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In 1870, a period of "Russification" began; the Russian government implemented a policy to try to stamp out different ethnic groups within the country.

Beyond the Pale. Russian Jews.Beyond the Pale.

Basic rights were taken away from many people, including the Jews. Jews were forced to move to the Pale settlement, a small region of western Russia and eastern Poland. The conditions and jobs available in the Pale were poor. Following the assassination of Alexander II in 1881, violent pogroms in the area caused many deaths. These conditions led to a huge influx of Russian Jewish immigrants.

During the late 19th century and early 20th century, many Russian Jews came to the United States for a variety of reasons, most notably because of the persecution, discrimination, fear, and economic problems they faced in Russia. Of the eight million immigrants immigrating to America from Russia and Austria-Hungary between 1880 and 1914, 2-1/2 million were Jews. The word "Russian" includes immigrants of Russian ethnicity, along with eastern Slavs from Belorussia, Ukraine, and members of the former Hapsburg Austrian province of Galicia.

Russian, Jews, Pogroms.Russians, Jews, Pogroms of 1881-1882.Living conditions for Russian Jews in the late 1800's were comparable to Ireland's "throes of famine." Their homes were scarcely furnished shacks, crowded with children and elderly relatives, with meager amounts of food. Some areas were so poor that they were reduced to eating bread and water. In Galicia, many Jews starved to death annually. In 1870, the Russian government revoked freedom of worship, draft exemption, and legal autonomy from all of its citizens, stimulating Russian Jewish emigration.

A government sponsored policy, labeled "Cold Pogrom" or "Russification Program," was created to destroy Jewish life and designed to "stamp out the many different ethnic cultures within the Czar's realm."1 It's official hope was that 1/3 of Russia's Jews would die out, 1/3 would emigrate, and 2/3 would be converted to the Orthodox Church.

The assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881 and the pogrom that followed marked the beginning of a new influx of Russian Jewish immigrants to the United States. In Russia, there were now even harsher restrictions on Jewish religion, education, and professional activities. Jews were forced to live within the Pale of Settlement, a crowded area in western Russia, and were not permitted to Russify their names. They were barred from agriculture and forced to make a living as artisans and peddlers. In certain sections of the Pale, ten Jewish peddlers competed for the business of one hundred peasants. General studies were also not allowed to be included in the curriculum of Jewish religious schools. Persecution and discrimination continued in 1892, when hundreds of innocent Jewish families were evicted from the Crimean town of Yalta. By this time, Jews in St. Petersburg had already been forced to indicate on their shops not only the family name of the owner, but his first name and his father's names. This was ordered so that the government and the public could easily determine whether the owner was a Jew.

Russian Jews.Russian Jews.During this period, Jews lived in constant fear of being beaten, robbed, and even murdered by their gentile neighbors. Russian peasants took out their frustration about the Russian economy on the Jews by killing thousands of helpless people. One group, called the Barefoot Brigades, were bands of marauding Russian peasants who brought devastation and slaughter to Jewish towns and cities. After these episodes, Jews from all over Eastern Europe talked wistfully of "going to America." They thought of it as the "goldene medinah" (the golden province) and "the land of milk and honey."

Venturing to America was an adventure and a trial for most of the poor Jewish immigrants. The steamships that the immigrants rode on were not very large, and hundreds of people were crowded inside them. Most immigrants were poor, so they traveled in the lowest, or steerage class. The living conditions on the ships were horrible and disease infested. On the boat ride to America, many Orthodox Jews ate only herring, black bread, and tea that they had brought along with them because they feared that the ship's food was not Kosher. Often, the husband went to America first, and got a job. When earned enough money for his family's passage, he sent for his wife and children.

Russian Jews.Russia.

Ellis Island in New York Harbor and Castle Garden in the Battery proved to be almost as traumatic as the long journey to America. An immigrant described Castle Garden as, "a large building, a Gehenna, through which all Jewish arrivals must pass to be cleansed before they are considered worthy of breathing freely the air of the land of the almighty dollar. . ."2 Once the immigrants had arrived at Ellis Island, they waited in a big room for hours upon hours finally to be questioned in a language they did not comprehend. Many of the immigration officers could not understand the foreign dialects. When the immigrants told them their names, the officers shortened them, to make them simpler. The immigrants were then tested for various diseases. Of particular concern was glaucoma and influenza. Finally, if they successfully passed all of these tests, the immigrants were released into the big city all alone.

From 1880 to 1914, there was a new wave of Russian immigrants coming to America, which included poor peasants, such as the Molokans (who arrived after 1905), and persecuted Jews.

