Odyssey to America

It didn't matter that the economy improved in 1840. It didn't matter that Margaret gave birth to a girl and named her Ann, after her sister. It didn't matter that George Lauder and Tom Morrison considered their plans illadvised and traitorous. Margaret's younger sister Annie and her husband, Andrew Aitken, were finished with Dunfermline, and in 1840 they emigrated to Allegheny City, a suburb of Pittsburgh. They arrived in Philadelphia on July 2 and searched for Annie's sister Kitty, who had emigrated there earlier with her husband, Thomas Hogan. The Aitkens and Hogans, including Thomas Hogan's brother Andrew, then pushed on to Allegheny, otherwise known as Slabtown—a nickname less appealing and, perhaps, less inviting than Auld Grey Toun.

One of the first letters home suggested they had indeed made a mistake. In October 1840, Annie wrote, “My dear Margaret things being in such an unsettled condition in this country at present, it would be the height of folly to advise you to venture out at this season at any rate, as it is very difficult for one to get employment of any kind, and more particularly weaving which is scarcely carried on here at all.” 1 As evidence of their growing frustration with Scotland's political and economic situation, Will and Margaret were obviously entertaining the idea of emigrating as well if Annie's reports offered hope. But the United States was mired in a depression precipitated by crop failures, restricted bank credit, and a financial panic three years earlier. So what would they be escaping to? A town where the weaving trade was nonexistent and unemployment rampant? Abandon their beloved “toun” for that?

Then again, Andra's baby sister, Ann, was born into a Dunfermline that was not the town of her parents' youth. Smokestacks now pierced the skyline in a series of thrusts, and each year the soot hung heavier in the air. Filth slithered through window cracks and across doorsills. Disease, like a tireless parasite, sought more victims, including families living on Edgar Street. Death, which had so far been avoided by the Carnegie family, took its first


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