The Business of Immigration

DuPont powder labelDuPont Company View

Why did company officials at DuPont choose to involve themselves in the process of immigration? The company could have easily left the task of arranging passages to the worker who wanted to sponsor his relatives or friends.

A letter written to agent Andrew C. Craig gives some clues to the company's motivation:

"I would observe that in ordering passages & procuring exchanges for hands the object is to meet the wishes of persons to whom we are indebted for their good conduct...our course is intended as a facility to our own hands & as a small reward for the attachment they show us."

By helping their employees arrange passages, the company also helped to keep their community more stable, as well as providing themselves with a constant supply of available labor.

Image: Gunpowder label, Volume 2, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. Labels, ca. 1819-1865.

More About Immigration

Bread Laws

In the early 1840s, conflict emerged surrounding whether the passengers or the ship should provide food for the journey. In the 1700s, most ships had provided food for passengers, but by 1800, the burden of food purchasing and preperation had shifted to the emigrants.

Some ships did provide food and water for the passengers, but the stores frequently ran out before the ship reached the United States. Passengers who brought their own food often ran out as well, and some unscrupulous shipmasters took the opportunity to sell food and water to the emigrants at extremely high prices.

Drawing of emigrants eating on board ship
Emigrants at dinner
Illustrated London News
April 1844

By 1843, the British government required ships to provide "bread stuffs," which Robert Taylor described as "oatmeal, ship bread, and potatoes, one pound for each day of either of the two former - or five pounds of the latter." In 1847, Andrew Craig expressed his dissatisfaction with the law in a letter to DuPont: "The Bread law has given us a great deal of trouble."

Craig also had complaint about what he perceived to be unrealistic expectations from some passengers, claiming, "This season we are shipping American bread for the stores and are confident the passengers will be pleased with it, but do what you will for those people they must complain. It is natural for them to do so."

A.J. Catherwood expressed a similar sentiment in 1850: "Some people you cannot satisfy, no matter if you gave them pound cake every day."

Shipping Companies

Thomas P. Cope (Philadelphia to Liverpool)

The Thomas P. Cope line was an American shipping company that ran between Liverpool and Philadelphia beginning in 1821. Cope's main ships were the "Tonawanda," the "Tuscarora," and the "Wyoming."

J & J Cooke (Londonderry to Philadelphia and Quebec)

J & J Cooke was an Irish shipping line founded in 1837 by John and Joseph Cooke. Cooke's ships sailed from Londonderry to both Philadelphia and Quebec. Generally, the ships would carry cargo from North America to Ireland and then return with immigrants.

Cooke owned several ships, including the "Londonderry," "Envoy," "Superior," "Mary Campbell," "Mary Ann," and "Argentinus." The firm also chartered other vessels from time to time.

Of the 12,385 immigrants that sailed out of Londonderry during the Famine year of 1847, 41% were carried by Cooke ships in more than 20 sailings to North America. The "Superior" made many trips to Philadelphia carrying immigrants whose passages had been arranged by DuPont.

​McCorkell & Company (Londonderry to North America)

The McCorkell Line was founded in 1778 and by 1830, the company owned two passenger vessels that regularly traveled from Londonderry to North America - the "Marcus Hill" and the "President." The "Caroline" and the "Erin" were added in the next few years, and the "Mohongo" joined the line in 1855.

George McHenry & Company (Philadelphia to Liverpool)

George McHenry & Co.'s Philadelphia and Liverpool line of packets was owned and operated by DuPont agent George McHenry. McHenry's packet ships the "Berlin," the "Mary Pleasants," the "Shenandoah," the "Shackamaxon," and the "Westmoreland" ran scheduled routes between Liverpool and Philadelphia.

The Role of Immigration Agents

John and William Warner, 1809-1811

Brothers John and William Warner began a business partnership in 1793 and were soon providing packet service between Philadelphia and Wilmington on the ships "Charlotte," "Hope," and "Julia."

Eventually, however, they parted ways. John maintained the shipping business in Philadelphia and William opened a store in Wilmington. The Warners were close friends of E.I. du Pont and also some of the earliest agents to sell DuPont gunpowder. The Warners brought over the Barrett family in 1809 as well as an unnamed person on the "Medford" in 1911.

