19th century immigration to the US
can be broken into two phases: Old
Immigrants and New Immigrants
• Old immigrants came mostly from western
Europe between 1840 and 1880.
• Most of these came from Germany, with large
numbers of Irish, English, and Italians as well.
• Some came to escape from famines, such as
the Irish potato famine.
• Some came seeking land for farming.
• Some came to escape from political turmoil,
such as Germany's 1848 attempted revolution.
New immigrants came from Eastern
Europe, from Russia, Romania,
Poland, and Austria-Hungary
• Beginning in the 1890s, most US immigrants came from
Eastern Europe.
• Many of these came to escape from rising populations.
Between 1800 and 1900 , the population of Europe
doubled, resulting in scarcity of farm land.
• These displaced farmers came to America seeking, not
farm land, but jobs in America's booming factories.
Eastern European Jews came to
America to avoid religious
• Some Russians, for example, had an
intense hatred for Jewish people, called
"anti-semitism." These anti-semites would
raid Jewish villages, driving the people
• This kind of thing happened in many
eastern European nations, so a large
number of Jewish people came to America
for religious freedom.
A large number of New Immigrants
came to America from Asia, specifically
China and Japan
• Between 1851 and 1883, about 300,000
Chinese immigrants came to the west coast.
• Some were seeking their fortunes after the
discovery of gold in California.
• Many Chinese immigrants helped build the
nation's railroads.
• When the railroads were completed, the workers
farmed, mined, or opened businesses.
In 1884, the Japanese government allowed
Hawaiian planters to recruit Japanese workers,
and a wave of Japanese emigration began.
• The US annexation of Hawaii increased
Japanese immigration to the West Coast.
• It continued to increase as word of
comparatively high US wages spread.
• By 1920, more than 200,000 Japanese
lived on the US West Coast.
New immigrants often had a harder
time assimilating: becoming part of
American life and culture
• Many Americans had German, English, and Irish
heritage, so they could relate to the dress,
language, and mannerisms of old immigrants.
• New immigrants, though, dressed differently, ate
different foods, spoke languages totally
unfamiliar to most Americans, and had different
• Plus, they tended to live together in small parts
of the cities, and to avoid associating with
natural born Americans.
On the boat from Europe
Ellis Island Processing Station
Just in from Russia
From Italy
Irish Family
Rumanian Family
Typical Immigrant Apartment, NYC
The “Five Points” was an area in New York that was heavily populated by Irish
immigrants. Living conditions were poor and crowded and crime and violence
were high in this area. Areas like the “Five Points” were the kinds of housing that
most immigrants could afford after their voyage to the United States.
Jacob Riis photographed living conditions for immigrants in New York
City. His images depicted overcrowding, starvation, unemployment,
and suffering. His images are sometimes credited with opening the
eyes of Americans to the poverty of immigrants.
Riis: Immigrant Tenement
Riis: Bottle Alley, NYC
It is a serious matter to many a man who has invested his all in a ticket for the
New World to face the possibility of rejection.
During the late 19th century, the United States imposed its first restrictions on
immigration. The earliest immigration restrictions were aimed at Asian
immigrants. The United States imposed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. It
barred the entry of Chinese laborers and established stringent conditions under
which Chinese merchants and their families could enter. Also in 1882, the
United States excluded people likely to become public charges. It subsequently
barred contract laborers (1885), illiterates (1917), and all Asian immigrants
(except for Filipinos, who were U.S. nationals) (1917). Other acts restricted the
entry of certain criminals, "dangerous radicals," people who were considered
immoral, those suffering certain diseases, and paupers.
Gigantic machinery in a Massachusetts cotton mill
Former Mill Workers
Children who worked long
hours in the textile mills
became very tired and found
it difficult to maintain the
speed required by the
overlookers. Children were
usually hit with a strap to
make them work faster. In
some factories children were
dipped head first into the
water cistern if they became
drowsy. Children were also
punished for arriving late for
work and for talking to the
other children. Parish
apprentices who ran away
from the factory were in
danger of being sent to
prison. Children who were
considered potential
runaways were placed in
Fish Cutters
Dr. Ward from Manchester was
interviewed about the health of textile
workers on 25th March, 1819.
When I was a surgeon in the infirmary, accidents were very often
admitted to the infirmary, through the children's hands and arms
having being caught in the machinery; in many instances the
muscles, and the skin is stripped down to the bone, and in some
instances a finger or two might be lost. Last summer I visited Lever
Street School. The number of children at that time in the school, who
were employed in factories, was 106. The number of children who
had received injuries from the machinery amounted to very nearly
one half. There were forty-seven injured in this way.
With most immigrant families being poverty
stricken, children often had to find work to help the
family. The boys seen here are coal workers known
as “breaker boys.” Many more worked in factories
and mills.
Sarah Carpenter was child laborer in a
factory. She was interviewed by The
Ashton Chronicle on 23rd June, 1849.
Our common food was oatcake. It was thick and coarse.
This oatcake was put into cans. Boiled milk and water
was poured into it. This was our breakfast and supper.
Our dinner was potato pie with boiled bacon it, a bit here
and a bit there, so thick with fat we could scarce eat it,
though we were hungry enough to eat anything. Tea we
never saw, nor butter. We had cheese and brown bread
once a year. We were only allowed three meals a day
though we got up at five in the morning and worked till
nine at night.
Russian Orphans
Promontory Point, Utah: 1869
Tunneling Under the Rockies
Over the Valleys
They built the Railroad:
Irish and Chinese Workers
• Music:
-Immigrant Song: Led Zeppelin
-Mad World: Gary Jules
-You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive:
Darryl Scott

Slide 1