The Migration to North America

   Go to the links about this subject
 
1 Description of the migration movement
2 Causes of migration
3 Consequences of migration
4 Reactions on migration


In chapter two we examined the migration to North America during the expansion of Europe. Migrants during this period were not only looking for land and money, but also for a place with freedom of religion and new opportunities.

Central to this chapter is the migration to the United States during the 19th century. We can divide this period into two parts: 1789-1870, during which mostly West-Europeans went to the US and 1870-1924, which is characterized by the migration from Southern and Eastern Europe, mostly Polish and Italian. Their main goal was to build a better life than they had had in their homeland.

Many of the immigrants - some 12 million - landed at Ellis Island in New York Harbour for immigration inspection.

1. DESCRIPTION OF THE MIGRATION MOVEMENT

1.1 Who were they and where did they come from: ethnic origin, geographical background, and religion. Adults, men or women, special qualities?
Western Europe
UK
The pre-famine emigration from 1815 to 1845 was predominantly one of bilingual or English-speaking farmers, artisans and townsmen travelling in family groups. Emigrants of this description continued to leave during the rest of the century, but each year before the famine saw a rise in the number of poorer emigrants from the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic rural districts of Connaught and Muster, culminating in the massive exodus of 1845-1853.
Mostly small Irish tenants and agricultural labourers fled for the hunger, many of whom were in a state of extreme distress. Driven by recurrent food crises, the annual outflow over the next half-century (1840-1890) was increasingly of younger Irish emigrants travelling alone, now including large numbers of young women.
Many of the Scots who arrived after 1815 were Highlanders who had lost their crafts in the ‘clearances’.

Germany
During a hundred years (1815-1914) Germans went to North America. First from Southern Germany, later from Northern and then from Eastern Germany.
A disproportionately vocal and visible minority of the German migrants were political liberals facing reprisals from their efforts in the failed uprising of 1848. The great majority, however, sought to depart from unpromising and circumscribed peasant life in Germany and to become independent farmers of 100 acres or more in the American west.

France
Most of the population of Canada before 1945 originally came either from England or France (Quebec: 25% French). .

Netherlands
Most Dutch emigrants (55% before 1855) originated from those parts where rich marine clay-soil had led them to specialise in crop growing, namely the provinces of Zeeland, Groningen and later on also Friesland. Emigrants were for the most part day labourers working on the farms. Another important group (accounting for 31% of emigrants) consisted mainly of small farmers from the light sandy soil areas in the east and the south of the country.
Nearly half of the Dutch departing between 1845 and 1849 belonged to a dissenting Protestant denomination called the ‘Afgescheidenen’, or 'Seceded'.

Nordic countries
The first Scandinavian immigrants in the 19th century were relatively well off, mainly literate peasants, who were increasingly dissatisfied with the state church and the confines of opportunity at home.
Finnish migration had very much the same characteristics as industrial migration. The vast majority of immigrants were young and unmarried.

Southern Europe
Portugal
The Portuguese arriving in the USA at the turn of the century were a very homogeneous group. More than 90 per cent of them came from the Azores, 68 per cent were illiterate, 88 per cent were unskilled, they were overwhelming single and between 16 and 25 years of age. Their financial resources, at entry, were also extremely low.

Italy
Of the total Italian migration between 1876 and 1976, only some 40 per cent originated in the south, while 20 per cent departed from the centre and 40 per cent from the north.

Greece
Immigrants in Canada came until 1945 also came from Greece.

Eastern Europe
Poles, Lithuanians, Russians, Latvians, Jews, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians poured during the second half of the 19th century into the USA in unremitting waves. In five years (1919-1924) a quarter of a million East Europeans came to the USA of which Jews constituted over a half and Poles about a quarter.
Among the East European Jews the proportion of females was close (44%) to that of men.

Russia
Jews left Russia and went to the USA, especially between 1880 and 1913.

North America
United States
Post-war immigration (1919-1924) was largely a family reunification movement.

1.2 How did they travel: transport, circumstances of travelling?

Western Europe
Germany
The transit migrants crossed Germany in special trains whose compartments were carefully shielded and strictly controlled. The strict Prussian-German 'transit migration control', active during the 19th century, had the double role of serving both to keep out epidemics and to prevent illegal immigration from the east.

1.3 When?

Western Europe
Netherlands
The first wave of emigration from the Netherlands occurred in the period between 1847 and 1857.

