- Discovery of gold and gold mining – Gold mining in the United States has taken place continually since the discovery of gold at the Reed farm in North Carolina in 1799. The first documented occurrence of gold was in Virginia in 1782. Some minor gold production took place in North Carolina as early as 1793, but created no excitement. The discovery on the Reed farm in 1799 which was identified as gold in 1802 and subsequently mined marked the first commercial production. The large scale production of gold started with the California Gold Rush (1848–1855) in 1848. The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. The Gold Rush had severe effects on Native Californians and resulted in a precipitous population decline from disease, genocide and starvation.
- The construction of railroads – The original company, the Union Pacific Railroad was incorporated on July 1, 1862, under an act of Congress entitled Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 (series of acts of Congress promoting the construction of a transcontinental railroad). 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. The combined Union Pacific-Central Pacific line became known as the First Transcontinental Railroad. It was operated by Union Pacific Railroad Co. and Central Pacific Railroad Co. The CPRR was a railroad company (1861-1885) chartered by the U.S. Congress to build the western part of the Transcontinental Railroad.
- Industrialisation – By the end of the Civil War, hand labour was still more widespread, limiting the production capacity of industry. After the war, the U.S. started to use machines as main means of producing, increasing the production capacity of industry. The industrial growth centered mostly in the North, while the South lagged behind the rest of the country economically. Thanks to the new railroads, the goods could be transported far away, much faster. With industrialisation, came urbanisation as more and more people started moving to the cities due to the availability of jobs in the cities.
- Formation of trusts – In the late 19th century, American corporations formed combinations known as trusts in order to reduce competition and regulate production and prices. Trusts became very unpopular during the Gilded Age (an era of major economical growth, industrialisation and inequality) because they were not seen as being helpful to the consumer or to the market. In 1890, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, a weak piece of legislation (The Sherman Act was designed to restore competition but was loosely worded and failed to define such critical terms as “trust,” “combination,” “conspiracy,” and “monopoly.”) that was strengthened by the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914. The Clayton Antitrust Act also gave unions the right to exist and affirmed the right of workers to go on strike.
- The role of Andrew Carnegie – American industrialist and philanthropist; worked in a Pittsburgh cotton factory (earning 1.20/week); worked in Pennsylvania Railroad as the assistant to Thomas Scott, one of the railroad’s top officials; became a superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1859; invested in iron and oil companies while working for the railroad; by 1889, he owned Carnegie Steel Corporation (largest steel company in the world); in 1901, he sold his business and dedicated his time to philanthropy; established the Carnegie-Mellon University in 1904
- The role of John D. Rockefeller – founder of The Standard Oil Company (SOC) in 1870; became one of the world’s wealthiest men, major philanthropist; born in New York, entered the oil business by investing in a Cleveland refinery; SOC controlled 90% of US refineries; was accused of colluding with railroads to eliminate his competitors; in 1911, US Supreme Court ordered SOC to be dissolved, in violation of antitrust laws; during his life, he donated more than 500 million to philanthropy
- The role of Henry Ford – grew up in Michigan, 1863; at the age of 16, left home for Detroit to work as a machinist; returned home to work on the family farm after three years; in 1891, he went to Detroit with his wife; was hired as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company(EIC); promoted to chief engineer 2 years later; spent many hours building a gasoline-powered horseless carriage, or automobile; in 1896, completed the ‘’Quadricycle’’ – metal frame with 4 bicycle wheels powered by a gasoline engine; in 1902, established the Ford Motor Company; a month after, the first Ford car was assembled in Detroit (model T); assembly process was slow and cars were built by hand; Ford introduced new mass-production methods, including large production plants, use of interchangeable parts and the world’s first moving assembly line for cars
- Statue of Liberty – The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York, in the United States. The copper statue standing at 93 meters, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and its metal framework was built by Gustave Eiffel. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886. The Statue of Liberty is a figure of Libertas, a robed Roman liberty goddess. She holds a torch above her head with her right hand, and in her left hand carries a tabula ansata inscribed in Roman numerals with “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI” (July 4, 1776), the date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. A broken chain lies at her feet as she walks forward. The statue became an icon of freedom and of the United States, and a national park tourism destination. It is a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad. Fundraising for the statue proved difficult, especially for the Americans, and by 1885 work on the pedestal was threatened by lack of funds. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer, of the New York World, started a drive for donations to finish the project and attracted more than 120,000 contributors, most of whom gave less than a dollar. Between 1886 and 1924, almost 14 million immigrants entered the United States through New York. The Statue of Liberty was a reassuring sign that they had arrived in the land of their dreams. To these anxious newcomers, the Statue’s uplifted torch did not suggest “enlightenment,” as her creators intended, but rather, “welcome.” Over time, Liberty emerged as the “Mother of Exiles,” a symbol of hope to generations of immigrants.
