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Steerage

June 2024
1min read

Thank you for printing Karl S. Puffe’s journal of his Atlantic crossing a century ago (April). As you can see from my last name, my ancestors made the same crossing. In fact, my father’s grandfather Herman Stuehrmann, a native of Bremerhaven, made the crossing about the same time as Mr. Puffe. On my mother’s side the crossing has been almost legendary. We grew up with the story of how her grandfather Henry Schweer learned to walk crossing the Atlantic in the early 184Os. (My mother’s parents were a full generation older than my father’s parents.)

I often think of the difficulty of my forebears’ journey to this country, especially when my wife, our children, and I visit my wife’s family in the Philippines. We gripe about the narrow seats, the airline food, and the length of the trip—even though we’re not seasick, the food is at least edible, and we’ll be at our destination in less than a day. Thinking of Elizabeth Schweer and her children at sea long enough for young Henry to learn to walk puts some perspective on the “rigors” of air travel.

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