Immigration and Cultural Change



in New York one may find for the asking and the tangent adjournment of French African Spanish Bohemian Russian Scandinavian Jewish and Chinese colony the one thing you should aim a asked for is distinctively American community Jacob Riis there started to awaken me a fevered passion to become part of America I read newspapers and magazines and books like a fanatic and read out loud billboards posters signs of all times and every word every name opened new vistas to me I was becoming saturated with Americanism between 1880 and 1914 23 million foreigners poured into the United States the largest infusion of immigrants in American history at the end of the Civil War one out of every two Americans still worked on a farm by 1920 only one of eight did immigrants fueled the nation's astounding industrial boom from coal mines to car factories they provided the labor that would help make the United States the greatest economic power on earth give me your tired your poor your huddled masses yearning to breathe free the wretched refuse of your teeming Shore so read the inscription on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor that welcomed millions of newcomers to America I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door the United States offered hope and opportunity to millions of people from around the world here on America's Shores though poverty and Prejudice continued to plague them critics charged that the huddled masses were too wretched to foreign to become real Americans but they did become real Americans and in the process they transformed the nation forever in trolleys and tenements in ballparks and movie theaters they helped forge a new urban culture this is the story of how diverse immigrants became Americans while America itself was becoming something new we've always been a nation of immigrants of the immigrants of common waves and each wave has brought people from different parts of the old world so we began the process over again of getting along with new kinds of people adapting to them and they adapting to those who had already been here so until the late 19th century most immigrants who came were of the same kind of anglo-saxon stock west from Western Europe as the earlier settlers in this country what distinguishes the new immigration beginning with about 1870 is that now we are seeing people coming from parts of the world where they had not come before in Europe industrial revolutions were replacing household production and farming so more and more people left their small farms for cities like London Hamburg and Amsterdam and millions continued on to the new United States where wages were higher food was more plentiful and land was easier to buy industrialization then seized southern and eastern europe countries like Italy Poland Hungary and Russia here two factories displace small craftsmen and cash crops displaced small farmers so they too migrated to the United States the new immigrants came for many of the familiar reasons for Economic Opportunity for greater freedom political freedom and religious freedom because Europe was at war with itself for much of the 19th century and these punishing wars were another reason for leaving the old world and coming to what would be more peaceful America after 1890 80% of America's immigrants came from Southern and Eastern Europe including 3 million Italians 2 million Jews and 1 million poles between 1898 and 1919 over three times as many immigrants came from these new countries as from the old ones England Ireland and Germany before the Civil War immigrants had spread across the countryside to farms and villages as well as towns and cities as America industrialised however most of the new immigrants moved to America's cities immigrants and their children made up 87% of Chicago 84% of Detroit 80% of New York and 78% of San Francisco roughly 40% of these birds of passage went back to their homeland for some ethnic groups the figure was as high as 60% many of these people who came never intended to stay in the United States for very long they were here and intended to make money and go back and buy a little farm that they wouldn't have been able to buy if they hadn't created capital by coming to United States work was easy to find in America's booming industrial economy by 1913 US production equaled that of its three biggest European rivals England France and Germany combined European immigrants provided much of the labor to power this enormous growth not every foreigner is a working man the Chicago Minister observed but every working man is a foreigner wages were almost always higher in America a Mexican worker who earned 12 cents a day on a farm or Hacienda could make a dollar a day on American railroads often though this boost in salary could not cover the higher cost of living in the United States in Chicago for example a typical meatpacking worker earned only 1/3 of what a family of four needed to survive so immigrants had bigger families and almost everyone in the family worked when a city like Buffalo New York we now know that the average Italian immigrant woman had 11 children that's the average what that means is that 15 or 16 was not uncommon and children do represent a form of insurance that is there a way to guard against hunger and other kinds of physical deprivation because you have children they can be put to work and earn money for the family you used to bring your pay home and give it to your parents and whatever they feel they want to give you they decide there was no disagreement that was their style children and their parents spent long hours at dangerous and often monotonous occupations not only were they the ones who found themselves working for low wages and long hours and factories but they also came into a country which did not open their arms and welcomed them they found great prejudice and even bitterness on their arrival and that they brought new languages different religions different customs with them there would be periods of tension periods of rubbing against each other rather abrasively all sorts of prejudices that we know in any era erupt when new people meet people they haven't seen before in mines and factories also bosses selected workers according to the most vicious ethnic stereotypes Italians were considered strong but lazy the Irish clever but corrupt poles honest Vidale or employers pitted them against each other in an attempt to ward off unions it's only for this week that we hire Swedes last week we employed slovak s– we change about among the different nationalities and languages it prevents them from getting together we have the things