- Causes of immigration from Europe in the 19th century – Fleeing crop failure, land and job shortages, rising taxes, and famine, many came to the U. S. because it was perceived as the land of economic opportunity. Others came seeking personal freedom or relief from political and religious persecution. More than 70 percent of all immigrants, however, entered through New York City, which came to be known as the “Golden Door.” Throughout the late 1800s, most immigrants arriving in New York entered at the Castle Garden depot near the tip of Manhattan. A major wave of immigration occurred from around 1815 to 1865. Majority of the immigrants came from Northern and Western Europe. Approximately one-third came from IRELAND, which experienced a massive famine in the mid-19th century. In the 1840s, almost half of America’s immigrants were from Ireland alone. Typically impoverished, these Irish immigrants settled near their point of arrival in cities along the East Coast. Between 1820 and 1930, some 4.5 million Irish migrated to the United States. Also in the 19th century, the United States received some 5 million GERMAN immigrants. Many of them journeyed to the present-day Midwest to buy farms or congregated in such cities as Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cincinnati. In the national census of 2000, more Americans claimed German ancestry than any other group. During the mid-1800s, a significant number of ASIAN immigrants settled in the United States. Lured by news of the California gold rush, some 25,000 Chinese had migrated there by the early 1850s. Between 1880 and 1920, a time of rapid industrialization and urbanization, America received more than 20 million immigrants. Beginning in the 1890s, the majority of arrivals were from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. In that decade alone, some 600,000 ITALIANS migrated to America, and by 1920 more than 4 million had entered the United States. JEWS from Eastern Europe fleeing religious persecution also arrived in large numbers; over 2 million entered the United States between 1880 and 1920.
- Different waves of immigration:
- 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 – Ellis Island is a former immigration inspection station in New York Harbor, within the states of New York and New Jersey. It was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the United States as the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. After an arduous sea voyage, immigrants arriving at Ellis Island were tagged with information from their ship’s registry; they then waited on long lines for medical and legal inspections to determine if they were fit for entry into the United States. From 1900 to 1914 – the peak years of Ellis Island’s operation – some 5,000 to 10,000 people passed through the immigration station every day.
- Reed-Johnson Immigration Act of 1924 – The Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of immigrants allowed entry into the United States through a national origins quota. The quota provided immigration visas to two percent of the total number of people of each nationality in the United States as of the 1890 national census. It completely excluded immigrants from Asia. Signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge. The 1924 Immigration Act also included a provision excluding from entry any alien who by virtue of race or nationality was ineligible for citizenship. Existing nationality laws dating from 1790 and 1870 excluded people of Asian lineage from naturalizing. As a result, the 1924 Act meant that even Asians not previously prevented from immigrating – the Japanese in particular – would no longer be admitted to the United States. Many in Japan were very offended by the new law, which was a violation of the Gentlemen’s Agreement. The Japanese government protested, but the law remained, resulting in an increase in existing tensions between the two nations. Despite the increased tensions, it appeared that the U.S. Congress had decided that preserving the racial composition of the country was more important than promoting good ties with Japan. 1917 >>> They created a plan that lowered the existing quota from three to two percent of the foreign-born population. They also pushed back the year on which quota calculations were based from 1910 to 1890.