Southern Europe
Italy
Periodisation of Italian emigration: First the classic period, 1876-1914, during which over half the total emigration took place; second the period of low emigration, 1915-1945; and third, the period of renewed migration, which accounted for 25 per cent of the total.

Eastern Europe
Transatlantic migration of East Europeans started as a trickle in the 1870s and turned into a mass movement in the 1880s that continued to swell until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

1.4 How many?
35 - 40 Million Europeans went to the United States between 1820 and 1924. The bulk of the movement occurred after 1875.

Western Europe
UK
Compared with the 30,000 to 100,000 Irish per year who left during the two preceding decades, the outflow during the famine (1840s) amounted to a flood of nearly two million emigrants, to be followed in the following decade by nearly a million more.
British migration to Canada was on a tiny scale compared with the massive movement to the USA. The earliest arrivals, many of whom Scottish, were after the fur trade in the first half of the 19th century.

Germany
In one century (1816-1914) the transatlantic exodus brought about 5.5 million Germans to the USA.
For example from 1866 to 1873 while Bismarck was unifying the imperial state and economy, over 800,000 Germans arrived.

Netherlands
The total number of emigrants from the Netherlands to North America during the 17th and 18th century may not have exceeded 10,000. Only after the mid-1840s did significant numbers (a quarter of a million) leave the Netherlands for North America.

Nordic countries
During a century of migration between 1825 and 1930, some 850,000 Norwegians, 1,200,000 Swedes and 300,000 Danes departed for the USA. These numbers take an even greater meaning when set in the context of the Scandinavian population.

Eastern Europe
Perhaps about 20 million Poles, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Russians, Latvians, Jews, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians came to the USA before 1914. Fewer than 200,000 of them were gypsies.
More than 4 million East Europeans journeyed between 1880 and 1914.
And again between 1919 and 1924 about a quarter of a million East Europeans came to the USA.

Russia
2 Million Jews left Russia and East European countries and went to the USA between 1880 and 1913.
By the outbreak of the First World war over 5,5 million emigrants from Russia (especially Poles and Jews) and Austria-Hungary had passed through German territory on their way to the ports. Most of them boarded an US-bound ship in Hamburg or Bremen.

Austria
The Austrio-Hungarian Empire contributed roughly over 4,5 million people to the transatlantic flow during the 19th century.

North America
United States
In 1790 there were 4 million people in North America including 700.000 black slaves. 60.9% of them were English, 9.7% were Irish (Presbyterians), 8.8% were Germans and 8.3% were Scots.
From 1820 on the immigration became massive. Between 1820 and 1860 5 million immigrants came to the USA, a large part of them were Irish Catholics. From 1860 until 1890 13.5 million immigrants went to the USA, a large part of them were Southern Europeans, Germans, Slaves and Jews. At the beginning of the 20th century (1900-1924) 18 million immigrants came from the same areas.

Canada
 

* From 1820 until 1924, 7 Million people went to Canada.

Africa During 3 centuries (1600-1900), 11 - 12 Million black slaves were forced to go to the colonies in North and South America.

1.5 Permanent or temporary?
Western Europe

Nordic countries
Symptomatic of industrial migration to the USA during the 19th century was the greater likelihood of return migration. It indicates a new strategy, practised especially by single Scandinavian males. When they returned to Scandinavia, they typically also returned to agriculture and often used the capital they had earned in North America to finance new ventures in Scandinavia.

Eastern Europe
Most East European peasants travelling to the USA at the turn of the century went there as migrant labourers, not as permanent settlers. Their stay in America was intended to be temporary. Therefore the majority of migrants were young, single men. The majority of East European peasant migrants remained in the USA, extending their stay from one year to the next.
East European peasants heading to the Canadian prairies to homestead usually intended their migration as permanent settlement and travelled with their entire families.
Most of the gypsies headed for North America (including Canada) with the aim of settling down.

Russia
Most of the Jews who left eastern Europe, especially Russia, not only for economic reasons, but also political refugees, viewed their emigration at the end of the 19th century as permanent; the proportion of females among them was therefore close (44%) to that of men.

1.6 Where did they go to and where did they stay?
Western Europe
Germany
Germans went during the 19th century to North America, first from Southern Germany, later from northern and then from eastern Germany.

