Aunt Liselotte in America in 1929 (EN)

Meine Amerikafahrt 24. Juli bis 3. November 1929„, that’s what 16 year-old Liselotte writes down on the first page of her photo album, using white ink on dark, brownish paper.

Steamboat „Deutschland“

On July, 24th of 1929 Liselotte enters the steamboat named „Deutschland“, accompanied by her mother Mathilde to cross the Atlantic Ocean destinated to New York City. Down below, both of them can be found on a list called „Hamburg-Amerika-Linie“. Mother Mathilde is listed as a 46 year-old housewife, Liselotte’s profession is just cited as „household“.

copy from: Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Auswandererlisten VIII A1, S. 400

The passage takes from 25th of July to 5th of August.

Cuxhaven, passengers boarding
Steamboat „Deutschland“ 22.000 Tons

The following picture shows my aunt sitting on a kind of platform between some kids. She looks down to a small boy in typical German short leather trousers, foiled by smart sunglasses. I guess they all fiddled away time, it must have been hard to stay 11 days on a ship being full of expectation of what is awaiting you on the other side of the ocean. I really love this picture of her.

Arrival at New York

And then, eventually, they enter the harbor of New York, passing the Statue of Liberty. On the right in the upper picture the Pier of Hapag. Thanks to a joint member of the Old Images of NY group on Facebook, Alan Lasky, I can tell you that it is known as Pier 86. This must have been the place they went on land.

In the Arrival List they state they will join Mathilde’s sister, H. O. Gauss and her address was Brooklyn, NW. 483 Ocean Parkway.

New York

From her stay in New York there is this sequel of photographies, that let us dive deep into a past time, I am drawn to this time in a way no movie managed before. I almost can see the people move; and they move as fast as people do today, one thing I didn’t expect.

— Click on a picture to increase the size —-

Trams, the first traffic lights, women with big hats, actually almost everybody wears a hat, people walking, people hurrying. And a lot of wonderful old cars, but they were not old, but new and chic at that time, the pictures were taken.

On the next page of her album you can see a gas station, „Benzin Station“ Liselotte notes down.

They even risk to visit Little Italy and the „Chinesisches Viertel“, better known as Chinatown.

If I read it correctly, Liselotte writes „Poorstreet“ under the picture above, I couldn’t find a street with this name.


Alan also took a deeper look into the details and has strong evidence that at least some of the New York pictures are taken in 1925, so it can not be Liselotte who took them, at least not all of them. My mother told me once that her mother Maria, (my grandmother and Liselotte’s aunt), had lived in the US for 3 years. I like the thought that she made some of these pictures, although there is no evidence at all.

Summer Turn around Greenwood Lake

After their stay in New York Liselotte and her mother Mathilde take off to a first round trip, visiting typical summer places. The stops are: Greenwood Lake, Lake Mohawk, Coxton Lake, Bear Mountain and at last Demarest, again near by New York.

These photos show exemplary, that the two German ladies are always with other people, may they have been friends or relatives. They spent their time with big families, often with little children, mother Mathilde is the one to take care of them. We see Liselotte more as a typical teenager, sometimes she has fun, sometimes she’s suppressed by the majority of adults around her. She seems to look a little bit grumpy or annoyed, presumably they urged her to pose for the picture in a way she didn’t want to.

Philadelphia – Atlantic City – Washington

From Demarest they start another roundtrip, this time direction south to Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Washington. So after having spent the summer on the country side, they now are on a tour through big cities, ending in Scarsdale, again near by New York.

In Atlantic City Liselotte only shoots pictures in front of the famous Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel, that existed from 1906 to 1978 . It seems as if they only spent one night in Atlantic City and just stept out of their hotel to take some fast „selfies“ in windy weather. And a little drive in a kind of rickshaw. Liselottes notes down: „So läßt man sich auf dem „Boardwalk“ spazieren fahren!“ („That’s how you let you drive on the ‚Boardwalk'“).

In Washington they tick off the major points of interest: Capitol, White House, National Gallery of Art. I confess that I lost overview, who is hidden below the big round hats.

It makes me sad to see the Capitol so accessible and peaceful.

The second tour ended in Scarsdale, where Mathilde and Liselotte again visited friends or relatives, Liselotte takes a picture of houses in the neighborhood and writes: „Houses in English Style“.

Back to Hamburg on board of the „Resolute“

On the passage back, the clothes the passengers wear show that it’s much colder this time. Liselotte looks a lot more relaxed. Travelling around in the „New World“ for four months must have been an impressing and lasting experience for a 16 year old girl, additionally being set free from school for such a long time. This young kid, cannot decide whether it was a boy or a girl is to be seen in almost every picture, but I don’t know who it was. And i love the band playing a big horn and the drums.

Now, on the way back, Liselotte even finds time to take pictures of the calm see.

And then, finally, they approach the coast, the harbor of Hamburg, with an uncountable melee of ships in all sizes.

In Hamburg they still find time for some sightseeing.

Native Americans

The journey is over, after a long time they are back in the „home waters“ of Germany. The album could end here. Almost coy Liselottes adds a row of pictures from Florida and Miami. Have they been there? It would have been a big detour, but again the pictures are self-taken and no post cards you just could buy without having visited. The motives are native americans in traditional costume und some pictures of the „tropical landscape near Miami“.

From today’s point of view you can see how racist these pictures are, but I want to show them nevertheless, because they show the typical colonialistic view of this time.

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