November 1, 1890, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

The Crusade Against Jews

St. Petersburg. It is stated that since the accession of Czar Alexandar in 1881, 270,000 Jews have been expelled from Russia.

December 23, 1890, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Exodus of Russian Jews.

Berlin, Dec. 2_ Thirty thousand Russian Jews are expected to arrive in Hamburg soon, and arrangements are being made to send them to Brazil.

May 13, 1892, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Expelled From Russia.

St. Petersburg, May 12 -- Ten thousand foreign Jews in Odessa have been ordered to leave Russia forthwith.

May 20, 1893, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

Jews Expelled

Merv. A new ukase has been issued expelling the Jews from the Asiatic provinces of Russia. It will cause widespread suffering.

October 9, 1903, The Ogden Standard, Ogden City, Utah, U.S.A.

Driven Within the Pale of Jewish Settlement,
They Are Becoming More Destitute and Wretched.

New York, Oct. 8 Fresh from a visit to the great centers of Jewish population in Russia, Michael Davitt has written his estimate of the conditions and future of those people in a volume entitled "Within the Pale," which will be issued tomorrow from the presses of A. S. Barnes and company. "The Jew, as he is ruled and oppressed by Russian officials, is a far greater danger to Russian autocracy than anti-Semitism is to the Israelites of the Pale," declares Mr. Davitt, in the preface to his work. "The danger," he continues, "was candidly avowed by all the representative Russians from whom I solicited light and information."

Mr. Davitt sees further catastrophe ahead because unnatural economic and social conditions within the pale of settlement," he writes, "are so objective that the warning they give of a coming catastrophe cannot be ignored.

Russian Jews.Russia.
A Polish Jew in Russia

It would be like leaving an epidemic of smallpox to cure itself by neglect. This condition of things is fully explained and expressed by the term unnatural. It is analogous to a situation which would result from a federal law compelling every European-born artisan and laborer within the whole United States to reside inside of Pennsylvania and to be forbidden to seek employment outside the cities and towns of that state. The murderous competition for employment, the deadly rivalry for existence, the bad blood between opposing races, the poverty and social wretchedness which such a condition of things would create apart from the operation of coercive laws can readily be imagined by the American reader. But this is no overdrawn picture of the economic anarchy prevailing within the Russian pale of Jewish settlement.

"The towns are crowded with artisans and traders and, as these are out of all proportion to the producers and consumers of an agricultural Country, they necessarily become more destitute and wretched as their numbers increase. They are too poor to emigrate. They are prohibited from migrating. They are not permitted to engage in several occupations."

Mr. Davitt asserts that the Czar can accomplish much for the Jews in his domain by destroying the legend of the blood atonement. "M. De Plehve and the Czar," he avers, "can accomplish one good and blessed work, if so minded, without altering a single anti-Semitic Russian law. The emperor can destroy in Russia the atrocious legend about me annual killing of Christian children by Jews as an alleged part of the blood atonement in Hebrew Paschal rites. In this humane and Christina task he is entitled to the cooperation of the Emperor of Austria, the King of Roumania, and the heads of the other Balkan states, where this story of ritual murder is constantly circulated, and not infrequently as a part of political propaganda. There ought to be a truly Christian crusade waged against this infamous product of ancient sectarian hale."

Mr. Davit calls attention to the striking economic growth of Russia, in the following sentences:

"What Russia is accused of coveting in Manchuria or devising in Persia and not what she is strenuously and rapidly achieving in the sphere of her vast domestic activities, exercises the critical attention of West European and American journalism. And yet the wide and sure and extraordinary progress that is being made in the economic development of a great empire, as self contained in its measureless natural resources as the United States, and with an assured domestic market for most of her manufactured products in a population of fully 140,000,000 growing at a rate of upwards of 2,000,000 annually out of a natural increase ought to be a subject of infinitely greater concern to the public thought of commercial rivals like Great Britain as it undoubtedly is in the keener sense of German competition than what Russian policy may or may not mean in its diplomatic trend in the Far East.

Returning to the subject of the Jew, and discussing the amelioration of his condition, Mr. Davitt: says:

"'I have come from a journey through the Jewish pale, and a convinced believer in the remedy of Zionism. I failed to see any other that can offer an equal hope of success. It is a necessity of the actual situation and faces the growing perils of the Russian Jew with a contagious plan of repatriation. Hope for partial or ultimate emancipation in Russia there is none. Other countries cannot be expected to relieve Russia of the unhappy victims of oppression and poverty. Where, then, are they to go?"

May 20, 1904, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, Califorrnia, U.S.A.

Jews Declare Their Loyalty

POLTAVA. Russia, Wednesday, May I8. The Emperor during his visit here to-day was waited upon by a deputation of Jews, who assured him of the loyalty of themselves and their co-religlonists.

