Jacob Saul Lanzit (1834-1907) came to the United States from Czernowitz in what is now Ukraine in 1858 in his mid-twenties. He kept a diary as he prepared for his journey and for about a year after his arrival. A copy in German is in Cincinnati's American Jewish Archives, donated by son Robert in 1957.
Without any English he had trouble finding a job in Chicago but he got work running a cigar stand and as a barkeeper...."Time passes; business gets worse." Chicago and the rest of the capitalistic world was recovering from the Panic of 1857, a devastating financial upheaval.
Jacob returned to New York, peddled stationery and worked on his English. In January, 1859 he resolved "to learn a profession." Choosing between cigar making and operating a sewing machine he decided to take a six-week class "to sew on Singer's machine...Tuition $3."
"It is hard work, to be sure, but I am now in America; that means working."
He found a job stitching linings in a factory that soon closed down. "I bought a machine for $40 and went without eating."
He advertised his availability in the newspaper and found a job again making linings. By August with $20 in the bank and a sweetheart named Rachel (Rosa) Marx (Mark) he was optimistic. Times, however, remained tough.
"Whenever I want to visualize a mean character, I can only use the word tailor." Arguing with his boss, he quit. "Still owed $17 on the machine. What could I do?" He began making linings on his own, achieving some success.
During the Civil War Jacob worked as a shirt maker and opened a "Fancy Goods" store on Canal Street. Rosa was a milliner.
I read Jacob Lanzit's adventures in the sewing machine trade in Jacob Rader Marcus's 1955 collection Memoirs of American Jews , 1775-1865.