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In 1901, between 40 and 65 percent came either on prepaid tickets or with money sent to them from the United States.Since all steerage tickets were sold without space reservations, obtaining a ticket was easy.
Steerage passengers walked past the tiny deck space, squeezed past the ship’s machinery and were directed down steep stairways into the enclosed lower decks.
They were now in steerage, which was to be their prison for the rest of their ocean journey.
Sometimes travelers would have to wait days, weeks and even months at the port, either for their paperwork to be completed or for their ship to arrive because train schedules were not coordinated with sailing dates.
Assuming their paperwork was in order and tickets had been purchased, some provision was usually made for the care of the emigrants waiting for a ship.
Often those who arrived first would send a prepaid ticket back home to the next family member.
It is believed that in 1890, between 25 and 50 percent of all immigrants arriving in America had prepaid tickets.
It is, however, almost impossible to relate such a combination of overwhelming circumstances to the experience of one immigrant, or even of one family.
Although more than 12 million people passed through Ellis Island on their way to the promise of a better life in America, they walked through its gates one at a time, individual by individual.
Unfortunately, the laws were almost impossible to enforce and steerage conditions remained deplorable, almost beyond belief.
As late as 1911, in a report to President William H.