Immigrant's Suitcase

Original content by: Emma Ritter

zoomable artifact image here

About This Artifact

Adventure, travel, prosperity, socioeconomic stability, freedom from persecution or discrimination, curiosity, or simply getting a fresh start - these were all reasons why many people immigrated to the Americas from countries around the world. Prior to the expansion of air travel after World War II, most of these immigrants arrived aboard passenger ships.

As immigrants first started to arrive by passenger ship they could be seen with large streamer trunks which held their prized possessions. By the end of the 19th century, suitcases (or suit-cases) were introduced to travelers. Besides the clothes they wore, the trunks and suitcases carried meaningful articles that provided immigrants with their only material link to life in their native countries. We know little about the history of the suitcase featured in these photographs prior to its acquisition by the Museum. Its label indicates that it belonged to Eugenio Amoroso and it was used on the passenger ship Saturnia of the SS Italia Line. 

The Saturnia, operated by Italia Società Di Navigazione, made yearly translatantic trips and was highly influencial in Italian immigration for decades.  It is probable that Mr. Amoroso is the same man identified in Ellis Island records as Eugenio Ambrosio, who traveled alone from Naples, Italy to New York aboard the Saturnia in 1949. Names of new immigrants were often changed, both by immigrants themselves and by immigration officials struggling through language barriers. Records from the Saturnia's manifest show that Mr. Ambrosio carried only one suitcase on the long transatlantic trip from Italy to the United States. The ship departed Naples, Italy on July 23 and made stops at Gibraltar and the Azores before arriving in New York City on January 1st, 1950. 

Questions for Further Thought

  1. What events in Europe in the late 1940s were contributing to immigration? Why was America considered the best place to immigrate?
  2. Trace your family lineage as far back as you can. What part of your personal family history might be important to local or U.S. history?
  3. Why would people leave their homes, families, and familiar surroundings to board a passenger ship bound for another country?