Curator’s Catch

September 2017: A Promotional Passport Wallet

A Promotional Passport Wallet
  • Accession No.: 1982.11.01b
  • Donor: Sayde Flint
  • Description:

    Printed linen with leather edging, 1912

Our collection holds a range of objects that tell us stories about transit and transition. This passport wallet with an image of an impressive steamboat on its front is a perfect example. It held a Russian passport and was carried by Jacob Flint on his transatlantic journey to the U.S.

In 1912, Jacob, the oldest of four children, left his hometown of Warsaw (then Russia) and traveled to America. His passport reveals that he was a young man in his early 20s at the time and called by his Yiddish name Yankel - which he Americanized soon after his arrival in New York. A year later, his mother and two of his siblings followed him to the U.S. and Jacob eternalized these two milestone dates for his family on the inlay of the passport wallet. 

The handwritten dates conform to our research on the Flint family in the U.S. Census of 1920.

The Polish inscription advertises the services of Friedrich Missler travel agency: “Boarding office for passengers for express steamships to America. Bank and money exchange.”

We do not have a personal report about Jacob’s exact trip, but looking closer at the writing and imagery on the linen wallet and conducting more background research, his journey yet unravels. Friedrich Missler was a prominent travel agency based in Bremen (northern Germany) that specialized in passages for Eastern European emigrants to the U.S. and catered to their specific needs. Jacob Flint likely received this passport wallet as a promotional item when he purchased his ticket with them. Following a typical emigration route from Warsaw, he took a 600-mile train ride to Bremen where he would await his departure in the Missler Halls - an interim accommodation reserved for Eastern European customers of the Friedrich Missler travel agency. He then embarked on a steamboat in Bremerhaven, the harbor of Bremen, and after several days at sea and immigration procedures at Ellis Island, he would finally arrive in New York.

Jacob’s family later on came to the nation’s capital and his wife Sayde donated these travel documents to our collection, commemorating Jacob’s journey from Warsaw to the U.S. that marked one of the most important events in their family’s chronicle.

In our new museum, this passport wallet will be on display alongside other “remnants” from their homes that immigrants brought to America. We pair them with more recent immigration stories and explore what these valued personal objects tell us about their owners’ hopes and dreams for their lives in America. If you have artifacts that help us tell your family’s immigration story, please contact us at info@jhsgw.org