The People of Pancho

At Play In The Archive

Leo Arrives in America

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.

Happy birthday to Gram!

Happy birthday to Gram. Is she not the most lovely 90 year old? That’s me standing behind her.

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.

World's most awkward double date?

World’s most awkward double date? Nobody looks like they’re having a very good time, despite the fancy cocktails (or maybe they’re desserts). The photo is dated 1912 on the back, but offers no other information. Leo is on the left.

This gathering looks a little more cheerful.

This gathering looks a little more cheerful. Again, the photo is dated 1912 on the back, but there is no other information written. I know that Leo, on the far left, was only 5′ 5″ tall, so the unidentified gentleman in the center was very short indeed.

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’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.”


Photo of the Cincinnati courtesy of Norway Heritage

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.

LeoArrival 9

Image courtesy of

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.

LeoArrival 6

Thanks for reading, People. More on Leo’s adventures in the Big Apple soon.

9 comments on “Leo Arrives in America

  1. Amy
    February 6, 2015

    Leo definitely does not look happy in that first photo. Is he standing next to the same woman in the second picture as in the first? What wonderful photos! I can’t wait to hear about his adventures in the US.


    • Pancho
      February 6, 2015

      I blew up both photos to check, and it is not the same woman. More to come soon, I promise. Thanks for being such a faithful visitor, Amy!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy
        February 7, 2015

        Of course! I love reading about your research and your People!


  2. Jana Last
    February 7, 2015

    Happy 90th Birthday to your grandmother!

    What wonderful photos you’ve shared. That first one. Wow! They did not look very happy.

    It’s fun to see the fashions of the day in your photos. Thanks for sharing them!


  3. Pingback: Leo’s Northeastern Tour, 1913 | The People of Pancho

  4. Mom
    February 20, 2015

    In the double date photo, the one where no one looks happy, it’s astonishing how much Leo looks like my brother Lorin — or more correctly, how much Lorin looks like Leo! I will scan a send you a photo of Lorin where I think you, too, will see the resemblance. Love you.


  5. Pingback: Baby Wally Joins Team Keil | The People of Pancho

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