- 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”. Both models of multicultural societies have contradictory aspects: in a melting pot there is no cultural diversity and sometimes differences are not respected; in a salad bowl cultures do not mix at all.
- Present situation – Immigrants comprise about 14 percent of the U.S. population: more than forty-three million out of a total of about 323 million people. Together, immigrants and their U.S.-born children make up about 27 percent of U.S. inhabitants. Illegal immigration. The undocumented population is about eleven million and has leveled off since the 2008 economic crisis, which led some to return to their home countries and discouraged others from coming to the United States. A 2017 Gallup poll found that 71 percent of Americans considered immigration a “good thing” for the United States. Forty-six percent of immigrants in 2017 reported their race as single-race White, 27 percent as Asian, 9 percent as Black, and 16 percent as some other race. About 2 percent reported having two or more races. In 2017, approximately 78 percent (239.3 million) of the 306 million people ages 5 and older in the United States reported speaking only English at home.
- Urbanisation (living conditions, labour unions) – The US was a predominantly rural in the 18th century. In 1790 approximately 95% of people lived outside a city. At that time only 3 cities had more than 15.000 residents. However, urbanisation exploded during the Industrial Revolution. The nation changed from an agricultural to an urbanized and industrialized one. Before the Revolution, rich people tended to live in the center of the city. However, rapid urbanization opened the possibilities of larger roads and mass public transport, which allowed towns to expand their borders. Because factory workers did not need to live in a close range to their workplace, suburbs were built. The North became heavily urbanized and industrialized, while the South remained rural. Only in 1920 did the number of citizens living in urban areas become bigger than in rural areas. Because of the growing number of factory workers, more people demanded tolerable working conditions. This marked the rampant start of labour unions. Eventually, labour unions played a key role in abolishing child labour and increasing wages, reducing working hours and improving sanitation in factories across USA.
- Progressive Movement: Theodore Roosevelt – The Progressive Movement, also known as Progressive Era, was a period from 1830s to 1920s. The later political movement supported equal conditions for everybody and it developed because of the socio-economic problems as a consequence to industrialization. Many progressives lived in cities and were well educated. Many problems, such as immigration, corruption, better education and the right to vote were tackled. The peak of the activism was when Theodore Roosevelt came to power as president. He was the governor of New York and he was aware of city problems, which only the government could resolve. He noticed the public’s outcry over rising prices in industries controlled by a monopoly. He began to eliminate monopoly, such as in the railroad, tobacco, beef and oil industries. His reforms’ purpose was to allow a free market and to end corruption and monopolism. To add, he claimed a lot of land in the west to harvest resources and develop an infrastructure for citizens. The Progressive Era ended after World War I, when the horrors of people were exposed and many began to associate president Wilson’s sayings with the war. He was the creator of National Pubs in the US.
