Around 1900, the Belgian city of Antwerp would play an important role in the history of the making of America when U.S. shipping magnate Clement A. Griscom (1841-1912) decided that Philadelphia’s port would be the best gateway to and from Europe. The shipping line he created would transport ca. 2.4 million emigrants to the New World between 1873 and 1934.
Eugeen Van Mieghem was born at his parent’s inn in Antwerp in 1875. Around 1880 the Van Mieghem family moved slightly further north to Montevideostraat on The Little Island (‘Het Eilandje’), the port area surrounded by the River Scheldt and the docks. The new inn was situated immediately opposite the building belonging to the Red Star Line. Van Mieghem thus observed the wave of refugees on a daily basis. His compassion is reflected in an impressive series of drawings of these emigrants in black chalk and pastel.