John Welsh, 1823-1829

John Welsh worked as a clerk in a Philadelphia counting house before starting his own shipping firm. He was the originator and director of the Philadelphia Bank as well as two insurance agencies. In addition to procuring passages for immigrants, Welsh also imported raw materials including brimstone for E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

Robert Taylor, 1830-1855

In 1799, at the age of 25, Robert Taylor emigrated to Philadelphia from Carrickshanrim, County Donegal, Ireland. He founded the shipping firm Robert Taylor & Co., which later included his son, James L. Taylor, as well as Thomas Ferguson and Hugh Cassidy.

The company arranged passages from both Londonderry and Liverpool and also sent drafts overseas through James Corscaden & Co. in Londonderry. The firm regularly advertised in Philadelphia newspapers.

Taylor served as Director of the Bank of the United States and also held positions of office in the Society for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick for almost fifty years.

Washington Rice, 1833

DuPont arranged the majoirty of their passages through independent agents. The company had the longest relationship with Robert Taylor, who booked passages for DuPont from 1830 to 1850 and then again in 1854.

Other agents, such as James C. Aiken and Andrew C. Craig, worked with the company for just one season. The company was not afraid to switch agents to secure a cheaper price for tickets. Most of the agents, with the exception of George McHenry, did not own the ships on which they booked passages. Rather, the agents worked in tandem with agents in Londonderry and Liverpool to secure berths on various ships.

James C. Aiken, 1837

Not much is known about James C. Aiken. He booked approximately thirty passengers in 1837, though almost two-thirds of them were subsequently canceled and rebooked with other agents. Customers may have been swayed by the fact that Aiken charged $20.00 for a ticket from Londonderry, as opposed to the $25.00 that Robert Taylor charged at the same time.

The cancelations coupled with Aiken's subsequent disappearance from DuPont's records seem to suggest that either DuPont or the workers who were sponsoring passengers were not happy with Aiken's work.

Andrew C. Craig, 1847

Andrew C. Craig emigrated from Coleraine, County Derry, Ireland to Philadelphia in 1826, at the age of 16. Craig and Andrew J. Catherwood were business partners in the wholesale liquor firm Catherwood & Craig until the firm's dissolution in October of 1847.

Craig arranged passages for over 100 immigrants at the height of the Famine. After the dissolution of Catherwood & Craig, Catherwood took over the business of arranging passages. Craig then partnered with his brother Joseph to continue selling wholesale liquor. He also served as an officer in the Society for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick for thirty years.

Andrew J. Catherwood, 1848-1854

Andrew J. Catherwood was a partner in the wholesale liquor firm Catherwood & Craig until the firm's dissolution in October of 1847, at which point he took over the work of arranging passages from Andrew C. Craig.

Catherwood later worked with the family-owned distillery and liquor distribution firm, H. & H.W. Catherwood in Philadelphia. His brother, H. Wilson Catherwood, sometimes helped with passage arrangements when A.J. Catherwood was out of town. H. Wilson later arranged passages himself.

H. Wilson Catherwood, 1854

H. Wilson Catherwood was a partner with his father in the distillery and liquor distribution firm, H. & H.W. Catherwood in Philadelphia. A brother to Andrew J. Catherwood, H. Wilson began helping A.J. with passage orders when he was out of town. In 1854, he arranged passages on his own for approximately forty people.

George McHenry, 1851-1853

George McHenry was the owner of the George McHenry & Co. Philadelphia and Liverpool Line of Packets, which operated the packet ships "Berlin," "Mary Pleasants," "Shenandoah," "Shackamaxon," and "Westmoreland" between Liverpool and Philadelphia.

In addition to booking passages from Liverpool on his ships, McHenry also offered drafts drawn on the Liverpool firm of his brother, James McHenry. McHenry lived in Philadelphia and was a political writer and influential Democrat who supported secession and the Confederacy. McHenry acted as an agent for the Confederate government in England during the Civil War.