If I had any doubt about the efficiency of the global economy, it was put to rest these past three days as I watched my new iPhone 4s traverse the world via Fed Ex, from Shenzhen, China to my front porch in northern Virginia, USA.
The iPhone began its journey on November 2nd, though allowing for time zones and the international date line, it was probably still November 1st where I live. Nevertheless, after it left China the package made intermediate stops in Hong Kong, Anchorage, Alaska, Memphis, Tennessee, and Dulles, VA, before being loaded onto the Fed Ex delivery truck in Alexandria, VA and arriving on my front porch in the early afternoon of November 4th. The package spent the most time standing still at the Fed Ex hub in Memphis, where packages accumulate all day and then fly out at night to destinations around the United States.
Juxtaposed with my iPhone’s swift travels around the globe was a digital discovery about my Grandfather’s immigration to America. Using the Internet and Ancestry.com, a friend of mine discovered the ship’s manifest from the SS Canopic, the boat my grandfather boarded in Naples, Italy to begin his trip to America. In 1909, at age 17, my grandfather, Benedetto Pascale, left his family and his life in Italy. He traveled on the SS Canopic for more than two weeks, disembarking in Boston, Massachusetts on March 23, 1909.
Grandpa spoke almost no English and started out as a laborer at the mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts. For more than 40 years he communicated with his family by writing and then mailing letters, and it sometimes took more than two months for Grandpa to receive a letter back to from them.
It’s interesting to me that the technology that makes the iPhone such a big hit and a great communication tool also made it possible to discover a document from my family’s history, one that no one in my family has ever seen.