Guillaume by the grace of God, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, etc., etc., etc.,
Considering the request for naturalization by sire Jean Joseph Derulle, merchant at Nospelt, born January 15, 1820 at Houdremont (Belgium):
Considering that the formalities prescribed by article 3 of the law of November 12, 1848, No. 2, have been observed;
Considering that petitioner has justified the conditions of age and residency demanded by article 2 of said law;
The Chamber of Deputies adopted and we sanction what follows:
Naturalization is granted to sire Jean Joseph Derulle;
This naturalization is granted free of charge.
Request and order that the present law be inserted in the Mémorial législatif et administratif of Our Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, to be executed and respected by all concerned by this matter
The Hague, may 3, 1849.
Original French text:
Nous GUILLAUME III, par la grâce de Dieu, Roi des Pays-Bas, Prince d’Orange-Nassau, Grand-Duc de Luxembourg, etc., etc., etc.,
Vu la demande en naturalisation du sieur Jean Joseph Derulle, négociant à Nospelt, né le 15 janvier 1820 à Houdremont (Belgique) ;
Attendu que les formalités prescrites par l’art. 3 de la loi du 12 novembre 1848, n° 2 , ont été observées;
Attendu que le pétitionnaire a justifié des conditions d’âge et de résidence exigées par l’article 2 de ladite loi;
La Chambre des Députés a adopté et Nous sanctionnons ce qui suit :
La naturalisation est accordée audit sieur Jean Joseph Derulle.
Cette naturalisation est conférée gratuitement.
Mandons et ordonnons que la présente loi soit insérée au Mémorial législatif et administratif de Notre Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, pour être exécutée et observée par tous ceux que la chose concerne.
La Haye, le 3 mai 1849.
Jean Joseph Derulle was active as immigration agent initially at a café in Nospelt, before moving to the city of Luxembourg. He is said to have been quite a rude, though efficient, individual. The Derulle-Wigreux & Sohn [Derulle-Wigreux & Son] agency was the local representative for the Red Star Line. The day before their departure, customers from all over Luxembourg were to gather at the Derulle-Wigreux & Sohn place of business, located Rue Saint-Philippe (as of 1925 Rue Philippe II). Jean-Joseph would house them overnight in squalid quarters at his inn. The next day he would herd the emigrants like cattle to the train station to embark on the first leg of the long passage to the New World, usually to the port of Antwerp, Belgium.
Jean Joseph’s son, Ernest Derulle (1851-1912), married to Anna Jaminet, was well trained to succeed his father in the business. He spent some time in the hotel business in the United States where he was also a member of the Luxemburger Brotherhood of America. He adopted the American nationality as evidenced by his naturalization record, dated October 9, 1873, listing 2 Greenwich Street, New York, as his address and barkeeper as his occupation. The date and port of arrival in the United States are blank and under Former Nationality the record shows Emperor of Germany, a common inaccuracy in nineteenth century US document concerning immigrants from Luxembourg. A certain Fredrick Michel, carpenter, residing 327 W. 33 Street, witnessed the act.
Ernest Derulle is found on several passenger arrival lists at New York. So on October 12, 1874, on the liner August Andre, with place of origin given as Germany. Anna and Ernest, nationality U.S., arrived from Antwerp, Belgium on May 24, 1875, aboard the ocean liner Switzerland and we find Ernest again, alighting at New York from Antwerp, Belgium on July 23, 1881, aboard the Red Star Liner Waesland. In 1882, he was accredited as an emigration agent. Ernest was the prime force behind the creation of Luxembourg’s American Club, the predecessor of today’s American Luxembourg Society (ALS). In April of 1904, Ernest was appointed U.S. Consular Agent in Luxembourg, which ensured to his business practically a monopoly for travels to the United States of America since every emigrant had to secure a visa through his office. In 1907, he began construction of a new place of business, which he named the American Building located at the corner of the Rue Saint-Philippe and Rue Notre Dame (Enneschtgaas). The structure features an impressive gilded American eagle on top of an illuminated cupola. His funeral monument at the cimetière de Notre Dame in the city of Luxembourg is no less impressive, featuring a life size bust of Ernest on top of a ship’s bow, fronting a marble obelisk engraved with a shield topped by an American eagle.
The inscription reads:
American Consular Agent
Désiré Derulle (1876-1926), a nephew, son of Ernest’s oldest brother Pierre Arthur Derulle and Anna’s sister, Marie Jaminet of Thionville, France, succeeded Ernest upon his death on
December 13, 1912. He was an impressive man, over 6 feet 6 inches tall [2.01 Meter], and even better trained than his predecessor, having grown up with his sisters, Marie and Charlotte-Ernestine, in Antwerp, Belgium, where his parents operated the Hôtel d’Alsace, 10 Pelikaanstraat, an inn for emigrants, employing several Luxembourgers.
Désiré had also worked for the Red Star Line in New York, had traveled throughout the United States and had nurtured continued relations with immigrants from Luxembourg settled in the United States to secure their repeat business. He received his state accreditation in February 1913. He too was appointed U.S. Consular Agent for Luxembourg, succeeding to his uncle. Unfortunately, World War I would bring the emigration movement to a complete halt. Désiré Derulle met with President Wilson and briefed him about the dire situation in Luxembourg during the war. Désiré too died childless, in May of 1926. An impressive crowd attended his funeral. William Phillips (1878-1968), a U.S. Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg (1920-1922), eulogized the departed.
This popular nineteenth century’s German song, modified with lyrics for Luxembourg, was sung throughout Luxembourg by groups of emigrants as they were leaving their klengt Duerf (little village) in the old country, on their way to Antwerp, Belgium or Le Havre; hearts filled with hope and heads filled with visions of the land of milk and honey (German: Schlaraffenland) awaiting them in the New World.