- An American Empire (the Philippines, Cuba) – It was a Spanish-American war. The first battle was held in the Philippines. Americans knew nothing about Philippines culture or history so American military diplomacy was being carried out in the arrogant cover of almost total ignorance. In 1896, a riot against the Spanish had started in the Philippines. The rebels had adopted a constitution modeled after the American constitution. They had elected a government, including a president: Emilio Aguinaldo. Spain agreed on a truce but then tricked the Philippines so America sent their troops to help the rebels out. Rebels didn’t accept the help put the troops never left. Spain knew they were losing so they surrendered, but only to the US. Americans stayed there and from their point of view, Filipinos were a conquered people. They had no right, US troops searched their houses without any warrants. Americans called them “indians” and the soldier referred to them as “niggers”. American soldiers also landed in Cuba. In less than two weeks of fighting, the Spanish were again defeated. Other American soldiers occupied Puerto Rico, another Spanish-owned island close to Cuba. In July the Spanish government saw it was beaten. It asked the Americans for peace. When peace was signed, Spain gave most of its overseas empire to the United States – Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and a small Pacific island called Guam. Spain sold the Philippines to America for 20 million dollars. But not everything is bad, the Americans built schools and hospitals, constructed roads, provided pure water supplies and put an end to killer diseases like malaria and yellow fever in the lands they now ruled. They continued to rule most of them until the middle years of the century. The Philippines became an independent country in 1946. In 1953 Puerto Rico became self-governing, but continued to be closely tied to the United States. In 1959 Hawaii was admitted as the fiftieth state of the Union. Cuba was treated differently. When Congress declared war on Spain in 1898 it said that it was only doing so to help the Cuban people to win independence. When the war ended, Cuba was soon declared an independent country. Nevertheless, US used Cuba as a military base.
- Dollar Diplomacy – Dollar Diplomacy, foreign policy created by U.S. President William Howard Taft and his secretary of state, Philander C. Knox, to ensure the financial stability of a region while protecting and extending U.S. commercial and financial interests there. It grew out of President Theodore Roosevelt’s peaceful intervention in the Dominican Republic, where U.S. loans had been exchanged for the right to choose the Dominican head of customs (the country’s major revenue source).Under the name of Dollar Diplomacy, the Taft administration engineered such a policy in Nicaragua. It upheld the overthrow of José Santos Zelaya and set up Adolfo Díaz in his place; it set up an authority of traditions; and it ensured loans to the Nicaraguan government. The hatred of the Nicaraguan individuals, however, in the long run resulted in U.S. military intervention too. Taft and Knox also attempted to promulgate Dollar Diplomacy in China, where it was even less successful, both in terms of U.S. ability to supply loans and in terms of world reaction. The dismal failure of Dollar Diplomacy—from its simplistic assessment of social unrest to its formulaic application—caused the Taft administration to finally abandon the policy in 1912. Dollar diplomacy has come to refer in a disparaging way to the heedless manipulation of foreign affairs for strictly monetary ends.
- Monroe Doctrine – The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas beginning in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to take control of any independent state in North or South America would be viewed as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.” At the same time, the doctrine noted that the U.S. would recognize and not interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal concerns of European countries. The Doctrine was issued on December 2, 1823 at a time when nearly all Latin American colonies of Spain and Portugal had achieved, or were at the point of gaining, independence from the Portuguese and Spanish Empires. To simplify the Monroe Doctrine was a principle of US policy, originated by President James Monroe, that any intervention by external powers in the politics of the Americas is a potentially hostile act against the US.
- The US in WWI – The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, more than two and a half years after World War I started. Before entering the war, the U.S. had remained neutral, though it had been an important supplier to Great Britain and the other Allied powers.The U.S. made its major contributions in terms of supplies, raw material, and money, starting in 1917. American soldiers under General of the Armies John Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), arrived at the rate of 10,000 men a day on the Western Front in the summer of 1918. During the war the U.S. mobilized over 4 million military personnel and suffered 110,000 deaths, including around 45,000 who died due to the 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak. The war saw a dramatic expansion of the United States government in an effort to harness the war effort and a significant increase in the size of the U.S. Armed Forces.After a relatively slow start in mobilizing the economy and labor force, by spring 1918, the nation was poised to play a role in the conflict. Under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, the war represented the climax of the Progressive Era as it sought to bring reform and democracy to the world, although there was substantial public opposition to U.S. entry into the war. Although World War I began in 1914, the United States did not join the war until 1917. The impact of the United States joining the war was significant. The additional firepower, resources, and soldiers of the U.S. helped to tip the balance of the war in favor of the Allies.
