December 11, 2000
In the decades following the Civil War, the United States emerged as an industrial giant. Old industries expanded and many new ones, including petroleum refining, steel manufacturing, and electrical power, emerged. Railroads expanded significantly, bringing even remote parts of the country into a national market economy. America was the ideal place.
In the late 1800s, people in many parts of the world decided to leave their homes and immigrate to the United States. Fleeing crop failure, a shortage in land, and employment, rising taxes, and famine, many came to the U. S. because it was perceived as the land of economic opportunity. Others came seeking personal freedom or relief from political and religious persecution. With hope for a brighter future, nearly 12 million immigrants arrived in the United States between 1870 and 1900. During the 1870s and 1880s, the vast majority of these people were from Germany, Ireland, Russian, Italy, and England
Immigrants entered the United States through several ports. Those from Europe generally came through East Coast facilities, while those from Asia generally entered through West Coast centers. More than 70 percent of all immigrants, however, entered through New York City, which came to be known as the "Golden Door." Throughout the late 1800s, most immigrants arriving in New York entered at the Castle Garden depot near the tip of Manhattan. In 1892, the federal government opened a new immigration-processing center on Ellis Island in New York harbor.
Although immigrants often settled near ports of entry, a large number did find their way inland. Many states, especially those with sparse populations, actively sought to attract immigrants by offering jobs or land for farming. Many immigrants wanted to move to communities established by previous settlers from their homelands.
Once settled, immigrants looked for work. There were never enough jobs, and employers often took advantage of the immigrants. Men were generally paid less than other workers, and women less than men. Social tensions were also part of the immigrant experience. Often stereotyped and discriminated against, many immigrants suffered verbal and physical abuse because they were "different."
The Irish were called white niggers. They came to America because of An Gorta Mor. (That’s the great hunger for those who didn’t know). The Britt’s hated (and still hate) the Irish, and they made them work like slaves, and paid them very little. The Irish, who came because they thought they could get some land, and be free in America, were starving in the streets, and dying in the factories.
When the Chinese immigrated, they did it because conditions in China were so poor, (and they were so poor), that immigrating to the U.S. was their only solution. They got extraordinarily wealthy when they came back from the U.S. They were extremely hard workers despite the fact that they were called names, and were low on the ladder. They were also despised by labor unions because they refused to join them out of principle.
The Italians immigrated in large numbers. They came because they were dying in the streets of Italy. They were also seeking the money that was famed in America. The Italians were despised not only being different in religion, and skin color, but that they also brought with them, organized crime (the mafia). They banded together, and lived in communities in New York. They spoke Italian before English. As hard as things were, their faith kept them together, and allowed them prosper.
While large-scale immigration created many social tensions, it also produced a new vitality in the cities and states in which the immigrants settled. The newcomers helped transform American society and culture, demonstrating that diversity, as well as unity, is a source of national strength.
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