Netherlands
Just like the areas from which they came, the areas to which the Dutch in the 19th century migrated were rural, concentrated mainly to the east of Lake Michigan.

Nordic countries
The early (19th century) Scandinavian destinations were principally located in land-rich areas in the Americas. Norwegian immigrants predominated in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas. Swedes were concentrated in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Nearly half the Finnish-born living in the USA resided in Minnesota and Michigan. Icelanders settled mainly on the prairie provinces of Canada.

Eastern Europe
During the second half of the 19th century, Gypsies went to the New World, especially to North and South America, but also to Australia and even India, the supposed homeland of the gypsies.

North America
United States
During the 19th century, immigrants moved towards the West inside America.

Canada
In one century (1820-1924), 7 Million people went to Canada. 6 million of them moved on to United States later.

2. CAUSES OF MIGRATION

2.1 Circumstances that favoured migration
Peace returned to the Atlantic region in 1815, satisfying a necessary condition for the occurence of transatlantic migration which was to last without serious interruption until 1914.
During the 19th century there were several circumstances common to all of Europe which favoured migration to the US: population pressure and fragmentation of land in rural Europe, the development of the New World, the spread of railroads and the progressive substitution of sailing boats by steamers. These factors are most commonly listed as determinants of the course of transatlantic mass migration up until the First World War.
England abolished slavery in 1832, followed by France in 1843 enabling many former slaves to go to the US where labourers were needed.
Letters from immigrants to their homeland accompanied by money prompted more migration.
Between 1870 and 1914, in addition to a promise of material affluence America came to symbolise a paradise of potential (civic) freedom in the eyes of members of oppressed nationalities or religious minorities.

Western Europe
After the First World War Northern and Western Europeans were more wanted in the United States than other immigrants.

UK
The industrialisation of Britain and the eastern seaboard of North America in the 19th century set another Irish wave of migration in motion, which would pry away still deeper layers of marginal peoples from the poverty of the hinterlands of the Irish sea, drawing them towards new sources of wages.

Germany
The potato blight in the late 1840's severly harmed peasants in Germany. Emigration became common as local authorities were often eager to assist the departure of people who might become public charges.

Southern Europe
Portugal
Portuguese employers in Milpitas relied on kinship and informal migrant networks active at both ends of the trajectory (in this case the Azores and California) to supply their labour demands. This practice was so common within the Portuguese community that it was singled out in the Immigration Commissioners Reports of 1911.

Eastern Europe
The surplus of labour force in Eastern Europe between 1870 and 1914 coincided with a demand for it on the other side of the Atlantic, related to the restructuring of the rapidly expanding American economy that had shifted to heavy industry, construction and mass garment production. Each of these enterprises required large quantities of manual workers. With the decrease in the arrival of immigrants from western and central parts of Europe due to industrial development there, American employers were eager to draw labour from the underdeveloped and overpopulated eastern regions of the continent.
In addition to this, workers, farmers and miners were sought throughout central and eastern Europe from the late 1870s on, then brought to North America to open up the Canadian prairie frontier, labour in the mines and timber camps of the US north east, and meet the expanding needs of industry for unskilled and semi-skilled labourers.
After the war (1914-1918) ended, the transatlantic flow resumed though on a diminished scale in comparison with the previous decade.

2.2 Circumstances that hindered migration
The wave of migration starting with the transatlantic mass exodus of 1840s and ending at the beginning of the 1890s had two phases of decline. The decline was caused by events that took place between 1858 and 1864/5 (economic crisis and the War of Secession 1861-1865) and 1879 (economic crisis 1873-1879).
Many destitute and sick people were turned back at Ellis Island as immigration legislation and practice became more selective in the second half of the 19th century. Since the shipping companies had to pay the costs of the return journey in these cases, they were increasingly reluctant to allow anyone aboard in Europe who looked as though they might be rejected.
During the 19th century everybody was welcome in the United States and this fact must have stimulated migration. This changed however at the end of the 19th century as some people were not allowed to come anymore.
More importantly, the outbreak of the war in Europe in 1914 put an abrupt end to the surging mass migration to America.

Western Europe
Germany
The tension between population growth and employment opportunities was further eased by immense economic growth in the highly industrialised German empire during the decades before the First World War. At the time of the US economic crisis of 1893 the secular transatlantic mass exodus of 19th century Germany declined abruptly and shrank to a rivulet.

