Charles Bischoff visits Germany with son Paul
departing Hamburg September 15, 1900 on the steamship Deutschland
arriving New York September 23, 1900 by way of Southampton, England and Cherbourg, France.


photograph of Steamship Deutschland
The end of the 19th century saw much competition in luxury ocean liners, particulary between German shipping lines Norddeutscher Lloyd and the Hamburg-American. In 1897, Norddeutscher Lloyd commissioned the 14,000-ton Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, the largest ship afloat with a speed of 22 knots and luxurious interiors. So the Hamburg-American Line commissioned a ship to rival, and even outmatch -- the Deutschland.

postcard of Steamship Deutschland
The Deutschland entered service on July 4, 1900. At 16,502 tons she was at that time the largest vessel ever constructed after White Star's 17,000-tonner Oceanic. Like the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, the Deutschland sported four funnels divided in pairs. Her quadruple expansion engines connected to the two screws made the ship possible to average 23 knots (26.5 mph) over the Atlantic. The ship was huge -- 661x67 feet -- and her interior fittings were also described as "vast." The popular First Class Café even had a squared glass dome in the high ceiling! Advertised as a luxury liner, the Deutschland faced the common problem of speed champions -- vibrations. The rate of vibration at 23 knots was very disturbing, resulting in unexpectedly lower ticket bookings, and she became a financial disaster.

Charles Bischoff and his son Paul took her just two months after her maiden voyage -- what a wondrous sight this must have been for their "once-in-a-lifetime" trip, and such a change from the ships of 25 years ago, with their sails plus steam engines, and whose top speed was 10 knots per hour.

Deutschland's vibration problems resulted in a complete refit in the years 1910-11, downsizing the engines to reduce vibration, but bulking her weight to 16,703 tons, and she became the luxury cruise ship Victoria Luise, with accommodation for 487 first-class guests. Her hull was painted in white, and she would receive the reputation of the finest cruise ship in the world. The Victoria Luise remained in Germany during the hostilities between 1914-18. Due to engine problems she was not used as a troop-ship. When Germany lost WWI in 1918, all of the major German liners were handed over to the victorious Allies or sunk -- all but the former Deutschland, as she was not of interest because of her operational problems. In 1921, the former Deutschland was refitted yet again, this time with two funnels, and renamed Hansa, 16,333 tons gross, with capacity for 36 cabin and 1,350 steerage passengers. The Hansa was designed for the emigrant route, but as America had restricted its immigration-laws after the war, she was never fully satisfactory in her new role. In 1922 she was reaccommodated yet again for 224 cabin and 1,065 steerage passengers. In 1925, it was evident that the ship was old, and since no fit use could be given her she was sent to the scrappers in Hamburg that year.

Local Marine News—New York Times,
Sunday, September 23, 1900

Arrived.
SS Deutschland (Ger.,) Albers, Hamburg Sept 15, Southampton and Cherbourg 16th, with mdse, and passengers to the Hamburg-American Line. Arrived at the bar at 2:13 P.M.

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Charles and son Paul on their return home passenger list from Hamburg (click here for a view of the whole page of the German list)
Steamship Deutschland -- from Hamburg to New York
#195, C. C. Bischoff, age 54, residence Washington, D.C.
#196, " Bischoff (but should be P. C. not C. C.), age 21, residence Washington, D.C.

As far as can be determined, this is Charles' last trip back to Germany, and Elizabeth Stiebeling Bischoff never made a return visit. This strongly suggests that Charles left significant family behind in Germany, while all the close Stiebeling relatives had emigrated to America. Charles and Paul both applied for passports on June 21, 1900, which were apparently granted the same day. Unfortunately, there are no records for passengers leaving America for Germany, so the exact trip length may never be known; it is assumed to be 1-3 months.

Photograph of Braunschweig circa 1900
Also unfortunately, the passports did not include information on where in Germany they plan to visit, so it is unknown if they are visiting Bischoff or Voehl relatives, or both (Paul is Charles' son by his first marriage to Justina Voehl). Since Paul filled in the information on Charles' 1925 death certificate, and did not know his grandmother's first or maiden names, it is assumed she was deceased long before this 1900 visit, although Charles' father Henry could still have been alive in 1900 and Paul may therefore have met him. Sadly, about 90% of the old (wooden) structures in Braunschweig were destroyed by allied bombers in October 1944 during WWII.

This visit was only found because the records are now computerized, and showed up in a random "Bischoff" search at a subscriber genealogy site (Ancestry.com). Ellis Island had been closed due to a fire in 1897, so the Bischoff's were processed at the Barge Office. Ellis Island was closed from June 14, 1897 to December 17, 1900 -- the only ancestors I could find who would have been processed at Ellis Island were Americans Oliver Perry and Mary Emily Hay when they returned from Switzerland in 1902!

Charles and Paul would have taken a train from New York to Washington, DC.

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There is also an overview of some of the reasons why our ancestors emigrated, a list of the sources used in data collection and summaries, and a summary of the history of Germany in the middle of the 19th century.