Intelligence and Labour Department

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER X (16) start of chapter

There is another department at Castle Garden, which has proved of immense advantage to emigrants of both sexes—an Intelligence Office and Labour Exchange. Fortunately for the interests of those who desire to employ and to be employed, this is becoming every day better known, and consequently more generally availed of; and through its operation employment is obtained for all kinds of labour, agricultural, manufacturing, and domestic. There are two such offices in the building, one for men and the other for women. A register, which I had the opportunity of examining, is carefully kept, in which the names of persons requiring employment, or wanting to employ hands, are entered; and in which, in case of hiring, all necessary particulars are likewise set down. This register is thus not only a means of affording useful information respecting individuals to friends who seek intelligence of them, but also of protection to the parties employed; inasmuch as if the employer violates his contract—which is embodied in his proposal—he may be sued on the part of the Commissioners, to whom the emigrant is an object of official care for five years after his or her landing at New York. It frequently happens that, through the operation of this bureau, persons are enabled to procure employment on landing, and go off at once to those who hired them by anticipation. But it must be understood that the chances of employment are generally more in favour of females than of males; and that they are terribly against the latter, if they come out at a wrong season—which is towards the Autumn, and all through the Winter. The girl or woman, assuming that she desires to work and is capable of it, may come out at any season of the year, Winter or Summer; but the man who looks for out-door employment should come out when the Spring work is opening —certainly not sooner than March, or later than October. The total number of males provided with employment last year—1866—through the Intelligence Office and Labour Exchange, Castle Garden, was 2,191; of females, 6,303; of both sexes, through the Commissioners' agents, at Buffalo, Albany, and Rochester, 1,289; and at the office of the German Society in New York, 988—making in all, 10,771.

I saw a number of women and girls, generally young, in a large apartment of the building, employed in knitting or sewing, waiting to be hired for various purposes, whether in factories, in stores, or in domestic occupations.

One of the latest improvements in the Emigration Depôt at Castle Garden is its direct connection by telegraph with every part of the United States and the British Provinces; so that an emigrant, on landing, may at once communicate with expecting friends in any part of North America.

Having referred to some of the most salient features of the establishment at Castle Garden, I may briefly glance at Ward's Island, which is the crowning feature of the whole, combining everything necessary for the care and comfort and protection of the stranger which enlightened benevolence and practical experience could suggest, or the most liberal expenditure could provide. When one remembers the bed of broken straw, the rotten flour, the decayed vegetables, the putrid meat, specially procured for the sick emigrants of 1847 and 1848, by the ship-brokers of that day, one may well invoke a blessing on the noble-hearted men to whose humanity, courage, and perseverance the existing system is mainly due.

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