32 Bark Kosmos, Bremen

The bark Kosmos was the sailing vessel on which Julius Kirmse made the crossing of the Atlantic from Bremerhaven to the Port of New York.  Explored in this chapter is the bark Kosmos and what was it like to travel in steerage.

Ship Name

A bark (also barque) is a sailing ship with from three to five masts, all of them square-rigged except the after mast, which is fore-and-aft rigged. (See The Free Dictionary by Farlex).

The bark Kosmos is variously identified such as:

  • N.G. BK Kosmos – short for North German bark Kosmos.
  • bark Kosmos, Bremen – short for bark Kosmos from Bremen, Germany

They all refer to the same ship.  A German Steam Shipping Company, Kosmos, was founded in 1872 as a shipping line to the west coast of South America (See Wikipedia Deutsche Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft Kosmos – DDG Kosmos).  In 1928, another shipping and industrial company named Kosmos was formed (See Wikipedia Kosmos (company))  Neither of these shipping lines should be confused with the bark Kosmos which was built in 1849 and lost in 1887.

Ship History

Michael Palmer in a post dated 28 Feb 1999 to RootsWeb wrote the following:

“The Bremen bark KOSMOS was built at Vegesack/Grohn by Johann Lange, for the Bremen firm of H. H. Meier (later one of the co-founders of Norddeutscher Lloyd), and was launched on 18 August 1849. 178 Commerzlasten / 380 tons; 32,5 x 8,4 x 4,7 meters (length x beam x depth of hold). She was purchased in 1863 by the Bremerhaven firm of Schwoon & Co, from whom she passed in the 1870’s to Heinrich Addicks, also of Bremerhaven. Her masters were, in turn, Johann Horstmann, Gottfried Wenke, and Hinrich Wessels, all of Vegesack; Christian de Harde, Bremerhaven; Fr. Mauer, Vegesack; Fr. Schulze, Bremen; Adolf Hermann Henrici and Johann Wierichs, both of Bremerhaven; P. H. Meyer, and C. Bruns. About 1880, the KOSMOS was sold to G. Profumo, of Genoa, who renamed her SANNAZARO. She was lost in 1887. [Source: Peter-Michael Pawlik, Von der Weser in die Welt; Die Geschichte der Segelschiffe von Weser und Lesum und ihrer Bauwerften 1770 bis 1893, Schriften des Deutschen Schiffahrtsmuseums, Bd. 33 (Hamburg: Kabel, c1993), p. 216, no. 205].”

Ship Picture

Kosmos look-like Hohenstaufen-1851
Kosmos look-like Hohenstaufen-1851

Michael Palmer in a post to RootsWeb dated 28 Feb 1999 noted:

“No picture of the KOSMOS appears to survive; however, I am attaching a scan, in .JPG format, of a reproduction in Pawlik’s work, p. 220, of an oil painting by Oltmann Jaburg, 1852, of the bark HOHENSTAUFEN, slightly smaller than the KOSMOS (147 Commerzlasten/349 tons; 32,3 x 8,1 x 4,5 meters), built by the same shipwright in 1851.”


To learn more about the bark Kosmos and its voyages, the New York Times archives were searched for articles about the bark Kosmos.  The following is a sampling of the arrival notices at the Port of New York that were found.

22 April 1853

Arrival Notice

Bark Kosmos, (Brem.) Hotsman, Bremen, 42 ds., mdse. and 197 passengers to Oelrichs & Co. (New York Times, April 23, 1853)


The arrival notice for Julius’s voyage from Bremen to New York. There was no statement about the weather conditions of the voyage nor did the notice of arrival mention that one passenger died during the crossing.

02 May 1856

Arrival Notice

Bark Kosmos, (Brem.) Wessels, Bremen, 30 ds., mdse. and 187 passengers to Oelrichs & Co. April 21, lat 49 69, lon 48 30. saw large icebergs. (New York Times, May 3, 1856)


Note that this voyage required 12 days less than the voyage Julius was on.  Large icebergs were seen, but there is no comment about the weather.

24 Aug 1856

Arrival Notice

Bark Kosmos, (Brem.) Wessels, Bremen, with mdse. and 9 passengers to Oelrichs & Co. 9th inst. lat. 44 9, lon. 22 85, spoke Bremen bark Union, from Newport, Eng, for New York.  10th inst. lat. 42 25, lon 44 9, spoke Prussian schr. Carl, from England for Quebec, 40 ds. out, short of provisions, and supplied her. (New York Times, August 25, 1856)


Appears that the ship had no steerage passengers on this voyage.   Supplied provisions to another ship 40 days out.

01 May 1867

Arrival Notice

Bark Kosmos, (Brem.) Wierichs, Bremen 40 ds., with mdse. and 200 passengers to Fredrk. Schwoon. From lon. 30 to 35 had strong westerly gales for 14 ds. in which lost flying jibboom and split sales.  March 28th, lat 47 49, lon 13 04, Ernst Osterloh, a seaman, fell from the forerigging overboard during a gale and was lost. March 27, lat 49 33, lon 11 29, saw a green painted bark, in a sinking condition; could not ascertain her name, but she was abandoned; Had two deaths (children) among the passengers. (New York Times, May 2, 1867)


In spite of loosing rigging and split sails in a westerly gale of 14 days, made the voyage in 40 days. An abandoned vessel was seen and there were two passenger deaths.

