“The Immigrant”


Discovery of gold and gold mining

In 1847 in Coloma, California, James Marshall found a site for a sawmill. On January 24, 1848, Marshall went down to the river to inspect progress, and, as he later told the story: “My eye was caught by something shining in the bottom of the ditch. . . . I reached my hand down and picked it up; it made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold. . . Then I saw another.” In May, word of the strike–and a sample of gold dust–were shown in San Francisco. Almost overnight, the port turned into a near ghost town as merchants, sailors, soldiers, and laborers rushed inland to the gold fields. It was not long before gold-seekers from all over the state, Hispanic Californians, Native Americans, Europeans and U.S. citizens joined them. As word spread outside California in the following months, new national and ethnic groups contributed their share to the fascinating mix of the gold fields: Mormons from Utah, farmers and trappers from nearby Oregon, experienced miners from Mexico and Chile, white sailors and merchants and native workers from Hawaii, and Chinese from the province of Kwangtung near Canton. (California gold rush).

The construction of railroads (Union Pacific Railroad Co, Central Pacific Railroad Co)

Beginning in the early 1870s, railroad construction in the United States increased dramatically. Prior to 1871, approximately 45,000 miles of track had been laid. Between 1871 and 1900, another 170,000 miles were added to the nation’s growing railroad system. Much of the growth can be attributed to the building of the transcontinental railroads. Union Pacific Railroad co was incorporated on July 1, 1862, under an act of Congress entitled Pacific Railroad Act of 1862. The act was approved by President Abraham Lincoln, and it provided for the construction of railroads from the Missouri River to the Pacific as a war measure for the preservation of the Union. It was constructed westwardly from Council Bluffs, Iowa to meet the Central Pacific line, which was constructed eastwardly from San Francisco Bay. The line was constructed primarily by Irish labor who had learned their craft during the recent Civil War. The two lines were joined together at Promontory Summit, Utah, 53 miles (85 km) west of Ogden on May 10, 1869, hence creating the first transcontinental railroad in North America. The Central Pacific Railroad is the former name of the railroad network built between California and Utah, USA that built eastwards from the West Coast in the 1860s, to complete the western part of the “First Transcontinental Railroad” in North America. It is now part of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Industrialisation (raw materials, effect on development of economy, main industries)

By 1850 the U.S. was firmly established in a strong process of industrialisation and by 1900 it was not only a fully industrialised economy but also one of the world’s top three economic powers. Industrialisation in the US had the highest growth in the world. For most of the first half of the period this growth was based on the exploitation of natural resources, agricultural and mineral, but from the early nineteenth century, industrialisation also became increasingly important. After the Civil War in the 1860s steam-powered manufacturing overtook water-powered manufacturing, allowing the industry to fully spread across the nation. Main industries: cotton (textile), iron, flour, sawmills.

Formation of trusts

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was a massive wave of industrialization across the United States. One product of this era was the rise of “big business.” Within certain industries, large corporations emerged. Some of these corporations were able to decrease or even eliminate competition by organizing themselves into monopolies. A trust was a way of organizing a business by merging together rival companies.

The role of Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was a poor Scottish immigrant turned millionaire who came to symbolize the opportunity for social mobility that some call the American Dream. He formed the Carnegie Steel Corporation and his profits from the steel industry made him one of the wealthiest men in the United States. Also a noted philanthropist, Carnegie gave away some $350 million mostly to build public libraries and endow universities.

The role of John D. Rockefeller

He was an American business magnate and philanthropist. He was a co-founder of the Standard Oil Company, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. business trust. Rockefeller revolutionized the petroleum industry, and along with other key contemporary industrialists such as Andrew Carnegie, defined the structure of modern philanthropy. In 1870, he founded Standard Oil Company and actively ran it until he officially retired in 1897.

The role of Henry Ford

He was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Henry Ford was definitely a great inventor and made a huge effect on our world. Just imagine what our world would be like without cars that everyone could drive! Henry Ford also made an effect on our lives by creating the assembly line. His assembly line helped bring down prices which helped people because cars were cheaper. His idea was also used latter in other factories and helped the prices of other items come down too.

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was a joint effort between France and the United States, intended to commemorate the lasting friendship between the peoples of the two nations. The French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi created the statue. The Statue of Liberty was given to the United States and erected atop an American-designed pedestal on a small island in Upper New York Bay, now known as Liberty Island, and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in 1886. Over the years, the statue stood tall as millions of immigrants arrived in America via nearby Ellis Island.

Causes of immigration from Europe in the 19th century

A combination of unemployment, famine and religious persecution drove more than 30 million European immigrants to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first major wave of immigration to the U.S. occurred between 1820 and 1870, when a famine in Ireland and North Europe and economic troubles in Germany brought more than 7 million immigrants to America. But the height of immigration was between 1880 and 1920, when more than 20 million immigrants from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, including millions of Russian Jews fleeing religious persecution, came to the U.S..

