United States Boys' Clothes: Becoming Americans


Figure 1.-- Child immigrants had the advantage of attending the public schools. America embraced public education for all, even native Americans. The public school taught the new immigrants English as well as the principles of American government and culture. Irish immigrants like te ones see here were already largely Amerinized by the time another wave of European immigration began fllowing the Civil War. Here the boys play stick ball--the cloest you could get to baseball in the crowded streets amd allies.Source: Louis W. Hine Collection.

Most immigrants came to America seeking a new life. Culture is, however, a poweful force. Some new immigrants found that they were too attached to the life style of the old country or their expectations were unrealistic. This was particularrly true of men. Many of those who could not adjust or make a living returned or tirnd to drink. Most embraced the new American ways they found. Immigrants came to America for a range of reasons. Many but not all came to stay, but others did not and this to an extent varied by country. Quite a number of Italians, for example, came to make money and return to Italy. But Italy was an indepedent country. Immigrants coming from Russia and Austria-Hungary were normally subject ethnic groups and were much less likely to return. This was especially true of Jews from Russia. These same factors also affected the tendency to persue naturalization. Age was another factor. While adults varies in their desire to become Americans, young people tended to very quickly decide they definitely wanted to be Americans. They wanted to dress like Americans and talk like Americans. And they quickly adopted American games like baseball. In some cases they even became embarassed of their parents foreign ways. Child immigrants had the advantage of attending the public schools. Many European countries at the time did not promote public education. This was especially true of Austria-Hungary which saw education as promoting national conciousness among the subject national groups within the Empire. America on the other hand embraced public education for all, even native Americans. The one exception here was blacks in the South where education was seen as potentially dangerous because educated blacks were more difficult to control. The public school taught the new immigrants English as well as the principles of American government and culture. Other important aids to becoming Americans were public libraries, settlent houses, and groups like the YMCA. Another important conduit to becoming American was the youths and women that worked as domestics.many Many of these women learned to be Americans by working in American homes. Here tey learned not only English, but American customs and manners. One surprising lesson they leaned was that it was against the law for men to beat therr wives.






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Created: 1:59 AM 9/8/2006
Last updated: 1:59 AM 9/8/2006