A westerly gale has prevailing winds from the west toward the east.

Harry Dodsworth noted in a RootsWeb post for this voyage: “The second date or position may be wrong (or the ship was driven backwards).” in the:TheShipsList-L Archives

02 Jul 1868

Bark Kosmos, (N.G.) Wierichs, Bremen 58 ds., with mdse. and 221 passengers to Frederich Schwoon. Had one death on the passage.  Had strong westerly winds to the Banks, since light variable winds with calms and fog.  Saw a number of large icebergs between lat 46 and 48 and lon. 43 and 49, spoke Brig Homely from London for Belfast, Me. (New York Times, July 3, 1868)


Voyage took 58 days due to strong westerly wind up to the Canadian Grand Banks of Newfoundland as well as calms and fog.

Westerly winds are prevailing winds from the west toward the east in the middle latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees latitude.

20 Apr 1871

Arrival Notice

Bark Kosmos, (N.G.) Wierichs, Bremen 58 ds., with empty petroleum barrels to Frederich Schwoon. Came the northern passage, and had fine weather to lon. 40; thence heavy variable gales. (New York Times, April 21, 1871)


Apparently there were no passengers and the cargo was empty barrels.  Took the northern passage  Took 58 days

18 Aug 1871

Arrival Notice

Bark Kosmos, (N.G.) Wierichs, Bremen 44 ds., with mdse. and 94 passengers to F. Schwoon. Had strong westerly winds to the Banks, from thence 20 ds. with variable winds and calms. (New York Times, August 19, 1871 )


Voyage took 58 days due to strong westerly wind up to the Canadian Grand Banks of Newfoundland then 20 days of calms and fog.

Transatlantic Crossing Time

As may be noted from above, the voyage time from Bremen to New York depended highly on the weather and was typically 6 weeks but varied from less than 5 weeks to 8 weeks. By the 1870s, steam ships being not as dependant on having favorable weather conditions were making the same voyage in 3 weeks or less. This is consistent with that reported in Statistics concerning the transatlantic crossing


Julius traveled steerage class.  Steerage is the name given to the lowest deck on a ship where the control lines ran for the rudder, enabling the steering of the ship, hence the word ‘steerage’. Steerage (or Tween Decks) and Third Class was the default choice of many immigrants from the 1850s through the 1930s who could afford the price of passage and little else.This class offers communal quarters with early steerage often housing hundreds of immigrants in one large room. For a good description of steerage decks, see Emigrants Between Decks


Passengers traveling by sailing ships typically had to bring their own food. This was usually stored in a hold beneath the steerage. In addition, passengers had to bring their own bedding, pots and pans as well a do their own cooking in a communal kitchen. Daily rations of wood and water were typically provided.  My grandmother Kirmse noted that on the bark Kosmos voyage Julius was on, drinking water ran out and shipmates resorted to filtering sea water for drinking. For a more detailed description of the typical provisions needed by steerage passengers see, Sailing ship provisions – Food and drink.


Due to the close quarters and poor sanitary conditions, travel for children and elderly was particularly hazardous.  There was no mention of a death on the bark Kosmos arrival notice, but the captain did report on the passenger manifest the death of a 2 1/2 year old. According to my grandmother Kirmse, when Julius arrived at the Port of New York, everyone on board was seasick,  For a description of health conditions faced by steerage passengers, see Sanitary conditions on board – health and sickness on emigrant ships.

Julius traveled a few months before an epidemic of cholera and deaths raged on board many of the vessels arriving in the Port of New York. In Arrivals at New York With Sickness on Board, 1853 – Sept-Oct from The Atlantic Ferry, by A. Maginnis, 1892 (extracted from the New York Herald, October 26, 1853):

“Among the arrivals at this port of emigrant ships during the past few weeks, a very large number of deaths have been reported. In one vessel, the Charles Sprague, the unusually large number of forty-five persons died on the passage from Bremen; and in another, the Winchester, from Liverpool, the number of fatal cases amounted to no less than seventy-nine.  …  Although the captains, in their reports, with one exception, merely mentioned the fact of such a number having died, it is pretty certain that the disease which carried them off was cholera, that fatal malady which is making such havoc among the shipping in Europe.”

What Was It Like To Travel In Steerage?

The conditions varied by ship and shipping line and were likely to be fairly harsh compared to modern standards.  Several descriptions of traveling steerage worthy of a read are:

  • Daily life for the steerage passengers on board an emigrant ship consisted of various routines and duties as is described in By sail across the ocean – daily life aboard.
  • An excerpt from an account written by a passenger who was 11 years old when he made the crossing in 1851 is .given in  Memories from a voyage on the Christiane in 1851
  • A reporter provides a vivid description of his steerage accommodations and travel experiences on a Cunard Steamship in Steerage Class – Accommodations – Cunard Steamship Line – 1879.
  • A multi-part documentary/reality series, Windstärke 8 (or Wind Force 8),  from Germany shows conditions on emigrant ships headed to America in the 1800s. This program is a fascinating look back at the hardships that people endured – zero comfort, simple food, seasickness, crowding and the daily struggle with the wind, waves, and homesickness… all to reach their new home in America.  The journey is set in the year 1855 where 45 men and women follow in the footsteps of the emigrants to sail under severe conditions on a three-masted sailing vessel from Bremerhaven to New York.


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