First Wave 1790 – 1820

Groups of immigrants came for a variety of religious, political, and economic reasons. Northern and Western Europeans (English, Irish, Germans, Dutch, French, Spanish etc). Starvation, disease, and shipwreck killed 1 in 10 of those immigrants who set sail for America before they even set foot on land.  (relatively little immigration, significant emigration to Canada)

Second Wave 1820 – 1860  

Immigrants came for new opportunities because in Europe, peasants displaced from agriculture and artisans were made jobless from the industrial revolution. Some immigrants received “American Letters” which were encouraging friends and relatives to join them in America. German (escaping economic problems and seeking political freedom), British, Irish 40% (poverty and famine encouraged emigration). The Roman Catholic church was the single largest religious body in the United States by 1850.

Third Wave 1880 – 1914  

Immigrants came over to America for more job opportunities and freedom of religion. Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian countries (migrated to the western states). In the 1910 census, foreign-born residents made up 15 percent of the U.S. population and 24 percent of the U.S. labor force.

Fourth Wave 1965 – Present  

A new law that altered the selection of immigrants from the country they were from, to giving priority to people who already had family in the United States or had skills that were needed in the labor market. Europeans, Asians, Hispanics (Mexico). In the 1980s and early 1990s, Asians made up about one-third of the immigrants entering America. Hispanics made up about one-half of the number of immigrants in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Jewish immigration

Sephardic wave

The first group of Sephardic settlers arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654 from Brazil. For several decades afterward, adventurous Sephardic and Ashkenazic merchants established homes in American colonial ports, including Newport, R.I., New Amsterdam (later New York), Philadelphia, Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga. This was a departure from the Old World, where synagogues in places like Amsterdam, London, and Recife, taxed commercial transactions, regulated Jewish publications, and punished members for lapses in individual or commercial morality.

German wave

German Jews began to come to America in significant numbers in the 1840s. Jews left Germany because of persecution, restrictive laws, economic hardship, and the failure of movements — widely supported by German Jews — advocating revolution and reform there. Some 250,000 German-speaking Jews came to America by the outbreak of World War I. This sizable immigrant community expanded American Jewish geography by establishing themselves in smaller cities and towns in the Midwest, West, and the South. If German Jews had one city of their own invention, it was Cincinnati.

Eastern European wave

Eastern European Jews began to immigrate to the United States in large numbers after 1880. Pushed out of Europe by overpopulation, oppressive legislation and poverty, they were pulled toward America by the prospect of financial and social advancement. Between 1880 and the onset of restrictive immigration quotas in 1924, over 2 million Jews from Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Romania came to America. The immigrants found work in factories, especially in the garment industry, but also in cigar manufacturing, food production, and construction. Large-scale Jewish immigration to the United States ended in 1924.

Ellis Island

An island that is located in Upper New York Bay in the Port of New York and New Jersey, United States. It was the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States as the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. In the 35 years before Ellis Island opened, over eight million immigrants arriving in New York City had been processed by New York State officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in Lower Manhattan, just across the bay. The federal government assumed control of immigration on April 18, 1890, and Congress appropriated $75,000 to construct America’s first Federal immigration station on Ellis Island. Artesian wells were dug, and landfill was hauled in from incoming ships’ ballast and from construction of New York City’s subway tunnels, which doubled the size of Ellis Island to over six acres. It has been estimated that close to 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island.

Reed-Johnson Immigration Act of 1924

United States federal law that limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890. It completely excluded immigrants from Asia.

The notion of Melting Pot vs Salad Bowl

The USA is traditionally called a melting pot because with time, generations of immigrants have melted together: they have abandoned their cultures to become totally assimilated into American society. Historically, it is often used to describe the assimilation of immigrants to the United States.

But in the UK, where cultural diversity is considered a positive thing, immigrants have always been encouraged to maintain their traditions and their native language. This model of racial integration can be described as a salad bowl, with people of different cultures living in harmony, like the lettuce, tomatoes and carrots in a salad. New York City can be considered as being a “salad bowl”

Present situation

The civil rights movement of the 1960s led to the replacement of the ethnic quotas with per-country limits. Since then, the number of first-generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007. Nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States from 2000 to 201o, and over one million persons were naturalized as U.S. citizens in 2008. there are more than 50 million immigrants living in the United States. Once immigrants begin to enter the United States, they have to learn many new things in order to navigate and adjust to their new homeland. Historically and currently, immigrants experience exploitation in the workforce and different forms of discriminations and challenges in their lives.