May 25, 1905, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, Califorrnia, U.S.A.

Jews Ordered Within the Pale

Kieff, Russia, May 24. Governor General Kleigels has ordered all the Jews who have not permission to live in this city to return within the Pale.

The Pale, with its large Catholic and Jewish populations, was acquired by the Russian Empire (which was majority Russian Orthodox) in a series of military conquests and diplomatic manoeuvres between 1791 and 1835, and lasted until the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917.

March 18, 1906, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California

Witte's Instructions for Being Warned of Threats Are Being Blocked.
Stoessel Appeals to Nogl

By Associated Press. ST. PETERSBURG, March 17. There is already evidence that only a check and not defeat has been administered to the reactionists who are conducting the anti-Semitic agitation.

Sergie Yulyevich Witte. (1840-1915>

Russian Jews.Russia.

Russian minister of finance (1892-1903) and first constitutional prime minister of the Russian Empire (1905-06), who sought to wed firm authoritarian rule to modernization along Western lines. Witte showed his freedom from bureaucratic prejudice by appointing men of all nationalities Jews, Poles, Ukrainians as his subordinates and by cultivating favourable press relations. His economic acumen was shown in his collection and use of railway statistics and in the implementation of an effective freight tariff whereby he lowered freight rates and increased revenue.

He had to look on in impotence as the government blundered into war with Japan. But he was to render highly important services to the empire in 1905 and 1906. In July 1905 he was appointed chief Russian plenipotentiary to conduct peace negotiations with Japan. He obtained unexpectedly favourable terms for Russia, but his achievement did not make him any more popular.

Premier Witte, after he had forced a decision of the cabinet to suppress the agitatlon, knowing the audacity of his opponents, took the precaution privately to ask the Jewish leaders to notify him instantly whenever the Jewish inhabitants of any locality were threatened, in order to place him In a position to insist that measures be taken to protect, them. The Jewish leaders charge that the reactionary clique, with the connivance of sympathetic local governdr generals, are boldly arranging to block such warnings. The leaders claim to have proof that orders have been given at several places, specifically citing Vitebek, West Russia, not to transmit messages to the premier warning him of the imminence of trouble. It is further charged, but proof is lacking, that this was done with the knowledge of Interior Minister Durnovo.

It has been established that Count Podgorichance, chief of the gendarmerie of Gomel, West Russia, who armed a mob there, while ostentatiously dismissed by M. Durnovo, in reality was only transferred to a better position at Yalta, Crimea.

In spite of the official denial of the shooting of undesirable refugees sent back to Russia from England, private information has been obtained tending partially to support the charge. Many of the refugees were sent to Baltic ports, where the authorities are showing no mercy to revolutionists, despite the emperor's instructions to display greater leniency. When the refugees disembarked, having fled from Russia without vised passports, they were regarded as suspects and some of them were given a short shrift.

September 15, 1907, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California

Thousands of Jews Leave Russia

Jews, God and History.Jews, God and History.By Associated Press. ST. PETERSBURG, Sept. 14. The Jewish emigration bureau today published statistics showing that over 100,000 Jews have emigrated from Russia to the United States since 1899, the number having increased from 24,276 in that year to 200,000 In 1906. In addition many Jews emigrated to England, Canada and South America.

Except in places where immigration was restricted such as the Russian Empire it was fairly easy to travel from an obscure European village to the United States by the late 19th century. A potential immigrant contracted with a shipping company agent, often a local cleric or teacher, who informed the head office at the departure port. The agent then received a departure date and ticket voucher, which he passed along to the immigrant, who boarded a train for the port city. If the port of embarkation was Bremen, immigrants could almost step directly from the train onto their ship the city had railroad track leading right onto the docks.

March 13, 1911, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

United Mass Meeting Will Be Held on Wednesday Evening, March 15

OAKLAND, March 12. Indications point to a large attendance at the mass meeting to be held Wednesday evening, March 15, in the synagogue, Twelfth and Castro streets, under the auspices of the First Hebrew congregation and the B'nai B'rith lodge. Rabbi M. Friedlander, head of the committee in charge of the gathering is making great efforts to arouse the public as to the condition of the Jews in Russia, the object of the meeting being to protest against the persecution of the Jews in that country. A call has been made to every Jewish organization to help in the fight to arouse the American conscience upon the true conditions in Russia.

Among the speakers will be Benjamin Ide Wheeler of the University of California; Rev. Frank L. Goodspeeil, pastor of the First Presbyterian church, and William R. Davis. The committee in charge is composed of Rabbi Friedlander, Milton Shwarz and Morris Schneider.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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