Eastern Europe
 

* Second half 19th century: The USA had during the second half of the 19th century an implicit policy of keeping gypsies out, derived from an explicit policy of barring paupers from 1882.
In 1924, the US Congress enacted the national quota system that sharply reduced immigration from eastern Europe, and the onset of the Great Depression on both sides of the Atlantic in 1929 further diminished inflows.

2.3 Direct causes of migration
Western Europe
UK
Enormous population growth in Ireland caused emigration in the 19th century. Ireland became known as
increasing dependency, deepening poverty and the annual departure of those best able to leave. * halfway During the 1840s Irish left 'en masse' for America because of famine.

Germany
From 1871 until the end of the American Civil War no fewer than 30,000 Germans arrived each year, unsettled by Germany's own wars with Denmark and Austria, its low wages and high food prices, and the continuing pressure on smallholding peasants.
The secular transatlantic mass exodus from Germany, of which 90 percent went to the USA, was instigated mainly by socio-economic problems deriving specifically from the lack of correspondence between population growth and employment opportunities during the crisis of the transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy.
Other economic reasons for Germans to migrate were stiffer competition to home and cottage industry from factory production, and the subdivision of family lands to the level of 'dwarf holdings', indicating to young Germans that home held a dismal future for them.

Netherlands
The wave of Dutch emigration between 1847 and 1857 may be attributed to the failures of three consecutive potato and rye harvests in the mid-1840s. Again, the great agricultural crises of the 1880s and 1890s and the agricultural restructuring they entailed is mirrored in the wave of emigration that occurred between 1880 and 1893: common to all Dutch migrants was a need for land.
A period of suppression by the Dutch State in the 19th century led many to flee to North America.
The American domestic economy between 1840 and 1900 was of even greater importance: prospective Dutch emigrants responded directly to American conditions. ‘Land booms’ stimulated the immigration of the Dutch, while economic depression discouraged migration.

Nordic countries
A broad-based economic and demographic transformation that was altering Scandinavian society ultimately resulted in a widened emigrant stream. While the population increased in the 18th century, it literally exploded in the 19th.
News in the 19th century of immense opportunities to work and especially own land in the USA and Canada, which filtered into the rural land-poor districts of Scandinavia, made emigration far more alluring than moving to the city or remaining at home.

Southern Europe
Italy
In south Italy, economic deprivation and political reaction between 1876 and 1945 combined to drive hundreds of thousands abroad, particularly to the USA.
This caused an enormous population growth in Southern Italy, as well as more emigration.

Eastern Europe
Combined with the unprecedented demographic growth of all groups in the region, large-scale proletarianisation of eastern European working classes both Christian and Jewish sent millions of people in search of a livelihood in the USA between 1870 and 1914.

In the same period, there was political discrimination against particular ethnic/national groups by the east European institutions of the dominant society, reinforcing the ‘push’ effects of the economic and demographic factors.

3. CONSEQUENCES OF MIGRATION

3.1 Short term consequences
Positive consequences

- for the migrants (first generation)
- for their new environment / native born
- for the country they left

North America
USA
- for the migrants (first generation)
The Ukrainians have been more remarkably successful between 1870 and 1914 than most other minorities, particularly in Canada.

negative consequences
- for the migrants (first generation)
- for their new environment / native born
- for the country they left

Western Europe
Nordic countries
- for the country they left
The 19th century emigration from the Scandinavian countries was an enormously important phenomenon to its society and economy.
Eastward flows of capital and information, in the form of letters and occasional visits from ‘Americans’ to their old home, fuelled additional westward migration.

3.2 Long term consequences
positive consequences

- for the migrants (second and third generation)
- for their new environment
- for the country they left

negative consequences
- for the migrants (second and third generation)
- for their new environment
- for the country they left

4. REACTIONS ON MIGRATION

4.1 Reaction of the receiving society on the immigrants
- official reaction
- reaction of the common people

North America
United States
- official reaction
Up until the First World War, the US government practised an open door immigration policy, at least as far as people with white skincolor were concerned.
The authorities did not pay much attention to whether an immigrant was say Ukrainian or a Slovak, since during and after the First World War the nuances of nationality were considered less relevant than what was thought to be a self-evident truth, namely that these various immigrants would, by the second generation if not sooner, be re-forged in the ‘melting pot’ of the New World and emerge as loyal American or British subjects.
At the end of the 19th century the United States tried to exclude some people from coming to the USA. 1875: Prostitutes and criminals were not allowed to come to the USA anymore, retarded people, alcoholics etc. were not welcome either. 1882: Chinese were excluded, 1907 Japanese excluded, 1917 all Asians were excluded. Under the influence of Darwinism between 1907 and 1911 the USA developed a list of countries that were allowed to send migrants to America and countries that were not. Between 1921 and 1930 the limitations grew.

