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A CENTURY has slipped into the past since our country began to record with any degree of accuracy the immigrants who have come to us. For three generations they have been moving into our midst, and are now found in every state in the Union from New York with her three millions of these newcomers to South Carolina with only six thousand. They are numerically prominent in all our large cities, even showing a majority in fifteen of these, and are the chief cause of our most pressing urban problems. Since 1820, over thirty-three millions have come, and there are now in the country about seventeen million persons of foreign birth. These with the children of the foreign born swell the number to thirty-five millions, a goodly portion,-indeed a third, of our entire population. If all descendants were counted, the so-called native American would feel overshadowed by the mighty host, and begin to wonder whose country it really is, and, if he is much of a speculator, what an American really is.


The United States has always proved an attractive refuge for Old World people who for any reason wished to better their estate. Famine and persecution have sent many to our shores where, in the earlier days especially, they were sure of a welcome. Free land was here for the asking and cultivating, and men were needed in our industries. With the opening up and further expansion of factories in New England, came an unprecedented demand for human hands. The local supply was eagerly sought and soon exhausted. The virtues of labor were lustily preached on all sides, and were heard and heeded by rural dwellers who flocked to the mill towns with their seeming advantages. Native born women and children worked everywhere, since little skill was required by machine tenders. The first large foreign accessions came from Germany and Ireland; the former for political, the latter for economic reasons. These people naturally enough sought the work which was nearest their port of arrival. This was in textile mills where they were soon absorbed by the least desirable jobs, the native workers being pushed up and later out into better positions. It was not long before the native-born practically disappeared from the factories, and such work has since been in the hands of foreigners. Each alien race in turn has taken the worst work; as skill is acquired, better positions are filled. Thus has our industrial development been able to go on apace. Immigration has until recently given us a plentiful supply of cheap, unskilled labor.

NUMBERS PAST AND PRESENT From the time of the founding of the Republic in 1776 until 1820, it is estimated that about 250,000 people migrated here from Europe. Since the latter date, actual figures have been recorded each year. The immigration statistics for 1820 are as follows: Netherlands

49 France

371 Switzerland

31 Scandanavian Countries

23 Italy

30 Germany

968 United Kingdom

6024 Russia

14 Country unspecified


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* The political upheavals of 1848 caused many middle-class German liberalists to seek homes in the United States, while the complete failure of the crop of 1845 drove the Irish in the same direction. The potato had become the main subsistence of the people since its introduction in 1610.

For purposes of comparison, the figures for 1920 are herewith given : Netherlands

5,187 France

8,945 Switzerland

3,785 Scandanavia

13,444 Italy

95,145 Germany

1,001 Austria-Hungary

352 United Kingdom

48,062 Russia

995 Japan

9,432 Belgium

6,574 Portugal

15,472 Greece

11,981 Turkey

6,966 Roumania

1,890 West Indies

13,808 Mexico

52,361 British North America

90,025 Countries not specified


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It will be noted that the government statistics for 1920, still adhered to the old classification of countries. The new political divisions of Europe will be found in later reports, The immigration "year" closes in June instead of being synchronous with the calendar year. The latter half of the year 1920 shows a larger movement of people than the first half. Eighteen different countries appear in the list. It must be remembered that nationality and geographic locality are only rough and inaccurate signs of race.

Since the year 1907 was the banner immigration year, with 1914 following closely, the figures for those two years are also given. The war, which followed immediately after the records for 1914 had closed, had a marked effect on numbers for succeeding years. There was practically no immigration for a time, but a large outgoing stream.

Immigration for the years 1907 and 1914.


1914 Netherlands

6,637 6,321 France

9,731 9,269 Switzerland

3,748 4,211 Scandanavia

49,965 29,391 Italy

285,731 283,738 Germany

37,807 35,734 Austria-Hungary

• 338,452

278,152 United Kingdom

113,567 73,417 Russia

258,243 255,660 Japan

30,226 8,929 Belgium

6,396 5,763 Portugal

9,608 10,898 Greece

36,580 35,832 Turkey

28,820 29,915 Roumania

4,384 4,032 West Indies

16,689 14,451 Mexico

1,406 14,614 British North America

19,918 86,139 Countries not specified

26,741 31,987 Total

1,284,649 1,218,453

PERMANENCE OF NEWCOMERS To understand the net gain in numbers for any year, one must consider not only the incoming, but also the outgoing foreigners. There is a constant movement of returning immigrants, and a record of this has been kept by the government since 1907. It is instructive to note in this connection that what is known as the Old Immigration, made up of those who came prior to 1882, shows a much larger degree of permanence than the groups constituting the New Immigration. That is the North-Western Europeans came for the definite purpose of making a home while the Southern and Eastern Europeans showed a marked tendency to return to the country of their origin. The figures 2 for 1908 to 1910 for instance, show thirty-eight per cent. returning from the latter, and only sixteen per cent. from the former. The more like minded to

* Jenks and Lauck: The Immigration Problem (5th ed.) p. 38.

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