- Versailles Treaty of 1919 – The Treaty of Versailles was perhaps one of the most important treaties in all of mankind, ending the Great War, or better known as World War I. Initially, it originated from President Woodrow Wilson, with his Fourteen Points Speech to the Congress on January 8, 1918. The Treaty was signed on June 28, 1919. Under the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan, Germany was held responsible for all war crimes and damages, therefore they had to pay 132 billion marks (roughly 396 billion euros in today’s economy) in reparations. This was also the cause of the hyperinflation in Germany. Most of the border territories were either given back to the original country or given as entirely new land for neighbouring countries who aided the Triple Entente (Denmark, Belgium, Poland and Lithuania). The treaty demanded that Germany would lower their armies forces, all while prohibiting the use of certain class weapons and later on, be completely disarmed. However, due to the rise of Hitler in 1932, the treaty’s terms were completely avoided.
- League of Nations – The League of Nations was to be formed under the first part of the Treaty of Versailles, later officially founded at the Paris Peace Conference on January 10, 1920. There were 42 original founding members and 15 other countries who joined later on. Its primary goal was to maintain world peace, by negotiation before things got worse. Their most successful achievement was the creation of the Geneva Protocol (prohibited use of biological and chemical weapons), while their other endeavours were not able to be enacted. A lot of problems were not able to be solved because of countries not believing that they were a threat to the attackers, meaning that the League had to mostly watch from the sidelines. Even though it was Woodrow Wilson’s plan to form an intergovernmental organization to stop wars from ever happening, the US refused to join them. This, and the Soviet Union joining the League and later declaring war on Finland severely lowered their reputation. During World War II, the League of Nations’ members were supposed to stay neutral, but France and Germany did not agree to this. That shows how low the organization had fallen, and in the early to mid-40’s, it basically ceased to exist. Only 26 of them remained as part of the League until its disbandment in 1946.
“The Immigrant”, directed by James Gray, is widely considered as a beautiful, detailed and accurate movie about the difficulties the immigrants had to go through to even get into the country and to get their ‘American Dream’ started.
Although the movie talks about regular immigrants, Ewa and Magda, one could not say the same difficulties faced many immigrants. In my opinion, the movie is not sufficient to get a good glimpse of immigration in America. But as Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said for AVFilm: “It’s not An Immigrant, but The Immigrant.” And I couldn’t agree more. The film did a brilliant job portraying the environment and the surroundings of New York to make the viewer feel like they’re in 1921 themselves. Dan Callahan for Roger Ebert and Vishnevetsky both share the same opinion about the details of the different environments in the movie. Callahan said, about the recreation of New York in 1921: “The film’s period recreation of New York in 1921 is meticulously drawn in rich, dark colors and chiaroscuro displays of light and shadow.” Vishnevetsky commented on the different sets in the film: “because Gray never foregrounds their authenticity, composing every frame around the characters rather than the decor, they feel even more real. They have smells and temperatures.”
When Bruno visited the ‘undesirables’ on Ellis Island, he introduced himself as working for the Travelers Aid Society. In reality, he was there looking for girls to bring him in money by selling themselves and dancing. Ironically, from 1907-1979, there was a real organization called Travelers Aid Society of New York (TAS-NY) that focused on ‘providing social work to women travelling alone to protect them from moral danger’. TAS-NY believed that one of the greatest threats to female travelers was white slave trafficking which is defined as the “coercion” of white women to prostitution and their subsequent sale to male clients. To my mind, that is astoundingly ironic but a brilliant lie for a character like Bruno Weiss to tell women considering his character and intentions.
To sum up, the film is an incredibly beautiful and detailed movie about immigration but not enough to get a good idea of immigration in America in the 20th century. The details of the film go further than just visuals as very small features like the lies of Weiss expose new depths to the movie and provide discussion material for hours.
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AVFilm – https://film.avclub.com/james-gray-s-the-immigrant-is-an-american-masterpiece-1798180525
Dan Callahan, Roger Ebert – https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-immigrant-2014
Travelers Aid Society of New York – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelers_Aid_Society_of_New_York