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The Search for Swiss Roots
The Search for Swiss Roots

Emigration Societies

Letters from family members and friends who had Switzerland often contained glowing reports of their new lives and the opportunities available in America.
Specialized emigration agencies sprang up, arranging transport and other services. 
The quality of some of these agencies left much to be desired: travel conditions could be very rudimentary, and some cheated their clients by selling them poor quality land at a high price. In 1888 the Swiss government clamped down on them, insisting that they must apply for a license in order to be allowed to operate.

Volksblatt, August 1850, quoting a businessman from Birsfelden, Canton Basel-Country
In Basel you buy a ticket to Le Havre at the post office, which costs 62 francs. You travel by train as far as Mulhouse. You go on to Paris by post coach, and from there by train in the night coach to Le Havre. You arrive in Le Havre to be met by a swarm of hustlers all persuading you into their hotel. Any provision an emigrant buys in Le Havre is likely to be expensive and of bad quality.

I don't know how a traveler can protect himself from annoyance when he arrives in New York; the best advice is never to let his luggage out of his hand and if he intends to journey inland, to set off straight away by steamer or train. The main reason why it is impossible to avoid being cheated is lack of English: that is also why things are usually difficult for every immigrant in the first year.

For some people in Switzerland the encouragement of emigration was regarded as an act of philanthropy, benefiting both those who left and those who stayed.
Kaspar Kopfli, founder of New Switzerland, later Highland, Illinois, farewell letter, 1831
The motive which confirmed us in our undertaking was the noble intention to prepare the way on which many family father, otherwise active but now without work and plagued by hunger and worry, may obtain for themselves a more comforting future. The learned world may preach against it as much as it wants; it can be proven as a matter of fact that the old world is suffering from an ailment from which it can only be cured by a promotion of colonization. It is called overpopulation.
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