systemized using immigrants and african-americans as strike breakers employers were often successful in dividing workers along ethnic and racial lines well the relation between unions immigrants was very complicated because many Florent American unions had been started by immigrants a good example is the American Federation of Labor whose President Samuel Gompers was a Jewish and we're going from England a cigar worker and yet as money and work tightened in the United States these same unions very often started to try to keep immigrants out of the United States because immigrants represented job competition we sympathize with the oppressed of the old world but we are as a country in the position of any other asylum whose dormitories are full up the American labor movement is strictly American the American Federation estate een 97 other immigrants were victimized by the agents who found them work in America Italians often had to pay a large part of their wage to their patron a or patron who provided room and board as well as a job we came to Brooklyn to a wooden house in Adam Street that was full of Italians from a Naples Bartolo had a room on the third floor and there were 15 men in the room most of them worked at digging the sewer they paid him about one quarter of their wages then he charged them for bored and he bought the clothes for them too so they got a little money after all with so little money immigrants clustered together in squalid urban neighborhoods there were no bathrooms in the buildings that there were frequently there was no running water in the building so you had to carry water from the basement of the building up until two three or four floors of steps to get into your own apartment with names like Little Italy polish Hill and Chinatown these ghettos were ridden with poverty filth disease and sometimes even death the hall is dark and you might stumble over the children pitching pennies back there the sinks and toilets are in the hallway that all tenants may have access and all be poisoned alike by their summer stenches listen that short hacking cough that tiny helpless wailed what do they mean a child is dying with measles with half a chance that might have lived but it had none Jacob Riis in Pittsburgh 55,000 people mostly immigrants contracted typhoid from the poisoned water supply in Baltimore they ate oysters from polluted rivers and developed deadly stomach diseases and in New York home to the largest number of immigrants one-third of Italian babies did not live to see their first birthday all of the time I hear about the grand city of New York I learned the New York is twice three four ten times bigger than Italian city I think I'm going to great city to grant a country to a better world and my heart developed a big admiration for America I arrived in New York you think I find here my idea Alessandro De Luca I looked out into the alley below and so pale faced children scrambling in the gutter there is America grandma heart and seriously just to survive in America immigrants depended on each other the first and most important resource was family immigrants often traveled to America alone but they usually moved in with a relative who had come earlier three or even four generations lived together sharing salaries and expenses the next level of support was the ethnic community within their neighborhoods they got more together and they maintained their traditions and their values that was an important resource for them and they did that largely on an informal basis but they also did it more formally by forming associations and organizations to protest to protest against discrimination and also in certain instances to go to employers as an organized group and see that doors were open to them so you might belong to a benefit society where every week you paid in a little bit of money and then if the breadwinner in the family was hurt on the job the benefit society would pay back some money to help the family get through because remember this is a time before any kind of workman's compensation before unemployment insurance for any of that safety net that we are aware of today ethnic newspapers written in native tongues provided ties to the old country as they helped immigrants adjust to the new ethnic grocery stores offered the tastes of home another way they could go around is actually changed the politics of the situation we have many immigrant groups and decide to do their best to take over local political organizations so the Irish are very very good at this in many American cities in the Northeast and that will provide many opportunities for Irishmen when you can start electing Irish local politicians who can provide jobs who can provide all sorts of services to Irish immigrant communities in the words of New York City political boss George Washington Plunkett in 1905 if there's a fire in ninth 10th or 11th Avenue any hour of the day or night I'm usually there as soon as the fire engines if a family is burned out I buy clothes for them and fix them up till they get things running again it's philanthropy but it's politics tool mighty good politics you can tell how many votes one of these fires brings me the poor are the most grateful people in the world and let me tell you they have more friends in their neighborhoods than the rich have in there's some of these immigrants especially Jews left their homelands to escape religious or political persecution but most emigrated in search of Economic Opportunity a better life as they called it for themselves and for their children I say to you that there was never a time in your history when the opportunity for a poor man to make money is so clearly apparent you have no right to be poor it is your duty to be a rich despite lectures by inspirational speakers like Russell Conwell and popular rags-to-riches stories very few immigrants became wealthy that is very uncommon that a poor destitute immigrant would rise to fabulous wealth as in their stories however rags to quote respectability was extremely common that is somebody who was poor moving into what became known as the American middle-class by saving money especially for a home in some cities immigrants were more likely to own their homes the native-born Americans were they relied on ethnic Savings and Loan associations which provided mortgages to immigrant homebuyers so immigrants did climb America's economic ladder after all but it was family and community that helped them rise the self-made immigrant was not self-made at all instead he was nurtured and supported by a dense network of kinsmen and countrymen our dollar bills say e pluribus unum from the many one but how