Monthly Archives: July 2023

Red Star Line Museum

Emigration to America

A couple of years ago while visiting friends in Belgium we drove a short distance from Brussels to the nearby port city of Antwerp.

Antwerp is Belgium’s second largest city. It’s situated along the Schedt River which empties into the North Sea which is turn connects to the Atlantic Ocean.

One of the world’s biggest ports, Antwerp handles more cargo than any other port in Europe except nearby Rotterdam. Seeing the inviting waterfront surrounding us, we took a very pleasant sightseeing boat ride on the Sheldt.

After our sightseeing excursion, we explored the streets of Antwerp and stumbled upon the Red Star Line Museum.

The Red Star Line was a shipping company that operated between Antwerp and the eastern seaboard of the USA and Canada. Throughout Europe they advertised their routes and from 1873 to 1934 – sixty years – Antwerp was a center for emigration from the continent. Emigrants from Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Netherlands, France, Italy and other countries traveled to Antwerp to board the ships bound for North America.

More than two million Europeans were passengers on the Red Star Line steamships from Antwerp to America’s large metropolitan centers – New York, Philadelphia, Boston. Paintings and displays in the museum depict the many travelers in Antwerp’s streets preparing for the long and challenging journey across the ocean to a destination that promised them a new, brighter future.

On display are curated personal belongings – clothing, suitcases, diaries, photographs, jewelry, toys – that punctuate the stories of individuals and families who decided to leave their homeland hoping for a better life.

For me, the Red Star Line Museum highlighted the overwhelming struggle that millions of individuals experienced reaching for a better future by having to brave the unknowns of emigrating to America.

If you’re interested in learning more, here’s the link to the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp.