United States Boys' Clothes: Immigration--National Origins

Figure 1.-- Here we see a family just arriving from Ellis Island in the early 1910s. We would guess that they are English. The family seems to be very fashionably dressed. They look to be a little more affluent than many immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. The girls all wear fairly expensive-looking white dresses with wide-brimmed straw hats for summer. The younger boy wears a sailor blouse with dickey and, probably, black knee pants and black stockings (although we can't see in the photograph). Notice his ringlet hair-do. He seems to be about 4-5 years old. The older boy is turned out in an Eton collar matching coat and waistcoat (apparently of gray or some other light color) with black knee pants and black stockings. Notice his Eton-style collar and English-style school cap with a very small peak. Father is missing from the picture. Perhaps he was taking it. The girl standing beside Mother is probably her eldest daughter. She wears an interesting triangular hat with a rosette.

No assessment of America would be complete without considering the immigrants that played such an important role in the American saga. All American except for Native Americans have immigrated from other countries. Most of the early immigrants came from the British Isles. The Industrial Revolution in Britain had an impact on emmigration to the United States from Britain in the 18th century. Immigrants followed from every European country. Immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia, and Africa played key roles. Blacks brought from Africa as slaves also played an important role. Germans and the Irish were the most important eaely immigrant grouos. The best documented wave of immigrants following the Civil War. is the Great Migration (1880-1920).The immigrant experience could be quite different depending on the country they came from as well as their religion and race.


Africans are unique in the American mosaic. The ancestors of most Afro-Americans were brought to America involuntarily as slaves. And as part of that process they lost virtually all of their African ethnic and tribal idenity. This is the only American immigrant group for which this is the case. Statistical datas giveing a fairly accurate idea where in Africa Afro-Americans originated from. And DNA data can also provide date on where individuals originated. But this data is of no real significance given the fact that as aeslt of slavery all ties and African cltural identity wa lost. There were some cultural carry overs such as in dance and msic and evn tchnology such as rice growing methods. But ethnic and tribal idenity was lost as well as relgion. Congress ended the African slave trade (1807), although small numbers of captive Africans were smuggled in for some time. President Lincoln emancipated most American slaves during the Civil War (1863) and the 13th Amendment abloishing slavery became law (1865). But there was no significant African emmigration to America until Congress reformed the immigration system (1960s). African immigrants ssince do have national and tribal connections as ell as religious beliefs which in the case of Islam can be very intense.

America, Latin

Latin Americans are a cultural construct. The largest Latin American immigrant group in America as a result of geography are Mexican. Mexico is geographically/geologicslly in North America as is the case for Central America. For our purposes, however, it makes more sense to consider Hispanics as a cultural group rather than on a purely geographic basis. Most Hispanics are immigrants, although the small number of Mexicans living in the Southwest were allowed to remain and become full American ctizens as a result of the Mexcan-American War. Most remained, but the Mexican population at the time was very small. Few Mexicans wanted to live in at the gtime was El NJorte. The limnited agriculturl potentil and hidstilr Ntive mericans (psvche snd Comnches) were importnt fsctor limiting Mexican populstion of the srea. Hispanic is often seen as a racial group, but this is not the case. It is a highly varied cultural group. Latin Anericans from the Southern Cone (Argentin, Chile, and Uruguay) have largely European origins. From Brazil and th Caribben there are strong African components. From Mexico, some of Central America, and the Andes there are important Native Ameican components. This is hardly a coherent racial group. The cultural including language (Primaroily Portuhgues and Spsnush) are much more powerful. Until the American immigration reforms (1965), nost Hispsanics in the United Stsates were Mexica. Toiday Hispanics sare a much more diverse groups with varied national origins. Miodsyt Hispsnics have come to America seeking economic opportunity. They are the first groupo in which many come with the idea that America offers opportunities and decent paying jobs in opart vbecause the country is exploiting other countries.


Spain's colonial regime discouraged the growth of commerce and industry. Spanish colonies were to ship raw materials to the mother country and not develop industries thast might compete with the mother country. The Inquisition also stifeled not only divergent religious ideas, but also freethinking in general, including political, scientific, and social ideas as well. As a result, the Spoanish colonies languashed behind the English colonies to the north. The Spanish Government restricted political power to native-born Spainards. As Criollos grew in numbers, they resented exclusion from political power. Unlike the English colonies, there were no colonial legislsatures. The great bulk of the population, the Mexicans of Native American or Mestizo origins were denined not onlt political power, but who suffered from san uneven distribution of land and wealth. As in the rest of the Spanish Empire, the criollos revolted against Spain. Mexico achieced its independence (1821). This put the criolls in power, but did little to provide economic opportunity to Native Americans and the increasinly large mestizo poplation. Regional differences resulted in the loss of Texas (1836). Mexico fell increasingly behind its northern neigbor which at the time of the Mexican American War (1846-48) had begun to industrialize. The better armed and led forces, defeated the Mexican forces and Mexico was forced to cede the northern part of the country. Mexicans living in the area became American citizens unless they moved south. The Mexican population in what became the American Southwest was relatively small and the Mexican-American population was highly regional and relatively small. Wealthy Mexicans lost their land when American courts refused to recognize Spanish land grants. Porfirio Diaz and the Cientificos msade some progress in modernizing Mexico's infrastructure, but did not address to growing inequities in Nexican life. This led to the Mexican Revolution (1910-20). The turmoil in Mexico led som Mexicans to flee across the border. The Partidio Revolucionsarion Institutional (PRI) established an authoritarian regime with rigged elections. PRI leaders attempted to both moderize Mexico and address the social inequities. The PRI mixture of crony capitalism, socialism, naionalism, and popularism proved to be a poor substitute free market capitalism. And Mexico fell increasingly behinf the United States and Canasa. After World War II, the growing wage disparities between Mexico and America resulted in a steady flow of largely illegal imigration north across the virtually wide open border.

America, North

The United Stsates itself dominates much of the inhsabitable North American continent. The other country of importancre is Canada, but because of its northerly climate has a smaller economic potential. As Canada was also an English colony and has a primarily English population, there are mant similarities between Americans and Canadians. Substantial numbers of Canadians have emigrated to the Uniuted States, primarily to take advantage of the larger economy and greater economic opportunities. Geographically, Mexico is part of North America, but culturally it seems to make more sense to cionsider it as part of North America.


Canada is an enormous country, but because of its northerly climate has a smaller economic potential. As Canada was also an English colony and has a primarily English population, there are mant similarities between Americans and Canadians. Substantial numbers of Canadians have emigrated to the Uniuted States, primarily to take advantage of the larger economy and greater economic opportunities. We note sizeable numbers of immigrants from Canada in some years. For example during 1911-20 about 0.7 million immigrants arrived from Canada. We do not yet have details on the extent and nature of Canadian immigration.


The immense Pacific Ocean anbd lack of a maritime tradition has meant that Asians played a minor role in the settlement of America. . The first Asians to reach America in sny numbers were the Chinese attracted by the California god rush (1848-49). At the time Califoirnia was just acwuired snbd there were not yet restrictive immigration laws. Motivsted by the precrived Yellow Peril, restruictive state anbd Federal laws were enacted. These laws prevented further emigration for a century. The annexation of Hawaii, however, meant that the Unites Stares acquired a Japanese population which until World War II was mostly confined to Hawaii and California. One of the ironies of history is that after World War II, he most racist war in history ehich included the internment of Japanese Anericans on thre Pacific Cioast (but not Hawaii), the Yellow Peril narative disappeared in Americsa almost over night. Immigration reform (1965) meant that Asians for the first time had the opportunity to emigrate to America in numbers. Koreans took advantge of this and the Vietnam War resulted in emmigration from Vietnam abnd other countries in Southeast Asian, including the ethnic minorities there. Christians in Korea and Vietnm were especially interested in emigration. Indians migrated to Britain during ghe Raj. We begin to see emigration to America after the 1965 emigration reforms.


Immigrants to America are often thought of as Europeans, but the Chinese played a mojor role in California. Their most famed contribution was helping to build the trans-coninental railroad. Some historians say the railroad could not have been built at the tiome without the Chinese. Most of the Chinese whi came to America returned to China. There goal was not assimilation, but to earn money to support a decent life back in China. The hostility of Americans of European stock was another factor causing the Chinese to return. States passed lawc limiting the employment and land ownership. Even so, substantial numbers of Chinese immigrated entered the United States beginning with the California gold rush (1849) and when Congress acted to ban Chinese from entering (1882).



Japanse immigration until after World War II was confined primarily to Hawaii and California. We do not yet have details about Japanese immigration. Japan was a heavily populated poor country in the 19th century. The United States in the 1850s forced Japan to open its econmy to foreign trade. We assume that this was whem immigration began. As Gold was divered in California this probably stimmulated immigration. The Japanese came to Hawaii as farm labor. As with Chinese immigrants, laws resticted Japanese economic activity in California. These were state, not Federal laws. Treatment of Japanese immigrants became an issue between the United States and Japan. Federal laws passed in the 1920s did control actual immigration. The laws limited overall immigration and heavily favored northern Europeans. Many Japanese turned to small-scale farming because many other job oppirtunities were closed to them. We note Japanese children in rural California schools during the 1920s. We note family portraits showing the same process. Many Japanese by the 1930s had achieved some success. These families lost most of their property and possessions when they were interned during World War II. After the War many job opportunities formerly denined Japanese Americans opened up. The intrrnment of Japanese Americans during World War II was the culmination of a history of racial discrimination against Asians begun in the mid-1800s, when the Chinese first immigrated to the U.S.


Korea was known as the Hermet Kingdom. There were little connection with the out side world or interest in it. The primary national interest was remaining indepedent from China and Japan. Foreign influences such as Christianity were brutally supressed. An effort to modernize ended the supression (late-19th cntury). Korea's modest effort to moderize was cut short by the Japanese. The Japanese brutally controlled the country until liberation by the Americans and Soviets (1945). It is at this time that a relation between America and South Korea. The United States in the Korean War prevented Communist domination. The American presence in Korea was small until the Communist North Koreans invaded (1950). At first the American-Korean relationship was limited. This was primarily with the American military presence, but economic connections began to grow as Korea developed a vibrant capitalist economy. And large numbers of Koreans began to convert to Christianity. Few Koreans emigrated, however, because of America's restrictive immigration laws. This changed when the United States reformed its immigration laws (1965). And with the ties that had developed with America, large numbers of Koreans began to emmigrte. This was before the Korean Economic Miracle began in force. South Korean would become one of the Asian Tiger economies, but at the time was still very poor as a result of a traditional society, Japanese colonization, and the Korean War. In only a few decades, some 1 million South Koreans emigrated to America and by the 1910s were over 2 percent of the immigrant population. Most South Korean immigrants are legal immigrants. Almost all came from South Korea because there was no way for North Koreans to get to America. The first Korean immigrants were mostly unskilled workers, but through hard work and educational advancement, Koreans today are one ofthe most successful immigrant groups, largely by opening small businesses. Korean immigration has leveled off because South Korea now has a vibrant economy. The number of Koreans coming to America for university study has also leveled off. A few migrants have returned to Korea in recent years, on part because of a Government program to encourage this. Much of the Korean immigrant population is found in California. North Korea does not permit emigration and the penalties for doing so are draconian, including punishment of whole families. A few North Koreans manage to cross into China, but are returned if identified by Chinese authorities. Some manage to make their way through China to other countries. The largest North Korean population is in Kazakhstan where authorities have offered them refuge.



The United States was settled by European peoples. The Spanish camne first, but only in the extremne south. The early immigrant groups cmne from Protestanbt northern Europe. The English established the first permanent settlements. Dutch and Danish settlement were seized by the English and incorporsted into the English colonies. The two most important European ethnic groups were the English and Germans. The whole political and cultural infrastructure was established by the English. English law would play a central role in the success oif the United States. The Germans came in substsntial numbers, but most came to escape politicl and culturl oppression and thus were willing to accept the first English and then American legal abd social institutions which offered substantial economic and political freedom and opportunity. After the Civil War (1861-65) Most immigrants were Protestnts. The first major Catholic immigrants were the Irish, driven in desperation by the Potato Famine (1840s). European immigrants cane in large numbers attracted by immigrants came in large numbers drawn by the extroidinarily success of the American economy based on capitalism. Not country employed the cspitaluist model more throuougly than America. And we begin to see large numbers for the first time from Catholic southern Europe, especiually Italy. They found that the principle of religious freedom set in the Condtitution allowed then opportunity and freedom in a largely Ptotestant country. There were also immigrants from Scandanavia. They camne in smaller numbers than the Italisns bcause the countries involved were smsller countries. A greater percentage of the poopulsation from these countries emigrsated than from any other area. Included in the ethnic and religious mix that enterested merica after the Civil War were Eastern European Jews fleeling Tsarist oppression.



At the turn of the 21st century, an estumated 0.7 million Americans trace their roots to Armenian immigrants. Armenians were very commercially oriented and thus like Greeks and Jews spread throughout the Mediterranean world, especially within the Ottoman Empire. Eventually Armeniam traders established trading firms in Christian Europe as well. One repprt identified 60 Armenian trading firms in the city of Amsterdam (1660). Others describe Armenian colonies in virtually every corner of the globe, including Addis Ababa, Calcutta, Lisbon, and Singapore. One country in which Armenins did not settle in large numbers was the United States. Before the Civil War there were a handful of Armenians in America. This probably reflects the fact that Armenians livedin the Ottoman Empire. Most came to America ti study and return to thevOttoman Empire. A few made substantial contributions. This began to change after the Civil War when lrge numbers of Europeans, including non-Protestant southern Europeans, began to emigrate to America (1870s). Sunstantial numbers of Armenians began to arrive two decades later (1890s).


Austro-Hungarian Empire

The largest number of European emmigrants entered the United States during the period between the Civil War (1861-65) and World War I (1914-18). This almost precisely is the same period as covered by the history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire After Austria's defeat in the Austro-Prussian War (1866), Prussia in effect expelled Austria from Germany. Austria then moved to create a new political structure with the non-German lands under its domain. Bismarck was somewhat ambilient about combinging Prussia with the German states and was not interested in Austri's non-German possessions with the exception of Polish areas. Prussia itself has Polish areas. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a poly-glot combination of many national and ethnic groups. We will address emmigration from the Empire by the individual national groups. Here U.S. Census data somewhat complicates our assessment as immigrants were normally classified as coming from Austria or Hungary, although language is a helpful clue of actual nationality. Another factor is many immigrants from Austria-Hungary did not have a strong national idenity. This was not the case of the Poles, but is the case of some other nationalities within the Empire. Individuals had to apply for permission to emmigrate. Government officials appear to have place no significant restrictions to emmigration. One exception was youths of military age who were obligated to complete their required military service.


Belgium is not one of the countries that played a major role in building modern America. Less than 0.4 million Americans identify as being even partly of Belgian origins. [U.S. 2010 Census] That is less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. population and less than 0.2 percent of the Belgian popultion at the time (1900). . The first number is affected by the country's small size, but not the first. These are smaller numbers than most European countries, especially the Netherlands to the north. We suspect that the difference was that the Dutch were an independent maritime power and Protestat. Belgians or residents of the Southern Netherlands began arriving in America early in the British colonial era, even before Belgium existed (17th century). Most Belgian Americans are descended from immigrants arriving in the late-19th century and early 20th century. Their primary motivation was economic opportunity. The earliest Belgian communities were in New York and New Jersey, perhaps because of affinity to the Dutch, althoughthe Belgians including the Flemish wre mostly Catholic. The modern state of Belgium was created after the Napoleonic Wars and a brief union with the Netherlkands (1830). Through the Census of 1910, some 0.1 million Belgian emigrated to America. There was a brief blip of Belgian immigranrs (1847-49), presumably related to the disorders associatedwith the revolutions of 1848. One source reported disease and economic hardship It was much later than Belgians began arriving in relatively large numbers (late-19th century). Economic opportunity was often the reason Europeans came to America, but in other Euroean countries political repression, conscrition were also factors. This was less true of the Belgians. European emogration declined as a result of the First World war I (1914-18) and then Congressionally imposed restrictions. The belgins emigrating during this peak period were farmers, meaning largely landless farm workers. There were also miners, Belgium had important coal mines. Other Belian emigrants were craftsmen (carpenters, masons and cabinetmakers) or other skilled workrs (glass blowers and lace-makers). Belgium was known for its lace industry. The two states with the largest Belgian population are Wisconsin and Michigan. We suspect that these were states where land was still available under the Homestead Act as well as minig was important were factors. Belgian Americans as might be expected were heabily involved in efforts to help their countymen during the Germn orld wr I occupation.

Bosnia (Austro-Hungarian Empire)

I do not think immigration from Bosnis was significant, although this is hard to determine. They would have een registered as immigrants from Austro-Hungary. And in Census they would have been noted as Croats or Serbs. I'm not sure how Muslim Bosnians would have been registered, but in any case the numbers would have neen very small.


Croatia (Austria-Hungarian Empire)

Croatia is on of the European countries from which emmigrants have flowed through much of recent history. There was a major wave of immigration with the Turkish conquest (l6th century). About 0.5 million people emigrated from Croatia during the late 19th century up to the start of World War I. This seems a large number and we can not yet confirm this, especially as many of the immigrants came to America. American data suggests much smaller numbers. Even so, Croatia is not a large country and emmigration did represent an not inconsequential part of the population. A major reason reason for the emmigration was economic conditions and this in part affected annual fluctuations. Another factor was the desire to avoid military service. This was part of the reason that most of the emmigrants to America were men.

Czech/Bohemia (Austro-Hungarian Empire)

Most Czech immigrants entered the United States before World War I while what became Cechoslovakia after World War I and is now the Czech Republic was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Czechs like other subjects of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire had to get permission to emmigrate. but except for youths of military age there were no significant restrictions placed on emmigration. A major point of departure for Czechs was the German port of Bremen. A substantial number along with German emmigrants entered at the port of Galveston and settled in Texas. A substantial numbers of Jews were included among these Czech emmigrants.



The United States was founded by English colonists. The English were thus the original immigrant group in most of the 13 original states. Even while the colonies were still part of the English Empire, the Britain began restricting emigration. The British Parliament in 1718 prohibited the immigration of skilled workers to America. The British concept at the time was of Ameruica as a source of raw materials and they did not want competition from America with Britidsh manufacturing. The outbreak of the Revolutionary War (1775) stopped immigration because of the animosity toward the English. After America achieved independence (1783), immigration from England never resumed in large numbers. Immigrants from other countries, especially Germany, increased and exceeded that from England. British Government policy in the 19th century was to promotion emmigration to British Empire countries such as New Zealand and Australia. English immigrants continued to come from England during the 19th and early 20th century, although in relatively small numbers. In many ways the English had it easier than immigrants from other countries because they already spoke English. The English immigrants were especually important brecause they came from the center of industrial revolution, bringing with them needed industrial skills and knowledge of developing new technologies.

Finland (Russian Empire)


Although France is one of the largest countries in Europe, French emmigration to America has been very limited, despite France's critical role in the American Revolution. We are not sure why this was. Could French peole not bare the ide of leaving France. Perhaps the Revolution left the idea that France could be changed to create a better life. One factor must have been that throughout history, England was France's great enemy. Thus emmigrating to an English-speaking country may not have been appealing. The major French immigrant group in America in fact Louisiana Cajuns who came from Canada, French Canadians fleeing British rule. I am not sure why immigration from France has been so limited. One factor was that that from Catholic France there was no groups like the English Puritans seeking religious freedom in the New World. (I believe the Church did not allow French Hugenouts to establish a colony, but here we do not have detailed information.) Apparently the French could not bring themselves to leaving their country. A French reader writes, "We are the most popular touristic destination in the world during 2000 and 2001. There aremany reasons for this. For instance, Austria is a very beautiful and mountainous country. The highest mountains of Europe are located in France. We have three sea coasts: the Méditerranée, Atlantic, and [?Manche. There is also a varied climate. The climate of the north is far different from that of the south. The French people is very united in their mentality . Don't forget that France is an international cultural reference. In many French cities they are castles, churches, and other edifices dating to Roman and meieval times. Perhaps it is the reason why the French and others live here and why the French never emmigrated in large numbers." A French Canadian reader writes, "Louisiana was at the time of Napoleon a French possession. Earlier it had been along with Canada (Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario) a part of New France where the French immigrated. After the Acadian deportation around 1755, many Acadians settled around Nouvelle-Orleans and called thenselves "Cajuns". There is always a struggle for French language survival in Louisiana. There is the same around Boston. Lowell and Manchester. By many aspects, Franco-Americans are Canadians but also French. HBC readers may know Jack Kerouac (On the Road), one of the most influential writer of the Beatnik Generation in 1950. There are one million French-Canadians who immigrated to the United States. Many worked in textile mills. hey lost the French language and culture in the merican melting pot. That is why, Quebec has fought so strong to keep its language and religion until now. Dupont de Nemours was French. He came to America with Lafayette during the American Revolution. Julien Green, a French writer, born in Baltimore before going back to France. There are a lotof French going to live in the United States. There are also a lot of Americans like Fitzgerald, Hemmingway or Henry Miller who went to France to enjoy French culture. It is a fact that the French are not an emigrant people and that is why even thoughj there were 25 millions in France during the reign of Louis XIV, few emmigrated to New France. Those who came in Canada during the 17th century were poor and stayed once they arrived. When Great-Brittain took possession of New France in 1763, all the nobles and wealthy returned in France."


The Germans constitute the largest immigrant group in America. Germans settled many areas of the United States. Most of the Texas Germans were indeed Lutherans. [Olesch] Many German Catholics settled in St. Paul, Minnesota. and in Omaha, Nebr. as well all over the Midwestern states. A Slavic minority from Germany were the Sorbs in Texas. They were Lutherans and settled in Serbin and in Giddings, surrounded by other German farmers. They tried to escape total assimilation in Germany, but what did not happen in the old country happened in Texas. They were absorbed by the German communities within two generations. Now the Germans themselves are totally Americanized and hardly speak German anymore, except for some older people in Fredericksburg and New Braunfels. Admiral Nimitz was a native of Fredericksburg and spoke only German as a boy. One of the best known German immigrant groups are the Mennoites who settled in southeastern Pennstlvania who incorrently became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.


Greece achieved its independence from the Ottomans in the 1820s. This meant that the Grreeks emmigrating from Greece were recorded as Greeks in the INS data. The 1820s were before significan immigration began from the Balkans. In fact Greek immigration was very limited in the 19th century. Eventually over 370,000 people immigrated from Greece, most after the turn of the 20th century. Most were ethnic Greeks, but there this included some Armenians. This is, however, an unestimation of Greek immigration. Large numbers, perhaps, two-thirds of the emigrants from the Ottoman Empire are believed to be Greeks. [Saloutos] This would mean an additional number, nealy 220,000 Greeks.


Hungarian immigration was fairly limited. We are not entirely sure why. One factor presumably is that Hungarians were pasrt of the ruling clsss in the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy. Curiously Hungarians were among the Europeans most likely to return home. About 60 percent of Hungarian immigrants returned. Again we are not sure just why this was.


The Irish were the first important Catholic immigrant group to arrive in America. They began to arrive in large numbers in the 1840s as a result of the Potato Famine. Photography at the time was very new. Thus we do not have the kind of photographic record that we have for other immigrant groups. At the time this flow began, there were virtually no regulations concerning immigration. You just stepped off the book and began being an American. There was considerable adverse reaction to the arrival of the Irish. The numbers of Irish who arrived were part of the problem and the fact that many were unskilled, illiteret tenant farmers. Even more of a shock was they were Catholic. America until the 1840s was largely a Protestant country. Catholcism was of some importance in Maryland, but the vast proprtion of Ameruicans were Protestants and many shared the English prejudice and fear of Catholics. The Irish Catholics were a shock to many Americans, giving rise to the first nativist movement and in large measure the No Nothing Party. The Irish immigration was not a one way flow. Many Irish immigrants, especially the men, found adjusting to American difficult. A not insignifican number returned to Ireland. Unlike the Italians who returned, most of the Irish returned having failed in America and without money. A HBC reader has provided us details on his Irish family background.


Italians began coming to America in large numbers during the late 19th century. The Italian immigration is notable not only for the number who styed and made successful lives in Americz, but also or the number whobreturned to Italy. Perhaps because of strong family ties, many came to America to earn money and then return to Italy. An estimated half of the 4 million Italians who came to America returned. These were Italians often from deprived backgrounds who returned to Italy with money and were able to buy land and live in vastly improved circumstances. Their tales of life in America helped create an image of America which caused more Italians to immigrate. The impact on Italy itself must have been significant, but I do not yet know of a study which addresses this. Perhaps our Italian readers will be more familiar with the literature. The Italians were among the most preyed upon of all the European immigrants and largely by the earlier genration of Itlalian immigrants. Many Italians, especially those from southern Iitaly were largely uneducated. Many were illiterate even in theor own language and this easy prey for the padroni who served as employment broakers.

Jews (Mostly Russian Empire)

The Jews were not a national group and came from many countries. The vast oproportion of Jews who emmigrated to America came from Russia and eastern Europe (primarily areas of eastern Europe that were part of the Russian Empire. Large areas of Poland at the time were part of Tsarist Russia.) The reason of course was the terrible oppression visited upon the Jews by the Tsarist regime and the Cossacks. Not only were there legal restrictions, but vicious pograms massacred Jews in the thousands. The primary impetus for Russian immigration to America was the pogroms directed at Jews in the wake of the assaination of Tsar Alexander II (1881). A substantial proprtion of the Russian immigrants were Jews. This was the largest group of European Jews to come to America. Earlier Jewish immigrants had been primarily German, but they were realtively small in number compared to the numbers of Russian Jews that began to arrive in America during the 1880s. This same oppression drove Jews into Western Europe, especially Germany which under Bismarck had emancipated the Jews. The Jews are notable for several reasons. Jews were most likely to stay in America. Few returned to Europe. The Jews were also the immigrant most willing to aid new arrivals. They actively support relief agencies for the new arrivals. The most important impacts of the Jews is surely the impact on American intellectual and political thought.

Latvia (Russian Empire)

Lithuania (Russian Empire)

The first Lithuanian immigrants entered America after the Civil War in the late 1860s. A 1867-68 famine helped drive the first Lithuanians to migrate. Lithuania at the time was part of the Russian Empire. Most od the immigrants entered America through New York. The first Lithuanians found jobs on farms near New York City and in brickyards in the the Hudson River Valley and the Catskills. Subsequently they were attracted to jobs building railroads in north-eastern Pennsylvania as well as the anthracite coal mines. Pennsylvania's Coal and Railroad Companies interested in finding workers willing to work for low wages sent representatives to to eastern and southern Europe to promote immigration. They helped create the belief that American streets were "paved with gold." Russian authorities attempted to prevent emigration. Thus Lithuanian emigrants often had to elude Russian officials as well as the police and army to reach Germany and the embarkation ports. Lithuanians were also attracted to Chicago, especially after the great fire in that city (1872). Others Lithuanians became tailors in New York, Brooklyn, and Baltimore. So many Lithuanians decid to emigrate that it adversely affected the local abor force. The steamships headed to America departed from German ports, especially Bremen and Hamburg. Lithuanian immigrants began to reach America in large numbers during the 1890s. Many headed for cities where Lithuanians were already established where they could find family or at least people from the same village. Prices for agricuktural products (especially rye and flax) and the overpopulation of Lithuanian countryside drive people into the main Baltic cities, including Riga and St. Petersburg. Conditions there drove people on to America. Some estimates suggest that 20 percent of Lithuanians now live in America. Commonly 10,000-30,000 Lithuanians entered America until World War I cut the flow of immigrants. Some Lithuanian immigrants were incorrectly identified as Poles. One of the most intraguing of these immigrants was Emma Goldman. Perhaps the best known is Jascha Heifetz.

(The) Netherlands

The Dutch were another people who never emigrated to America in large numbers. Remember that the people commonly referred to as the Pennsylvania Dutch in America are Germans. (Presumably the confusion comes from the German word for German--Deutsche. There is a small Dutch population in American, originating to large part frpm the first colonizers in New York. Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan in 1626 from the Native Americans for $24.00 after New Netherland was established. Peter Stuyvesant (1592-1672) founded New Amsterdam in 1647 which became New York. Names like Harlem, Brooklyn, Yonkers, Staten Island, etc. are all of Dutch origin. Individual Dutchmen went everywhere in America, but Michigan and Iowa are the only states where they settled in groups and where some Dutch influence is still noticeable there . Three American presidents were of Dutch descent: the two Roosevelts and Martin van Buren, rather remarable given the small portion of the Dutch in the American population. A reader notes some Dutch influence in Texas. He writes, "The only place in Texas where I found some Dutch influence was Nederland near Beaumont. I only could tell by the Dutch and Frisian names on the mailboxes."


Norwegian began emigrating to America during the early-19th century. Norway has verey limited agricultural land. A result, there was a substantial number of rural farm workers that wanted, but could not afford tgo purchase land. The first migrants were family groups and single men from rural Norway. The Norwegians tended to settle in areas where they could set up farms benefitting from the Northwest Ordinance. The Louisiana Purchase opened the Dakotas as well They played an important role in settling the Upper-Midwest during the mid-19th century. The numbers of Norwegians were relatively small until after the Civil War when European emigration began to increase. This is a little difficult to follow because until 1905, Norway was a part of Sweden. The Homestead Act (1862) also opened up land to immigrant settlers who promised to farm and live on the land for 5 years. As a result, landless Norwegians were able to buy rich fasrmland at very low prices. As immigrants began arriving in larger numbers in the 1870s, an uncreasuing number of young single men were arriving, often from cities. Emigration was heavy promotion by emigration agents, newspapers and writers, and earlier settlers. The expanding American railroads in particular promoted emigration. Norway is a small country. Thgus the numbers are relatively small compared to the larger countries like Germany and Italy. The Norwegians, however, came in large numbers in proportion to the population. And with the exception of Irish, no other Europeans came to America in larger numbers in relation to their population than the Norwegians. We have a few pages on Norwegian immigrant families. One was the the Rongley family from the Dakotas. Another was the Setter family in Minnesota..

Poland (Mostly Austrian-Hungarian and Russian Empires)

After the Irish and Italians, the Poles were the largest group of Catholic immigrants from Europe. At the time they arrived, however, Poland did not exist. Most Polish immigrants came from Russia and to a lesser extent Austro-Hungary. Polish immigration exploded in the late 19th century. A range of factors were involved, including both economic factors and the Tsarist's regime's steps to promote Russification of the ethnic minorities in the Empire. Exact numbers do not exist as Poland did not exist at the time and emmigration records were based on the country of origin, meaning mostly Russia. Census records are the best available source ad by 1910 about 0.9 million Poles had reached America. Polish immigration declined after World War I, both because Poland gained its independence and the United States resticted immigration. Available estimates sggest that 2 million Poles had immigrated by the 1920s Many Poles came to Ameica intending to retuen with a nest-eff saved up. In fact modt Polish immigrants stayed. The fact that until after World War I, there was no independent Poland. Today one finds the descendents of Polish immigrants spread all over America. One researcher working on immigration describes how in a private conversation he first addressed the priest in Panna Maria in standard Polish and he was amazed to hear his own Annaberg (Silesia) dialect spoken in return. The name Panna Maria was given to the colony in honor of St. Mary's Church in Krakow. [Olesch] We note ??? Woycik who looks to be a second generation Polish-American boy.


We know little about Portuguese immigration. We do know that Portuguese immigrants often worked in the fishing indistry.

Romania (Ottoman Empire)

The first Romanian immigrats like much of the rest of Eastern Europe began in the 1880s> Many of the immigrants were from the country's agricultural provinces of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Banat, which were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Far fewer immigrants came from the independen Romania that achieved its independence in the late 19th century. Romania fought with the Allies in World War I and althought defeated and occupied received the Austro-Hungarian provinces in the World War I settlement. The peak of Romnian immigration occured as a result of the 1902 crop failure and actions by mostly Hungarian landlords to consolidate small, semifeudal landholdings which through many peasants off the land. A very large part of th Romanian immigrants were landless peasants. The Romanians mostly settled in the industrial Northeast and Midwest. Here despite their rural origins, they sought out industrial jobs. Most settled in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. These three states absorbed more than half of overall Romanian immigration. Romanian immigration was smaller than the major ntionalities which arrived, but was not inconsidrable. Only about 13,000 Romanians arrived in the 19th century (1880-1900). This increased to 27,000 in the 1900s. Abour 7,000 Romanians arrived annualy during the 1910s, but this was interupted by World war I. The quota set in after the War limited Rommanian immigration to 1,000 annually. Some estimates suggest that some 30,000 Romanians returned home during the 1930s. Estimates suggest that there are about 120,000 Romanian-Americans. We note onge Romanian Jewish family, the Bernsteins, in the 1930s.


There was little Russian immigration to America until the late 19th century. Most Russians living in Alaska returned to Russia after the American purchase (1867). An important factor during the 19th century was that serfdom prevented significant immigration on the part of the peasantry until the 1860s. Rissia was a large multi-ethnic empire. Thus those arriving from Russia included not only Russians, but Poles, Jews, Balts, Ukranians, and many other nationalites, even some Germans. The primary impetus for Russian immigration to America was the pogroms directed at Jew in the wake of the assaination of Tsar Alexander II (1881). A substantial proprtion of the Russian immigrants were Jews. This was the largest group of European Jews to come to America. Earlier Jewish immigrants had been primarily German, but they were realtively small in number compared to the numbers of Russian Jews that began to arrive in the 1880s.


A confusing term here is the Scotts-Irish, it suggests two geoups. In fact the people involved were Scotts. They are called Scotts-Rish because they settled in Northern Ireland not because they were partly of Irish ancestry. They were Scottish Presbyterians recruited by English landowners called undertakers to work on estates in Northern Ireland--the Protestant Plantations. This enabled the English to drive out the Catholic Irish who were considered unreliable (1594-1603). The English Crown designated the six counties of northern Ireland as the Plantation of Ulster (1611). The Scotts planted in Ulster over time began to experience civil, economic, and religious decrimination at the hands of the English landowners. This culminated when the English landowners demand substantially higher rents to renew fatm leased (1710s). This began an exodus of the Scotts Irish to America. A serious drought caused more immigration (1714) and the exodus continued throughout the early-18th century. Similar processes were at work in Scotland itself. The Industrial Revolution and the Higland clearances were factors in the substantial emigration, of Scotts to the American colonies, especially immigration to America. Also involved at this time was the suppression of thee Scottish Higlanders after the the Rising of '45 and the English victory over Bonny Prince Charlie at Culloden (1746).


The Scotts-Irish are a often poorly understood group. They are actually a sub-set of Scotts, but specifically Low-Land Scotts. They were not ethnically Irish and certainly not Catholic. The Irish in their name comes from the fsct that thry briefly lived in Ireland, specifically Ulster. Scotts-Irish is an American term. In Britain they are more commonly referred to as the Ulsrer Scotts which a more understandable term. They played an important role in British and American history--especially the American Revolution. They also have played an inportant cultural role in America. The Scotts-Irish originted in the Scottish Lowlands. They were not strongly involved in the Scottish risings, this came mostly from the Highlands. Their location in the Lowlands meant that they were the Scotts most influenced culturally by the English. But like other Scotts they were Presbeterians. They were used by the English Crown to pacify Northern Ireland by replacing Irish Ctholics with nmore loyal Scottish Presbeterians. This was sine through the Irish Plantations. The experiment was partially successful, they did replace the Irish Catholics, but they were not compliant enough for English land lords and their oposition to the Church of England caused problems ith the Crown. As a result of this alienation with the English, they emigrated in large numbers to the American colonies at a relatively late period in colonial history. Many of the Scott-Irish settled the backwoods of the American colonies, meaning the area in the foothills of the Apalanchen Mountains. This was because by the time they began to emigrate, much of the best land east of the mountains had been settled and British authorities attempted to prevent settlement west of the mountains. Thus the Scotts Irish were limited to the backwoods. They could not afford to buy the better farm land in already developed areas and British officials denined them permission to move west into the rich land to the west of the mountins. Many of these Scotts families because of their experiences were anti-English and their experience in the colonies just intensified this feeling. English policies were unpopular throughout the colonies, but as the Colonists were mostly of English stock, they did not resent the English per se. The attitudes of the Scotts-Irish were more viceral. They disliked the English and not just their policies. They would play a major role in the American Revolution (1776-83). This meant at the time of the Revolution large areas in the backwoods were strongly anti-British. This would play out in the Revolution, especially the British southern campaign. One of the most influential early presidents, Andrew Jackson was Scotts Irish, the first of the Log Cabin presidents.

Serbia (Partially Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires)

Serbia becane independent (1878) at about the time that substantial immigration from Eastern and southern Europe began. At first a substantial part of what was to be Serbia was still under Ottoman control. Ethnic Serbs also libed in Austrian-controlled Bosnia. Serbia was one of the many European countries where people emmigrated to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We do not yet have much information about Serbian emigration. Deteriorating economic conditions seems to have generated emigration of the southern Slavs (Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs). The largely afrarian society seems unable to support a rising population. Much of the emigration seems go have come from Austria-Hungary. Most of them were Serbs who emigrated from the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. I am not sure that economic condition were much better in Serbia than in Austria-Hungary. This suggests that it was not only economic factors that drove emigration, but the political suppression of subject nationalities. Slovenes and Croats (especially after the annexation of Bosnia) lived within the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, but most Serbs lived in newly independent Serbia. We do not yet have a page on Serbian immigration yet. We notice fund raising eforts for Serbian relird duing World war I which help save war orphans. There is, however, an image on the main Serbian page.

Slovakia (Austro-Hungarian Empire)

Significant Slovak immigration to the United States, like that of other central and Eastern European countries, began in 1870s. Slovakia at the time was a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Empire was a dual monarchy with the Austrians sharing power with the Hungarians. Other nationalities had few rights. Slovakia was administered by Hungary. Slovaks like other subjects of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire had to get permission to emmigrate. but except for youths of military age there were no significant restrictions placed on emigration. There are no precise details on Slovak immigration because U.S. immigration officials recorded the Austro-Hungarian Empire as the country of origin and not the specific ethnicity. It is believed that about 0.5 million Slovaks entered the United States in the late-19th and early 20h centuries. This was a not unimportant number of people for the United Stastes, it was a very significant number of people from such a small province. Men were the most likely to emmigrate, again the general pattern. About two thirds of the immigrants were men. And they mostly came from rural areas of Slovakia. A very large number were illiterate, primarily because Hungarian authorities did not encourafe school attendance which they belieced, probany correctly, would cause a greater degree of ethnic identity. Language notations though are helpful in estimsting Slvak immigrants. Many of the Slovaks living in Austria-Hungary, unlike the Poles, did not yet have a string national identity. One immigrant speaking after World War I explained, "Us Slovaks didn't know that we were Slovaks until we came to America and they told us." [Daniels, p. 218.] The Slovaks primary interest was in finding jobs. They mostly looked for industrial jobs in the East rather than trying to establish farms in the West. Thus many of the Slovaks settled in Pennsylvania where their were jobs for unskilled laborors available in the expanding steel and coal industries. We are unsure why Pennsylvania was so important. Pennsyklvania was not the only state with expanding industries. The general pattern is that where the first immigrants from any country settled that was where the following immigrants headed for because rhey could contact family and friends. About half of the Slovaks immigrants set down roots in Pennsylvania. The other half of the Slovak immigrants chose other industrial states, mostly Ohio, Illinois, New York and New Jersey. When World War I broke out (1914) immigration to the United States dropped sharply even though the United States was a neutral until 1917. After the War, the United States passed restrictive emmigration laws. As a result, most Slovak-Americans immigrated before World War I.

Slovenia (Austro-Hungarian Empire)

Slovenia today is a small republic in Central Europe south of Austria. It came under Austrian Hapsburg rule (14th century) and except for a short period during the Napoleonic era remained within the austrian Empire until the disolution of the Empire at the end of the World War I (1918). It became part of Yugoslavia until declaring independence (1991). As a result, of this history, many Slovnees came to America a subjects of the Austrian/Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The first Slovenes to reach America were Catholic missionary priests during the colonial era. Two of the earliest were Fr. Anton Kappus and Fr. Frederick Baraga. Some Slovenes settled in small farming communities in Georgia (1730s), at the time a largely frontier area. The Slovene population was still very small at the time of the Revolution, but a few Slovenes are know to have fought in the American Revolution. Slovene priests built some of the first churches and schools in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and neighboring parts of Canada. At this time Slovenian nationalism was not well devloped and religion was for most their primary identity. Living within the Austrian Empire, many early immigrants were bilingual Slovene-German speakers and heaviky influenced by German culture. The Germans ere the largest immigrant group at the time. Until the 1880s there was a small number of Slovene immigrants to the United States. The number of Slovenes did not change significantly until the post-Civil War flow of immigrants from southern Europe began. America was a largely Protestant country and Catholics were reluctant to emigrate to America. Only the horrors of the Potato Famine drove the first large group of Catholics (the Irish) to America. Rising nationalist sentiment and the increasingly oppresive policies of the imperial powers (Austraian and Russian) along with the spectacular industrial expansion resulted in a major flow of Catholic immigrants to America (1880s-1910s). Among these immigrants were the Slovenes. It is at this time that most Slovene immigrants entered America. For some reasons we do not understand, the Slovenes mostly came in the later phase of this immigrant flow (1905-14). World War I (1914-18) largely ended the Europen immograntvflow, but we we see renewed Slovenian immigration after the War (1919-23) which only ended when Congress curtailed immigration with restrictive quotas. Slovenian immigration is difficult to quantify. Like other European ethnic groups, many were classified from the Empire thet camne from, in this case Austria or were confused with other groups like Italians, Croats, or a general Slavic label. Here Slovenes wre most commonly mislabeled by very few immingration officials had ever heard of Slovenia. More Slovenes arived after World War II, escaping Communism and the Communist arrests following the war. Many immigrant groups often settled in specific areas. For Slovenes, Cleveland, Ohio was espcially important, presumably because many of the first immigrants in the 19th century settled there. Cleveland has the largest population of Slovenians in the world, outside of Slovenia and except for a few cities a larger poplationthan most Slovenian municipalities.


The Spanish did not come to United States in large numbers. Here religion may havde been a factor. Also the Spanish has easy access to first their colonies and later the Hispanic countries of Latin America where the common Spanish language made assimilation much easier. Hispanics since World war II have come to the United States in large numbers, but not from Spain. Rather America's Hispanic population comes from the Hispanic population of the American southwest and then from immigration. The immigrants have come primarily from Mexico, but there are Hispanic immigrants from all of Latin America in the United States.


Sweden was one of the many European countries that played an important part in the population of America through immigration. A far as we know, America and to a lesser exrent Canada are the only countries to which significant numbers of Swedish emigrants went. Sweden estblished a colony in the North America (Deleware) during the 17th century, but the great bulk of swedish immigrants came in the late 19th and early 20th century. Most Swedish immigrants camr to the United States and settled in the Midwest where they left and indelible imprint. Small numbers ofindividuals came to America in the late 18th and early 19th century. It was note until the 1840s, however, that significant numbers of Swedish immigrants began arriving in America. The first organized group of Swedes arrived in New York and settled in Iowa and Illinois. By the 1930s nealy 1.3 million Swedes had reached America, making Sweden the seventh most important country in terms of American immigration.

Middle East and North Africa


America's first encounter with the Arabs was ironically also the first foreign war fought by the young Republic--the Barbary Wars. The first Arabs to reach America came with the mass of Europeans that flooded into America during the Great Migration (1880-1920) that followed the Civil War. This was not Americ's intriduction to Islam. The first Artabs were Christians, mostly from Lebano, fleeing percecution from the Muslim majority. And after the Congress passed a major immigration reform (1920s), emigration from the Arab world became very difficult. This did not change until another immigration reform law designed to elinminatre perceived raciual bias (1960s). This opened the way for Arabs to enter America and many Muslim Arabs took advantage of this opportunity. [Orfalea]

Ottoman Empire

There were immigrants from the Ottomon Empire during the 19th and early 20th century. U.S. immigration records report immifration totaled over 325,000 people. The question arises, however, as to just who these people were. It appears relatively few were ethnic turks. The Ottoman Empire was a multi-ethnic empire. Turks were actually a minority. Christians, Arabs, and Armenions contstituted a major pat of the population. It is difficult to tell just who the people immigrating from Turkey were. One Greek expert believes that two-thirds were ethnic Greeks. [Saloutos] There were also substantial numbers of Arabs. Most came from rural areas of the Levant (modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel). Most but not all of the immigrants were Arab Christians. Many when reaching America worked as laborors, but there was a strong interest in retaiing. They were were largely single men iterested in making moneey and returning home. As in the other European Army, quite a number were attempting to avoid military conscription. Immediately after World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire there was widespread economic disorder. This caused a brief wve of immigrantion from the Levant, especially Lebanon. There were also political refugees as the Europeans (Britain and France) imposed their rule under League of Nations mandates. There were more Muslim Arabs among these immigrants than earlier. This ended with a new a new immigration law which established "national origins" quotas. The quotas for the Ottoman successor states were very low.





Adams, James Tuslow. The Epic of America (1931).

Cullen, Jim. The American Dream: A Short History ofan Idea that Shaped a Nation (Oxford University Press).

Daniels, Roger. Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life (Perennial, 1990), 515p.

Graham. Otis, Jr. Unguarded Gates: A History of America's Immigration Crisis (Rowman Littlefield: 2004).

Olesch, Reinhold. "The West Slavic Languages in Texas with special regard to Sorbian in Serbin, Lee County" in Glenn G. Gilbert, ed. Texas Studies in Bilingualism (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1970).

Orfalea, Gregory. The Arab Americans: The History (2006).

Saloutos, Theodore. A History of Greeks in the United States (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1964).


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