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An Explosion of Mail

photo of The Bond of the Scattered Family section of the An Explosion of Mail exhibit

Letters joined these immigrants first to their lands of origin and later to their children and grandchildren as these generations, in turn, moved on to other parts of this country. 

Many of the newest residents in American cities were recent immigrants. Letters were crucial to their lives, connecting immigrants first to their homelands, and later to children and grandchildren as these new American generations moved on to other parts of the nation. In 1889 alone, over 87 million letters and cards were exchanged between Europe and the United States, twenty-two times as much correspondence as flowed between the two continents in the years prior to the Civil War. 

Letters joined these immigrants first to their lands of origin and later to their children and grandchildren as these generations, in turn, moved on to other parts of this country. 

Visitors can turn these immigrant photos to hear and read excerpts of letters from some of the many new Americans who relied upon the mail as a lifeline to loved ones back home.

Listen to Audio Files

An MP3 file player is required to play these audio clips.


Audio File: Jung to her father

Jung wrote from China in 1930 to her father in New York City, reassuring him that her brother Hu was behaving well and working diligently at his studies. 

Audio File: Angelo di Angelantonio to his family

Angelo di Angelantonio, a native of Italy, found America the country of his dreams. Although he was illiterate, Angelantonio in the late 1880s dictated this letter to his family in a small farming community east of Rome. 

Audio File: Walter Borkowski to his wife

Walter Borkowski wrote to his wife of his fear that she had forgotten him. His letter and those of other Polish immigrants in the United States during the 1890s were intercepted by Polish authorities and never delivered. 

Audio File: Jacob Cohen to his family

Writing in Yiddish to his family in Poland, Jacob Cohen in November 1890 enclosed steamer tickets and instructions to join him in America. His letter was one of thousands confiscated by the Polish government in its attempt to stop Poles from leaving the country. 

Audio File: Charley to his friend Charles

Charley, an immigrant from Belfast, Northern Ireland, wrote from the Bronx, New York, to his friend, Charles Connor, in 1907 of the high unemployment and low wages he had found in America.