could so many diverse people's become one in 1909 Jewish playwright Israel's Anguilla offered his own answer their cultural differences would melt away there she lies the great melting pot listen can't you hear the roaring in the bubbling oh what a stirring and seething self and Latin Slav and tootin Greek and Syrian black and yellow how the great alchemist melts and fuses them with his purging flame here shall they all unite to build the Republic of man and the kingdom of God Zang well an immigrant himself thought this melting process would happen naturally but other Americans were not so sure immigrants from countries like Italy Poland and China were so different they said that special efforts would be needed to Americanize them employers led the way designing programs to make their immigrant workers more American special classes help the workers learn English and tried to promote thriftiness cleanliness and punctuality public schools were obviously the most important institution that the immigrant family confronted because children were required by law to go to school and here the language was taught the the culture was taught and it was a very important force for Americanizing these children education was free that subject my phone have written about repeatedly as comprising his chief hope for us children the essence of American opportunity the treasure that no thief could touch not even misfortune or poverty it was the one thing that he was able to promise us when he sent for us sure safer than bread or shelter no application made no questions asked no examinations rulings exclusions nominations no fees the door stood open for every one of us by 1908 over half of the students in urban public schools had a father who was born abroad in New York City the fraction was almost 3/4 educators used the public schools to provide immigrant children a crash course in American values and habits illiterate docile lacking in self-reliance and initiative these people tend to settle in groups of settlements and to set up here their national manners customs and observances our task is to break up these groups of settlements to assimilate these people as part of our American race and to implant in their children so far as can be done the anglo-saxon conception of righteousness law and order Elwood kabali 1909 insulted by the notion that their cultures were inferior immigrant parents often sent their children to parochial schools in Chicago for example over half of the Polish children attended a Catholic school I think it's wrong to assume that these children were as a result of going to school ready to drop the cultural traditions and language and so forth that they had that they experienced at home and in many cases they had memories of from their own early lives and so I think what what happens is that these children learn to live in both worlds and that they that they mediate the message of the school but many youths tried to Americanize as quickly as possible in millions of immigrant households children and parents clashed my big pretty daughter is not the girl I know I talked to her in a dish and she replies in English she doesn't like to have me like the Sabbath candles when I light the candles she blows them out she makes fun of me and her father she calls us greenhorns but I saw her standing on this stoop little boy so I went up to her and asked her then she would come up she did not even reply because I had called her by her Jewish name but I cannot call her by her new name often immigrant children that is children of immigrants who'd been born in the United States were very embarrassed of the so called greenhorn ways that their parents had their parents accents or even their inability to speak English the food that they cook the clothes they wear and so children would come back from school and they would say I don't want to eat your sandwich or I don't want to wear your clothes or I don't want to speak your language because that's reminder that I'm different immigrant children often received their new names in public schools in one New York school Esther Oberon became Esther O'Brian in another Giuseppe van yachty became Mike Jones when a teacher changed Leonardo Kove yellows name to Leonard Covello which was easier for her to pronounce his parents complained but Leonard a new American sided with the teacher what happened to the Ian Coviello you don't change a family name you don't understand will you stop is saying of that what is there to understand now that you've become Americanized you understand everything and I understand an odd thing many Native Americans believe that the new wave of immigrants could never be Americanized as more and more newcomers poured into the country some began calling for restrictions on their entry if you go to the west coast the Chinese who arrive starting in the 1840s meet a very hostile reception and sometimes often a hostile reception from American workers who think the Chinese are taking their jobs or depressing the wages of other people and there's tremendous hostility in 1876 white manual laborers formed the California workingmen's party dedicated to ridding the state of what it called the Yellow Peril to an American death is preferable to life on a par with the Chinaman treason is better than to labor beside a Chinese slave California working man's party 1876 three years later California held a whites-only referendum on excluding the Chinese final vote 150,000 for exclusion 900 against in 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which barred further entry of Chinese laborers urban poverty and disease coupled with the labor conflicts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries also fueled calls for the exclusion of poles Jews Russians and others considered to be lesser immigrants spouting a new brand of so-called scientific racism critics charged that these groups were diluting the genetic stock of anglo-saxon America from the rate at which immigrants are increasing it is obvious that our very lifeblood is at stake there is a great hazard in the mongrel izing of distinctly unrelated races Michael F Dyer 1960 scientific racism was an attempt to give that the aura or the authority of science to the racist idea that there was a run more a hierarchy of peoples that the anglo-saxon people were superior and it went down from there other peoples including Slavs Jews blacks were somewhat lower on the ladder and scientific racism was an attempt to quote prove that scientifically especially in departments of anthropology and eventually in departments of eugenics eugenics being the movement to try to control the American population via