Journey to America

Diary of the Voith Engineer Albert Ungerer

Part One: From Heidenheim to New York

A young Voith engineer sets out to take electricity to America. The fearless Albert Ungerer is meant to negotiate with the Americans on behalf of Voith. A huge contract is at stake. Voith is supposed to deliver turbines for a power station. The plant is at a very special place: the famous Niagara Falls. The legendary falls, situated at the border between the USA and Canada, are among the largest in the world. In 1909, Ungerer takes the ship to New York. An adventurous journey to the 'Land of unlimited opportunities' begins, which the Voithian records in his diary.*

23 September 1909 – In the Cabin

Albert Ungerer crossed the Atlantic by ship in 1909 den Atlantic per Schiff - and recorded his experiences in his diary.

We have been floating on the water for a few hours. After consulting the steward, we have opened the bull's eye in our cabin, in order to enjoy the sea breeze even during our sleep. There are clothes hooks on either side; I have chosen the ones pointing forward, and, lo and behold, this was a good idea. At the break of dawn I am awakened by a gentle swish and my position in my bunk changes. I rise abruptly - too late. Splish-splash, an inquisitive wave slips through the window and Mr. Siedenburg's (a passenger) garments are pickled. In order to prevent a repeat, I am closing the porthole and am pleased. Next time I will once again hang my clothes up at the front ….

"Sea is purple, half rain, half sun: the passengers develop an enormous appetite - if it goes on like this, everybody will be suffering from gout by the time we arrive in New York."

From Albert Ungerer's diary, 22 September 1909

23 September 1909 – Berlin Glamour

Miss Farrar (a former star at the Berlin opera) is not a bundle of celestial brightness and beauty in real live, but there is something very likeable about her appearance. She displays certain amounts of tastelessness by a ghastly skunk's fur hat, which is probably very expensive but also very hideous, and also by her even more hideous lapdog, black with yellow sploshes, probably a cross between a bulldog and a salamander.

25 September 1909 – Things Get Worse

The suitcases perform witches' dances in the cabin, the walls moan and groan, it is impossible to sleep - time to get out! Nobody can stand up, getting dressed is only possible sitting down, and I am feeling very queasy with every movement. I will give shaving a miss, I rather appear at table looking like a porcupine than with my nose half cut-off.

29 September 1909 – New York At Last

… I am ordering tomato soup and a Sirloin steak, whereupon he (the waiter) puts up a small table in front of me, and then supplies bread, butter - well, let's call it butter -, iced water and the soup - a disgusting reddish, floury broth mixed with sugar. And then, lovely blacksmith aromas penetrate the room and a complete rib of beef appears, weighing about two kilograms, charred on the outside and dripping with blood on the inside - "grilled" they call it (…)! I cut a piece off this cannibal roast and use a generous measure of mustard, salt and pepper, in order to outdo the outer flavor of charcoal and the inner blandness …

*Author's note: all texts with the exception of the introduction are original extracts from Albert Ungerer's diary. The grammar has not been changed. Omissions are marked with (...).

"The ship rolls strongly, attendance at meals is weak."

From Albert Ungerer's diary,
24 September 1909