Immigration to U.S.: 1890-1910 (Torus Washington II)

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Torus Washington II

ENG 1102- D.Jakacki

U.S. Immigrants

Immigration during the time period 1890-1910 was an influential span of immigration policy and foreign influx into the United States. This time period falls into the era of regulation—an era which featured few restrictions, but developing rules were being formulated. This policy shaped the movement of immigrants into the United States. Many of those immigrants were paramount contributors to American society in the area of silent film. These included moguls and screenwriters like Carl Laemmle and the Lumière Brothers. Immigration during 1890-1910 would prove to be a fairly influential sequence that would transport some of silent film’s finest into the business.

“Old” and “New Immigrants

Ellis Island

“Old” Immigrants

Old immigrants were generally Northern and Western European citizens who were successful contributors to American culture and entrepreneurship. Germany, the UK, and Ireland made up the majority of the Old immigrants. They assimilated smoothly into America and as the 1890s began, the number of “Old” Immigrants entering the United States started declining.

“New” Immigrants

Immigrants that originated from Southern and Eastern Europe were regarded as “New” immigrants. Italy and Austria-Hungary made up a large part of the “New” immigrants; they were the majority during the 1890-1910 period. During that time, over 2 million immigrants camr from Italy/Austria and over 1.5 million came from Russia.

Immigration 1880-1920

Immigrants in the Work Force

A booming industrial economy fueled the infusion of immigrants in the labor force. Most immigrants found jobs in cities in the Northeast and Midwest, largely in factory or industrial roles. In fact, Over 50% of meatpacking and steel plants were operated by immigrant workers and Over 50% of the work force in cities were foreign born men. The “New” immigrants made up a large majority of this workforce; however, they were protested by working native Americans due to their willingness to work for low wages. This behavior skewed the wages for other workers and made the cost of manual labor much cheaper.

Immigration Restrictions

Hope for the American Dream

Before 1890-1910, a few restrictions on Immigration already existed: -Convicts and prostitutes were barred (1875)

-Immigration Act of 1882:

  • Banned all “mental defectives” and paupers
  • Secretary of Treasury given authority over immigration Chinese Exclusion Act
  • Foran Act (1885)- Banned the Importation of foreigners with pre-arranged work contracts

During the Pre-World War Movement, there was a general negative sentiment towards open Immigration

-1891 Law:

  • Banned polygamists
  • Diseased or sick immigrants were not allowed
  • Steamship Companies were required to return unacceptable passengers

-1903 Law banned anarchists and saboteurs along with epileptics and professional beggars

Literacy Tests were often proposed as a device to slow the free and open immigration to the United States. These tests required that persons ages 16 and older were demonstrate literacy through proficiency in language. This proposal never made it through the legislation process until the conclusion of World War I, which inherently marked the end of free immigration.

Work Cited

Goldin, Claudia Dale., and Gary D. Libecap. The Regulated Economy: a Historical Approach to Political Economy. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1994. 225-30. Print.

Jacobson, David. The Immigration Reader: America in a Multidisciplinary Perspective. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1998. 48-58. Print.

Martin, Philip L. Immigration in the United States. 2nd ed. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2003. 12-15. Print.

Vialet, Joyce C. A Brief History of U.S. Immigration Policy. Rep. no. B0006DJHMS. The Library of Congress: Congressional Research Service, (1991). Print.

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