If you study immigration history, you’ll quickly learn that there were major waves during which immigrants came to America. In fact, someone else’s family research shows that there were Schellhardts in America as early as the 1780s. These Schellhardts and their short Shelhart descendants are related to us somehow but I’ll tackle that in my post “The Long and Short of It.”
Okay – back to our Schellhardt immigration story. Max emigrated to America in 1924 which was actually pretty late in the immigration game. This time period was pretty significant – both for Germany and America.
What was Max emigrating from? He came of age during the Weimar Republic when things weren’t exactly great in Germany – think strikes, hyperinflation, putsches. Not exactly good times for an 18 year old carpenter, right? Sure, things stabilized a bit in Germany in the late 1920s but you can’t blame a kid for wanting to get out while the gettin’ out was good.
Then there was America. Sure, Lady Liberty was all “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” But by the mid 1900s, the American government was like whoa! Hold on one second. We can’t just let anyone in. Hey, I get it. I love people but I have a hard time letting them in too.
So, the U.S. Government instituted a bunch of laws that restricted who they’d let in to America. It seems like they really only wanted literate white people from northern and western Europe. And they sure as heck only wanted them to have one wife!
In 1921 and 1924, Congress enacted laws that restricted the annual quota of immigrants to a percentage of each nationality that was resident in the United States at the time of the 1910 census. According to the Immigration Station at Ellis Island, approximately 315,000 immigrants arrived in 1924. One of those was Max Schellhardt.
The above is all just background for the columns we’re going to examine today. If anyone can make a long story longer, it’s Number 33. Have I told you about the movie War Horse?! I urge you to take all of the following information with a grain of salt – see, there’s another facet of this period of immigration history. It was marked by waves of young men looking for work who ultimately intended to return to their country of origin. This isn’t something you admit when you’re "immigrating," at least on paper. When I was in my early 20s, K-Mart was giving away atlases if you signed up for a credit card. I would’ve said anything to get that free atlas. I kinda feel like Max might’ve said anything just to get to America. That doesn’t make us liars…we just both really wanted something. Max got a future with some money and I got a bunch of maps.
Anyhoo...here are Columns 20 - 26
Column 20 – Purpose of Coming to America
Whether alien intends to return to country whence he came after engaging temporarily in laboring position in the United States – NO (sure…)
Length of time alien intends to reside in the United States – ALWAYS (at least until 1934...)
Whether alien intends to become a citizen of the United States – YES (uh-huh!)
Column 21 – Ever in prison or almshouse or hospitalized for care and treatment of the insane or supported by charity? If so, when? – NO (like, who is going to admit to that?!)
Column 22 – Whether a polygamist? – NO (clearly, this was way before everyone had their favorite Sister Wife on TLC)
Column 23 – Whether an anarchist? – NO (seriously, back in those days you did not want to identify as an anarchist!)
Column 24 – Whether a person who believes in or advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the United States or all forms of law, etc.? – NO (they still ask this question when you’re employed by the Federal government!)
Column 25 – Whether coming by reason of any offer, solicitation, promise, or agreement, expressed or implied, to labor in the United States? – NO (cuts down on the mail-order grooms)
Column 26 – Whether the alien had been previously deported within one year? – NO
Well, that's it for the Sierra Ventana manifest. I hope you’ve enjoyed our in depth examination! Join us next week as we go further back in time to look at the manifest of the S. S. Vaderland, the ship that brought the Wissmann family to the United States!