Alex Wagner

  • Birth

    My name is Alex Wagner, and I was born on July 14th, 1894 in Germany. As a child, my family never moved, which is why all of my childhood memories can be traced back to a single farmhouse. I had a great childhood. My siblings and myself all got along and had a lot of fun together. After being captured in World War 1 and escaping prison, I immigrated to America. I wanted to immigrate someplace where I knew I would be safe, and not have to worry about being recaptured.
  • Birth (Continued)

    Birth (Continued)
    I have begun to write this autobiography so other future immigrants can know what to expect when they immigrate for the first time. I also am writing this so I can remember what I went through just to feel safe.
  • Escaped Prisoner from World War 1

    Escaped Prisoner from World War 1
    My name is Alex Wagner and on November 21, 1915, I left my wife, Emily, alone in Germany to begin my job as a German soldier fighting in World War 1. The war was tiring. Most of all, I hated killing other people… some I didn’t even know! However, after serving in war for 8 months, I was captured and put into prison. After spending another 6 months in a locked prison cell , I attempted to escape, and succeeded. After I escaped I instantly became worried for my safety.
  • Escaped Prisoner from World War 1 (Continued)

    Escaped Prisoner from World War 1 (Continued)
    As a result, I stopped at our house, grabbed some money and clothes, and explained to my wife that I was in danger and needed to leave the country immediately. I got on a boat and headed to America.
  • Arrival at Ellis Island

    Arrival at Ellis Island
    It is now August 16, 1916. I have arrived at Ellis Island, and I feel happy to be safe, yet filled with anxiety. The whole plane ride I had been sick with nerves. What if I can't find a house? Where will I get a job? The immigrant station was crowded. Everyone that was on the boat with me was crammed into a small space and it took forever to get our names down. The air was hot and I felt sticky from the humidity. The building wasn't very clean either.
  • Arrival at Ellis Island (Continued)

    Arrival at Ellis Island (Continued)
    I just want to get out of here and begin to explore my new home country!
  • Tenement Housing

    Tenement Housing
    It is August 18th, 1916, and I am currently settled in New York City. After the immigrant station, I went out desperately searching for a house or small apartment. It seemed like the only option I had was the tenement housing. It wasn't much, if it was anything at all, but it is all I can afford. The owner is only charging me 5 dollars a month! Myself and nine others are crammed into two small rooms. The smell is terrible; a mixture of body odor and dirt. Must I mention the filth?
  • Tenement Housing (Continued)

    Tenement Housing (Continued)
    There are rat droppings everywhere, and it is obvious that the place hasn't been swept in at least a few weeks ( All I know is that I need to find a job and buy a house... soon.
  • Job at Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

    Job at Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
    It is September 20, 1916, and I've found a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. My boss and coworkers are very friendly. I've been working here for only a month now and as the elevator operator, I'm making good payment at about 5 dollars an hour. Often times my boss will throw in some extra food with my pay. The working conditions are good. It is not dangerous, and the building is kept clean. It is a bit crowded though.
  • Job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (Continued)

    Job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (Continued)
    Even though I have to work 8 hours a day, it's worth it if I can buy a house someday. Speaking of housing, I obviously haven't found an apartment yet. Once I save enough money to buy a small apartment, I plan on having my family move over to the United States to live with me. Back to my job, a tragedy struck last week. A fire broke out in the factory, and there were not enough fire exits for everyone, and many people were killed ( I was one of the lucky ones that survived.
  • Job at the Traingle Shirtwaist Factory (Continued #2)

    Job at the Traingle Shirtwaist Factory (Continued #2)
    When the fire had just begun, people were going nuts. They were going down the elevator 20 at a time, and I got lucky and jumped on one of them. The screams were horrific. All I wanted to do was go back in and save everyone, but I knew that wasn’t possible. It brought tears to my eyes. I never want to witness a tragedy like that again.
  • Steel Industry Career

    Steel Industry Career
    It is now May 3, 1917 and I am still living in New York City. However, as a result of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, I lost my job. With all of the expenses to pay for the fire damage, the owner could not afford to pay any employees. Therefore, I began my search for a new job. I could not survive without one. After many interviews and searching, I found a job in the Steel industry. I am now a steel walker (
  • Steel Industry Career (Continued)

    Steel Industry Career (Continued)
    My working conditions are very dangerous, because I am hundreds of feet above the ground walking on a small piece of steel, without safety straps or anything. It makes me half sick walking up there. My coworkers always shout to me "One misstep, and you're dead." However, they're right. The job scares me half to death. My pay is a little less than at the factory, but I cannot help that. I'm just thankful that I am saving my way to a new house. I can't wait for my wife to join me here in America!
  • Settlement/ House Purchase

    Settlement/ House Purchase
    The date is now October 13, 1917, and I have finally raised enough money to buy a small two bedroom house just outside the city of New York! After I save up a bit more money to support more than one person, I plan on having my wife meet me over here. I have written several letters to my wife, and we both miss one another terribly. Emily is very excited to experience America, and the house that I have recently purchased. I cannot wait to see her again! It has been ages!