not just birth control but sometimes forced sterilization to make it a quote pure race unlike the Chinese Southern and Eastern Europeans were never excluded outright from America's Shores in the 1920s however Congress would enact new restrictions that sought to return America to its ethnic balance of the 1890s before the huge influx of Italians Jews and poles but there was no turning back for in America's cities the new immigrants had already created a new urban culture streaming into America's cities immigrants must have been bewildered by the variety of large-scale amusements they encountered vaudeville Nickelodeon's amusement parks baseball games newspapers all new and all within the budget of most newcomers but they quickly embrace these commercial entertainments which helped immigrants adjust to the pace and problems of city life in the end both the immigrants and the cities they inhabited were transformed forever children were often attracted to leisure activities that were outside of the ethnic community that were more American and for young working women for example in the early 20th century the dancehall was a great attraction or the new amusement park and so for many of these younger people they were not content to with the social life that the immigrant community offered on the stage immigrants saw images and symbols of their own lives magician Harry Houdini who billed himself as the world famous self liberator was a crowd favorite Houdini is a good example Houdini was of course a master of escape which was something that all the immigrants had done in one way or another they had escaped from one environment and transformed themselves so when they want to Dini what they saw was a kind of symbolic reenactment of their own experience with the advent of motion pictures immigrants could also see their lives transposed on the screen silent movies there's no need to understand English to enjoy what's taking place and you think about many of the old Keystone cop films or many of the silent shorts and what they do is they mock authority figures they make fun of police they make fun of politicians of businessmen they really reflect the working class and poor and immigrants sort of difficult or contradictory relationship to these to these people in positions of authority between 1/2 and 1/4 of Nickelodeon patrons were children for immigrant youngsters especially the movies provided an escape from parental control teenage couples called the last row of the theater Lovers Lane the one place I was allowed to go by myself or was it the movies my parents wouldn't let me go out anywhere else even when I was a 24 baseball is the very symbol the outward and visible expression of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging tearing booming 19th century Mark Twain America's newest citizens also helped make baseball its national pastime in ballparks across the country immigrants witnessed speed timing and efficiency the very qualities that the new industrial economy demanded and just like the economy baseball emphasized strict rules and regulations to win in baseball or in America you had to play by the rules but in America the rules did not always apply equally in 1867 the National Association of baseball players barred black players and teams later blacks would form their own baseball leagues so baseball reflected the racial divisions that immigrants found in the city it also reflected their own success in America as so many of the stores were immigrants or from in communities they had last names like Lovejoy the immigrants could move for them and express their own distinctiveness the other important thing about a ballpark was it allowed them to root for the quote home team and therefore declare quite literally that they were home if you're a fan of a particular team and you're with other fans that overcomes your different ethnicities or your different class backgrounds you can all rally around and be members of the same group so it plays important community building actions as well and you could follow the home team in the local newspaper America became a nation of newspapers because its new citizens did not share a common past what immigrants shared were the immediate events of the present the news aided by the inventions of the telephone Telegraph and high speed press metropolitan newspapers doubled in number between 1870 and 1900 savvy publishers like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were quick to pick up on the pulse of the nation newspapers helped personalize an impersonal environment in cities you had millions of newcomers from literally all over the world very often people that could not speak each other's languages and what the metropolitan pressed the newspapers did was through human interest stories stories about romance stories about crime stories about other kinds of dramatic individual achievements and phenomena was they need that environment personal somebody from England or somebody from Scandinavia or somebody from Romania they could all look at the same newspaper and they could share in a single event the Metropolitan Press shortened the distance between diverse people and helped make them one people the arrival of over 23 million immigrants to American shores coincided with revolutions in industry and technology American work and culture were forever changed so too were the immigrants their labor and spirit helped transform America into a global power but for the immigrants the American Dream carried costs as well as opportunities as they climbed America's ladder of success they felt their children slipping out of their grasp and they often felt oddly divided caught uncomfortably between two worlds it was their children of course who went to school and who learned to speak English and who then functioned as a kind of translator between the family and the larger society that the children should have had a foot in both worlds in 1929 Bulgarian immigrant stoian Cristo began to look back on his life what are we are we still what we were before we came to America or are we half Americans and half something else in search of an answer Christo would return to his native Bulgaria but even there he felt out of place so he came back once and for all to the new nation that he now called home but joy upon my return to America I felt like a child at the sight of his mother from whom it had been separated for months without unpacking my teams I walked for nearly two hours up and down Broadway like a man possessed everything that my eyes beheld I felt like embracing with my arms I cannot leave America you

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