- reaction of the common people During the 19th century the Americans welcomed the immigrants from Europe and Asia, because they were cheap labourers.
Farmer migrants (Scandinavians and Germans) were welcomed with open arms during most of the second half of the 19th century. They were seen as a civilising influence since they were white, often respectable and -apart for some German Catholics- Protestant in denomination. Moreover, they soon set about producing food on a scale that would feed hungry mouths in the rapidly urbanising and industrialising cities of the north and the northeast.
At the end of the 19th century Germans were treated with hostility in America;President Roosevelt even called them traitors because they did not want to become American.
Describing oneself as a Ukrainian while living in North America has not always been a wise pairing of choices.

Canada
- reaction of the common people
Immigration during the 19th century in Canada was welcomed by the English Canadians, because this could decrease the preponderance of the French Canadians. The French population grew fast because of many births.

4.2 Reactions of the immigrants on their new environment
- integration / assimilation
- maintaining their own identity
- differences between first, second and third generation

North America
United States
- integration / assimilation
During the second half of the 19th century, a large number of Irish settled in the big eastern cities -where they were nonetheless a minority- yet many lived in urban peripheries, supporting themselves in a manner resembling the micro-economies of their homeland consisting of mixed wage labour and garden farming, though without relying as heavily on the potato.
Germans served in the Union army during the Civil War and actively took part in politics after the war.
The majority of the Dutch immigrants successfully managed to establish themselves as farmers.
The Finns -more so than other Scandinavians- were highly active in labour and socialist organisations in the USA.
The organised Ukrainian constituency has become one of the most politically active and sometimes even influential of the Slavic minorities in North America.

- maintaining their own identity
In the USA a distinctively German-American culture was flourishing between 1870 and 1914. Cities large and small had their German-language newspaper. New York, Chicago and other cities boasted ‘Little Germanies’ with their publications, churches, Turnvereins and other fraternal organisations, singing groups, saloons and orchestras.
For decades in the 19th century the Scandinavians maintained their native tongue and religion, and tended to wed within their own ethnic group. It is not too much to suggest that the migration from Scandinavia to North America was to conserve former patterns of life in a distant milieu.
One of the noticeable characteristics of Portuguese immigrants in the USA is their very restricted need to interact outside their own ethnic group. Especially after 1870 when the Portuguese immigrant communities in the USA attained a sizeable base that was able to absorb increasing numbers of newcomers. This would obviously reduce the need for social interaction with English native speakers
As the numbers of East Europeans in America increased between 1870 and 1914, close-knit immigrant communities emerged and solidified.
There will always be a place for an organised Ukrainian presence in North America.

- differences between first, second and third generation
The assimilation of almost all members of the second and subsequent generations Ukrainians is the result of urbanization, intermarriage and upward social mobility.

Canada
- integration / assimilation
Today less than 50 per cent of those describing themselves as Ukrainians in Canada belong to either one of the Ukrainian churches, a situation parallel in the USA. And between 1961 and 1981 the number of Canadians who identified Ukrainian as a mother tongue fell sharply. The same happened in the USA. Their Ukrainian ancestry will simply have ceased to have much utility in their daily lives, or in the lives of their children.

- differences between first, second and third generation
The younger generations Ukrainians have essentially abandoned ‘the virtual Canadian Ukraine’ which once existed in the ethnic bloc settlements of the Canadian west.

The national Quota System set in place in 1924 put an immediate stop to what had been a period of mass migration originating in southern and eastern Europe, China and Mexico. The Quota System was both a direct reaction to the flood of migrants as well as seen as a necessary measure to save the worsening economy.
Immigration never completely stopped however; people kept coming during the 1930's -sometimes legally, sometimes illegally- and Europeans found their way to the USA even during the Second World War, though never to the same extent as during the 19th century.
After the Second World War the immigration from Europe increased again, as we shall see in chapter 7.3, but this continued only for one decade.

 

 

Dr. Marlou Schrover