Urbanisation (living conditions, labour unions)

The urbanisation of the United States was a very long and gradual process, with the United States only becoming an urban-majority nation between 1910 and 1920. As the 19th century drew to a close, the rapid development of cities served as both a uniting and driving factor in American social, economic, and political life. Cities attracted a rich cross-section of the world’s population, creating a diverse, metropolitan atmosphere. At the same time, cities forced people from entirely different backgrounds to live and work together in close proximity for the first time, which served as a uniting factor. The never- ending influx of immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Britain, and Scandinavia created an ethnically diverse population united by their common financial plight, social oppression, and shared American Dream. Many minority groups tended to congregate in certain area of the city giving rise to nicknames like “Chinatown” in San Francisco and “Little Italy” in New York City. As room became more and more scare for New Immigrants, increasingly smaller tenement buildings were constructed in an attempt to save room. Not only were the apartments extremely small, but at times 3 or 4 families were forced to fit into one apartment. Along with small size, the plumbing, ventilation, and lighting was often very poor. As the industrial work force grew, tensions increased between labor and management. They disagreed over issues such as wages, length of the working day, and working conditions. Labor unions emerged to protect the rights of workers and to represent them in negotiations with management. Most employers vigorously opposed trade union activity, and struggles between workers and employers often became violent.

Progressive Movement: Theodore Roosevelt

Progressivism is the term applied to a variety of responses to the economic and social problems rapid industrialization introduced to America. Progressivism began as a social movement and grew into a political movement. they were people who believed that the problems society faced (poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare) could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace. Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated, and believed that government could be a tool for change. On a national level, progressivism gained a strong voice in the White House when Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901. TR believed that strong corporations were good for America, but he also believed that corporate behavior must be watched to ensure that corporate greed did not get out of hand.

An American Empire (the Philippines, Cuba)

In the late nineteenth century, foreign territories such as Hawaii and Latin America were sought after by the United States. Amendments were used in unison to grant the United States the right to intervene in those territories if that particular government was deemed unfit to rule itself. The American government now held the power to both criticize and occupy these nations if they were deemed to be unstable. The Spanish– American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, the result of US intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. US attacks on Spain’s Pacific possessions led to involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately to the Philippine–American War. Revolts against Spanish rule had occurred for some years in Cuba. In the late 1890s, US public opinion was agitated by anti-Spanish propaganda which used yellow journalism to criticize Spanish administration of Cuba. After the mysterious sinking of the US Navy battleship Maine in Havana harbor, political pressures from the Democratic Party and certain industrialists pushed the administration of Republican President William McKinley into a war he had wished to avoid. Compromise was sought by Spain, but rejected by the United States which sent an ultimatum to Spain demanding it surrender control of Cuba. First Madrid, then Washington, formally declared war. After its defeat in the Spanish-American War of 1898, Spain ceded its longstanding colony of the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris.

Dollar Diplomacy

Effort of the United States between 1909-1913 to further its aims in Latin America and East Asia through use of its economic power by guaranteeing loans made to foreign countries.

Monroe Doctrine

A U.S. foreign policy regarding European countries in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression, requiring U.S. intervention. At the same time, the doctrine noted that the United States would neither interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal concerns of European countries.

The US in WWI

United States declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917. The U.S. was an independent power and did not officially join the Allies. It closely cooperated with them militarily but acted alone in diplomacy. The U.S. made its major contributions in terms of supplies, raw material and money starting in 1917. During the war, the US mobilized over 4,000,000 military personnel and suffered 110,000 deaths.

Versailles Treaty of 1919

The Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, was drafted at the Paris Peace Conference in the spring of 1919 and shaped by the Big Four powers—Great Britain, France, Italy, and the United States. After Germany was defeated, President Wilson pushed for his Fourteen Points to be followed by the rest of Europe and the Allies. Wilson wanted all of Europe to be able to recover quickly from the war, including Germany. France and Britain disagreed and placed harsh reparations on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. The United States did not sign the Treaty of Versailles, but established their own peace treaty with Germany.

League of Nations

The League of Nations was an international organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, created after the First World War to provide a forum for resolving international disputes. Though first proposed by President Woodrow Wilson as part of his Fourteen Points plan for an equitable peace in Europe, the United States never became a member. The congress didn’t want to be in the League of Nations. The country, whose president, Woodrow Wilson, had dreamed up the idea of the League – America – refused to join it. As America was the world’s most powerful nation, this was a serious blow to the prestige of the League. However, America’s refusal to join the League, fitted in with her desire to have an isolationist policy throughout the world.


I chose a picture of Ellis Island for the visual representation of this film, as it was, at the time, the central hub of the US immigration wave – the main topic of the movie The Immigrant. Ellis Island itself was a building complex comprised of customs offices, medical facilities, canteens and other facilities. At its peak, Ellis Island processed 11 747 immigrants in a single day.

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