Lusitania Diary Excerpts

Mar 2, 2015

Expanded diary quotes from Chris Fredericksen's journey aboard the Lusitania in 1907. The Danish emigrant would later settle in Harlan, Iowa.

Onboard Conditions: “I got a two-man cabin and that was very nice. I am sharing it with a young Swede. It is new and clean and we have never seen anything better. The food is the way it was mentioned in the book. There are very many Polish people, but we do not mix with them. There must be around 1,000. There is a young Norwegian man who plays the piano and another plays the guitar and I play the violin; it is very uplifting having music. There are parties on deck; at one place there is dancing, at another there is singing, and maybe there is crying at a third. It will probably all work out.”

Translators Inga and Ralf Hoifeldt
Credit Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Sea sickness: “The seas are rough and there are not many on deck. The high waves come over the ship’s deck, it is a wonderful sight. It is fun to walk on the deck; almost like being drunk and having to hold on to something. Nothing new on the schedule; only big waves and vomiting.”

On the Food: “Today the dining hall is full of many kinds of people who are speaking many different languages. The food is good, so we shall not complain. They are serving English meals with soup every day and a lot of meat. Sister Thine is going to make coffee for us Danes. It is not easy to get hot water on board or to make coffee.”

Social Commentary: “They say there is going to be a wedding here today and it is probably true. It is a young Finn who became confused last night when he was going to bed; he got into the cabin of a young girl, also a Finn naturally, and he spent the night there. It was supposed to have been by accident, but it was against both morality and the law and they would be denied admission to the country for that kind of behavior. Since this would mean being sent back home they thought that marriage was preferable. It should not be too bad for them, since they can be together another day and night. Free love is probably being played here. They are dancing 4-5 on the deck now and the Finns are lustily swinging each other around.”

Arrival in New York: “We came into the harbor and it was nice to sail toward land since there was so much to see. One could immediately see that it was a foreign shore. The buildings and everything else were different than at home, also large-scale. The city was a beautiful sight at night, with its thousands of lights and the many ships moving back and forth, all brightly illuminated.”

Ellis Island: “On Monday morning we had our last breakfast and then went ashore and had our customs inspection. It was easy; we just lifted the (baggage) lid and then we got on another ship and sailed to a different place for a medical inspection. They just looked at our eyes and we spent most of the day there.”

Chris and his wife Maren, who waited for him in Chicago
Credit Chris Fredericksen / Family archives

Train Trip to Chicago: “All the way we saw small houses in which the farmers live and we saw cows and small calves and horses and sheep everywhere. What really encouraged me on the trip was the great number of church towers; they looked so neat although they were built of wood. The cemeteries were different; I saw many, both large ones and small ones. The towns we traveled through all seemed primitive; hardly any paved streets but much trash along the roads. And the roads were a mess of clay.”

On Greeting His Fiancé:“I have shaved and bathed so that I can be presentable. We rushed out pushing each other; I carried my violin and guitar. I thought she would recognize me the way she had seen me last. I looked around and then to my surprise I saw Maren (his fiancé) standing there embracing Thine (her sister). She turned around and soon came to me. I probably do not need to tell you how we greeted each other.”