Bogus Tickets

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER X (10) start of chapter

Among the most fruitful means of fraud was the sale of tickets. These tickets were of various kinds—tickets sold at exorbitant prices, but good for the journey; tickets which carried the passenger only a portion of his journey, though sold for the entire route; and tickets utterly worthless, issued by companies that had long before been bankrupt, or by companies that existed only in imagination. These latter are called 'bogus' tickets; and these were sold in Europe as well as in America—in village and country town, as in city and in seaport; and not rarely were they palmed off on the confiding passenger, as 'a great bargain,' by a sympathising, good-natured fellow-passenger, who, by the merest luck, had bought them cheap from a family he knew at home, that had 'changed their minds, and wouldn't cross over, being afeard of the say.'

In 1848 the Commissioners of Emigration issued a circular, in which these passages occur:—

As may be supposed, there are many people engaged in the business of forwarding these emigrants, and the individuals or companies thus engaged employ a host of clerks or servants, called 'runners' who try to meet the new-comer on board the ship that brings him or immediately after he puts his foot on shore, for the purpose of carrying him to the forwarding offices for which they respectively act. The tricks resorted to, in order to forestall a competitor and secure the emigrant, would be amusing, if they were not at the cost of the inexperienced and unexpecting stranger; and it is but too true that an enormous sum of money is annually lost to the emigrants by the wiles and false statements of the emigrant runners, many of them originally from their own country, and speaking their native language.

Of late the field of operations of these 'emigrant runners' is no longer confined to this city; it extends to Europe. .... They generally call themselves agents of some transportation, or forwarding bureau, and endeavour to impress the emigrant who intends going farther than New York with the belief that it is for his benefit, and in the highest degree desirable, to secure his passage hence to the place of his destination, before he leaves Europe. .... He is told that, unless he does so, he runs great risk of being detained, or having to pay exorbitant prices. .............

Instances have come to the knowledge of the Commissioners, where the difference amounted to three dollars a person. But this is not all. The cases are by no means rare in which the tickets prove entirely worthless. They bear the name of offices which never existed, and then, of course, are nowhere respected; or, the offices whose names they bear will be found shut up, and are not likely ever to re-open: or the emigrants are directed to parties refusing to acknowledge the agent who issued the tickets, and in all these cases the emigrant loses the money paid for them.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America