Peter Albert Reinshagen made the journey from Bremen to New York on the SS Mosel in 1877, joining 2.9 million Germans immigrating to America during the years 1840 – 1880 (the largest group of immigrants in the US at the time). While attempting to track down clues about Peter’s life and death, the first research finding was the dire history of the ship he boarded on a late Spring day.
The ocean liner SS “Mosel” was built in 1872 by Caird & Co. of Greenock, Scotland for Norddeutscher Lloyd [North German Lloyd], one of the most important German shipping companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although a steamship, the Mosel was rigged with sails as was typical during the time period, and at 3+ tons of iron construction, 349 feet long x 40 feet broad, it had service speed of 13 knots via screw propulsion, and accommodations for more than 800 passengers (90 1st class, 126 2nd class, and 600 3rd class).
The ship’s name comes from the Mosel river that flows through France, Luxembourg, and one of Germany’s most beautiful river valleys with terraced vineyard hillsides, wine villages and castle ruins.
Maiden Voyage: April 1, 1873, Bremen-Southampton-New York
Ship’s Captain and Crew: August Hermann Friedrich Neynaber (1822-1899), served as captain of the Mosel and many other ocean liners from 1866 to 1881. The crews of North German Lloyd steamships were most often all German, and the stokers, or “firemen”, with the miserable job of shoveling coal into the furnaces to raise steam for the engines, usually outnumbered sailors two to one.
Catastrophic Crime on December 11, 1875 An infamous 19th century criminal, Alexander Keith, Jr. (aka William King Thomas) masterminded an insurance fraud scheme involving the bombing of ships. In Bremerhaven, Germany, a time bomb Keith had placed in a shipping barrel detonated prematurely when dropped on the dock during loading. Two ships were overturned by the blast, 200 people injured and 80 killed, most aboard the Mosel.
Keith was on board another ship in Bremerhaven at the time of the explosion. After learning of the destruction and deadly consequences of his failed plan, he went to his cabin, shot himself, and died a week later.
May 26, 1877: Peter Albert began the voyage from Bremen to New York on the SS Mosel. The trip covers a distance of approximately 3,600 nautical miles, and the average travel time for the Mosel was 9+ days.
While this route is recorded as starting from Bremen, the Mosel is docked and departs from the port city of Bremerhaven (Bremen’s harbor), a major European shipping center during the mid- to late 1800’s. However, the two cities are closely linked. In 1827, Bremen had purchased land located at the mouth of the Weser river on the North Sea to establish Bremerhaven as its seaport. Likewise, the Mosel didn’t actually dock in New York, but across the Hudson River from New York, in Hoboken, New Jersey. On June 30, 1900, a fire at the North German Lloyd piers at Hoboken resulted in many deaths and close to $10 million in damage.
Fire at Sea: Shortly after leaving Southampton for New York in early October 1879, a fire broke out on the Mosel. Captain Neynaber and the crew fought flames for more than four hours, saving the ship and her passengers. The Mosel docked at Hoboken on October 11th.
Wrecked on August 9, 1882: The Mosel, commanded by Captain Hesse, on its way to New York from Southampton, ran aground on rocks under a signal station at Lizard Point, Cornwall, the most southerly point of mainland Great Britain and a notorious shipping hazard. No lives were lost.
Read about the search for answers to the mystery of Peter Carl Reinshagen’s immigrant venture, life and death in America → HERE.
“Ships of our Ancestors“ by Michael J Anuta
“North Atlantic Seaway: An Illustrated History of the Passenger Services Linking the Old World with the New” by Nigel Reginald Pixell Bonsor (2nd ed. Jersey, Channel Islands: Brookside Publications)
Wikipedia: Norddeutscher Lloyd; Bremerhaven: Attack on the Mosel; German Americans; Bremen; Bremerhaven; Hoboken, New Jersey
“Bremen Sailors and the German Merchant Marines, North German Lloyd” by Maggie Land Blanck (The Family of Tom Blanck and Maggie Land Black)
“Fire on a Steam-Ship at Sea; The Cargo of the Mosel in Flames” The New York Times Archives, October 12, 1879
“A Steam-Ship on the Rocks”, The New York Times Archives, August 9, 1882
Feature photo of Lizard Point, Public Domain/Wikimedia
SS Mosel image taken from May 26, 1877 passenger list
Image ‘Aftermath of the Mosel bombing’, Public Domain/Wikimedia
Image ‘Hudson River offshore from Hoboken’ Public Domain/Widimedia
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