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Immigrating to Canada in the late 1800s or 1900s? Even though the average cost of a ticket was only $30, larger ships could hold from 1,500 to 2,000 immigrants, netting a profit of $45,000 to $60,000 for a single, one-way voyage. The cost to feed a single immigrant was only about 60 cents a day!
After you left the boat and immigration you had a landing card pinned on your clothes and then moved to the Money Exchange. Here six cashiers exchanged gold, silver and paper money, from countries all over Europe, for American or Canadian dollars, based on the day’s official rates, which were posted on a blackboard. For immigrants the next stop was the railroad ticket office, where a dozen agents collectively sold as many as 25 tickets per minute on the busiest days.
All that remained was to make arrangements for their trunks, which were stored in the Baggage Room, to be sent on to their final destinations. At times, corrupt currency exchange officials shortchanged immigrants, concession operators served meals without utensils, and others operated schemes to deprive the newly landed immigrant of their money. Other examples included a clerk failing to deliver money orders to immigrants, resulting in their deportation, and baggage handlers charging twice the going rate. Railroad ticket agents were not immune and often routed immigrants, not by the most direct route to their destination, but by one that required a layover. Some were forced to buy a fifty-cent or dollar bag of food from the restaurant concession for their train trip.
RAILWAYS AND IMMIGRANTS
For the month of May the railways reached the high-water mark as regards records for the carrying of immigrants. During May, 40,000 immigrants, the majority of whom were of British origin, passed through Montreal on their way to Western Canada. The Canadian Pacific carried an average of 1,000 immigrants a day, the Grand Truck had an average of 250 a day.
These figures form a striking contrast for the month of May thirty years ago, when the total immigration into the country was 6,601. One railway official said that it was surprising what a big total of hard cash was disbursed in Canada by these immigrants. On an average, he said, they spend in railway fares $15 each, which means a total of $600,000, while expenses of food, beds and other incidentals amount to another $15 by the time they get to their destination. This means that during May British immigrants spent in Canada within the first few days of their arrival considerably over a million dollars– “The Cobalt Daily Nugget” 12 July 1911
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