Today I was researching letters in the Magnes holdings that Jewish immigrants to the American West sent to their families back home (in Europe or elsewhere). There are some wonderful examples of such letters in our collections. I particularly like one sent by Johanna Mayer Hirschfelder to her family back in Europe in 1856. In it, she describes in lovely detail her journey from New York to San Francisco on ship and railroad (through Panama).
Of course, before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, the trip from the East to the West coast involved either a long and sometimes harrowing journey by ship around the tip of South America, or a journey by ship to Panama, across the isthmus of Panama on train or on donkey, and then by another ship up the western Pacific coast. Here are two pages of this fabulous letter (which is in German) followed by a translation of the entire document:
This translation of the entire letter was done by Ruth Eis and Ruth Steiner. (translation after the jump)