Early Immigration before 1700’s

Northern & Western European
(German, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom)
Mainly Protestant
First Wave English Dominate Social, Economic, Political Life
Feel they are rightful inhabitants of the country

Second Wave of Immigration
Mid-1800’s to early 1900’s

Southern, Central & Eastern Europeans
Largely Catholic
Largely Polish, Italian, Jewish, Irish, German (Ellis Island point of arrival, East Coast)

Nativism Movement: Characteristics

Competition for Jobs
Distrust of all new immigrants (specifically second wave)
Belief of ethnic superiority to all non-white groups
Education embraces Nativism push, upholding first wave values

The Rise of Assimilationist Ideology 1900’s

Play written by Israel Zangwill (Jewish)"The Melting Pot" idealizes the melting of different cultures (opened NY city 1908)

Reality is that new immigrants and non-dominant cultures stick to the bottom of the "Melting Pot."

Building Wave of Asian Immigration (China, Japan, Philippines)

Push to adapt Anglo-Saxon Protestant Culture

Education embraces conformity ideal

Quote from Educational Leader:  Ellwood Patterson Cubberly, 1909

"Everywhere these people [immigrants] tend to settle in groups or settlements, and to set up their national manners, customs, and observances. Our task is to break up these groups or settlements, to assimilate and amalgamate these people as part of our American race, and to implant in their children, as far as can be done, the Anglo-Saxon conception of righteousness, law and order, and popular government, and to awaken in them a reverence for our democratic institutions and for those things in our national life which we as a people hold to be of abiding worth."

The Challenge to Assimilationist Ideology

Horace Kallen (1924), Randolph Bourne (1916), Julius Drachsler (1920) oppose assimilation & defend immigrant right to own culture. (Argued the salad bowl concept&Cultural Democracy as well as Political Democracy)

War brewing on the horizon creates more tensions

Immigrant Act of 1917 requires all Southern, Central & Eastern Europeans to pass reading test to enter U.S.

Immigrant Act of 1924 drastically limits immigration

Immigration from Northern & Western Europe remains open

Although opposition is expressed, Assimilationist ideology remains intact

Studies related to Cultural Deficit & Eugenics Theories arise

Ethnic Education Between the World Wars

Meriam report (1928) suggests Native Education be more closely tied to community and that boarding schools be reformed (versus the removal of children from homes to attend boarding schools)

Carter G. Woodson founds the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915, starts National Negro History Week 1926, & founds "The Journal of Negro History" & "The Negro History Bulletin"

The teaching of Mexican American children emphasizes vocational and manual arts training & assimilation of American core values

Ellis Island: Beginnings

17th Century: originally named Kioshk (Gull Island) by the Mohegan Indians that lived there.

1630 acquired by Michael Paauw and it was renamed Oyster Island (people ate oysters there)

1664 British took island from Dutch and renamed it "Gull Island" but later it became "Gibbet Island" as men convicted of piracy were hanged there… (Gibbet refers to gallows tree)

1770’s sold to Samuel Ellis who developed it into a picnic spot.

1808 U.S. War Department bought the island for $10,000.00

Used for defense years before 1812

During war used to house prisoners or munitions

After Civil War, stood vacant until the immigration Station at Castle Garden

1890 Ellis Island selected as new sight for immigrants coming to America.

Open for 50 years and saw more than twelve million people come through the island to the U.S.

Profile of Typical European Immigrant

Persecuted, Penniless, inadequately trained in a handicraft or profession, the educated, non-educated farmers

Lived in "Dumbbell" Tenaments; prison-like structures of brick, with narrow doors & windows, foul smelling & fire traps

Once scholars, now working 16 hours a day as a peddler pushing a cart of vegetables to make ends meet

Triangle Shirtwaist Tragedy

March 26, 1911 fires suddenly explodes in the factory
800 workers, mostly young women, were trapped as fire came up fromt hje bottom.  Many jumped to their deaths from the ninth floor, so intense was the heat... "They hit the pavement like hail…"  146 lay dead and burned on sidewalks…

Irish seen as lowest class immigrants

Between 1815 & 1920 5 & ˝ million immigrated from Ireland
Coming from impoverished conditions
So many people died that that corpses were placed in re-useable trap-coffins
Often could only find servant work in U.S., having no money for land to farm and having no profession for city work
Intense competition with Black urban workers looking for same work


1683 First German Immigrants in Pennsylvania

1718 Scots, Irish begin immigrating large numbers
1729 Pennsylvania colony increased head taxes to discourage further foreign settlement
1798 Federalist dominate congress and inact Alien and Sedition Acts to harass aliens
1803 British passenger Act to discourage immigration
1825 First Group of Norwegian immigrants
1845-49 Series of potato blights cause thousands of citizens to immigrate to US
1855 Castle Garden opened
1863 Irish working class express anger towards Civil war and hostility towards urban blacks. Riot lasts four days
1882 congressional immigration Act establishes another head tax
1883-85 Economic Depression prompts Nativistic feelings
1885 Foran Act outlaws immigration of contract laborers
1886 Statur of Liberty dedicated as Nativism soars
1891 Eleven Italian Americans lynched in New Orleans
1892 Ellis Island opens
1894 Immigration restriction league formed in Boston to promote passing of literacy test by aliens
1899 William Ripley "The Races of Europe" published dividing European people into 3 major groups giving Nativist intellectual justification for their movement.
1901 9 million immigrants enter U.S.
1907 TB and certain criminals added to list of exclusions
1911 Dillingham issued forty one volume report recommending literacy report –made clear distinction between old and new immigrants
1916 Madison Grant published "Passing of the Great Race in America," (Western-Europeans)
1917 Increased the head tax and decreased those able to enter
1919-20 Hundreds of Alien radicals captured and deported in movement lead by A. Mitchell Palmer
1921 Johnson Act signals turning point –setting nationality quota on European immigration
1924 Johnson Reed more quotas severely discriminating Southern & Easter Europeans and non-white nations
1927 two Italian radicals executed setting off wave of reaction throughout Western World.
1952 McCarran Act-Walter Act allegedly removes racial barriers on immigration, but continues
1954 Ellis Island closed
1965 New immigration abolishes National National Origins Quota System

Discussion Groups    

Definitions: Assimilation, Acculturation, Enculturation

In view of history, what do you think are the psychological or sociological effects of being an unwanted immigrant?

How would acculturation or enculturation have made a difference for immigrants who were assimilated?