“This anniversary animates and gladdens and unites all American hearts. On other days of the year we may be party men, indulging in controversies, more or less important to the public good; we may have likes and dislikes, and we may maintain our political differences, often with warm, and sometimes with angry feelings. But today we are Americans all; and all nothing but Americans.”
– Daniel Webster speaking on July 4, 1851
Daniel Webster, an American politician, spoke those words on the Fourth of July 166 years ago. But they’re as relevant and enduring today as they were then.
Each year, Coast Monthly salutes Fourth of July, which we all celebrate in different ways, perhaps sometimes forgetting the profound history and bravery behind the holiday. While Fourth of July is a time for the beach, barbecue and fireworks, it’s also a time to reflect on being American and what that truly means — freedom, justice and boundless opportunity, to name just a few things. For many people, America was and still is a refuge from oppression and persecution, both political and religious.
In this issue, we look back at a time when thousands of people arrived in Galveston in search of better lives. What were they leaving and what did they hope to find?
Writer Valerie Wells interviews descendants of those immigrants who arrived on the island when Galveston’s port was considered the “Ellis Island of the West” and paints a picture that reminds us why America has long been the envy of the world.
You’ll find those stories and much more in this issue.
Happy Fourth of July
Coast Monthly extends a sincere thanks to Mark Scibinico, port captain at the Texas Seaport Museum, and Susan Vanderford, maritime education and programs coordinator at the Texas Seaport Museum/1877 Barque Elissa.
Scibinico and Vanderford were generous with their time and gave us access to the museum and Elissa for photos for our story on immigration. While we know that Elissa was a freighter and not a passenger ship, we wanted to photograph in a place that evoked journeys.
The Texas Seaport Museum tells the story of a rich legacy of seaborne commerce and immigration. Visitors can look for ancestors with a one-of-a-kind computer database containing the names of more than 133,000 immigrants who entered the United States through Galveston.