At Play In The Archive
Happy Thursday, People. I’m just back from a wonderful trip to celebrate my paternal grandmother’s 90th birthday with her. All her children and grandchildren were in attendance for the big day, and we all had a wonderful time visiting, laughing, and eating way too much.
Now, it’s time to get back to work, both on the pile of trip laundry, and on continuing the story of my great-grandfather, Leo Lessiack. (Just to cut down on confusion, note that my great-grandpa Leo is from the other side of my family; he is my Mom’s father’s father.)
We’ve reached an exciting point in the narrative: Leo’s arrival in the United States in October of 1912. I’ve been very fortunate to uncover several artifacts related to his journey, which makes all the sorting, scanning, peering, magnifying, and wondering I’ve been doing feel very worthwhile.
First, here are a few images that I believe were taken prior to Leo’s departure from Hamburg.
After saying his auf widersehens, Leo boarded the Hamburg-Amerika steamship Cincinnati in Hamburg on October 17, 1912, and arrived in New York eleven days later on October 28, 1912 (according to Ancestry.com’s New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957).
The good ship Cincinnati was, according to a Hamburg-Amerika press release in the Gjenvik Archive:
“…launched at the yards of the Schichau Shipbuilding Company at Danzig, Germany, in August, 1908, and her sister-ship, the ‘Cleveland’ … was constructed at the yards of Blohm & Voss at Hamburg, Germany. …Intended for the New-York passenger and freight service, … both vessels are splendidly appointed for the transportation of passengers as well as freight. …These vessels afford the greatest comfort and luxury, as they are provided with all of the modern features of the two well-known liners referred to above: they may be classed among the most modern liners of the present day.”
Great-grandpa Leo traveled to America in style, apparently! He didn’t work for Hamburg-Amerika at this time (at least, that’s what I think based on the postcard from Franz in which Franz poses the question, “Do you have a job yet?”), but perhaps the journey inspired him to seek employment there. As I will cover in future posts, this journey was the first of many, many trips he made on Hamburg-Amerika ships. I don’t know who paid for his passage to the U.S. (as we know, he held a job at the Stadt-Theater in Hamburg right up until he left, so perhaps he was saving up), but I am reasonably certain based on photographic evidence that he stayed with his sister Emmi Lessiack Keil in New York after he arrived. And, not too long after, he went to work for Hamburg-Amerika in New York City.
Here is the ship manifest for the Cincinnati containing Leo’s name — he’s on line 3 (click to enlarge). You can see his father listed as Anton Lessiack, that Leo is 21 years old, and that his final destination is New York City.
And here, rescued from the jumbled pile of great-grandpa Leo’s photos, is what I believe to be a great treasure. I think this might actually be a picture of some friends Leo made on board the Cincinnati. Notice the name of the ship on the life-preserver around the neck of the man smoking a pipe in the foreground. The photo is not annotated in any way, so I have no way of confirming this hunch, but the coincidence seems too good to overlook. If it’s true, it’s pretty thrilling.
Thanks for reading, People. More on Leo’s adventures in the Big Apple soon.