United States Boys' Clothes: Immigration--Chronolgical Trends


Figure 1.--This group of Jewish World War I orphans from Central Europe is on their way to America in 1921. They tragically lost their parents during the War, but none of the children are people who brought them to America realized at the time how lucky they were. Congress was in the process of drastically curtailing immigration. And the communities from which they came would be destroyed by the NAZIs in the World War II Holocaust. Source: American-Jewishg Joint Distribution Committee.

America as a result of the Revolutionry War gained independence from Britain in 1783. The first wave of immigration after independence occurred as a result of the disorders caused by the French Revolution (1789) and subsequent Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). Europeans fled the economic distress and battlefield horrors by emmigrationg to America. The numbers in retrospect were relatively limited. Economic distress in Ireland, especially the Potato Famine of 1845-46, caused the first major wave of European immigration. Most immigrants during the first half of the 19th century came from the British Isles and northern Europe (Germany and Svandinavia). This gradually changed and during the second half of the 19th century immigration increased from Eastern and Souther Europe. During this period, immigrants from Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia constituted more than half of the total. The number of immigrants gradually increased during the 19th century,. By the early 20th century about 1 million immigrants entered Ameruican annually. This sharply fell off during World War I (1914-18). After the War, immigration began to rise again until restricted by Congress in 1921 and 24 with the National Origins Avt.. Early immigration laws had primarily been aimed at the Chinese. The restrictive laws passed by Congress in the 1920s affected all countries.

Colonial Era

Immigrants during the colonial era were primarily from the British Isles. I do not think the British authorities placed national origins limits on new arrivals, but here I do not yet have any actual information. I think that new settlers were primarily from the British Isles because of the existing trading patterns. The British did restrict trade with foreign countries. Family and kinship patterns were another factor. Many came to America because they had friends and family already there. People speaking different languages, especially from Catholic countries, were much less likely to take the enormous leap of coming to America. Many of the early setters, especially in the northern colonies, were Protestant religious disidents. This had a powerful impact on the American character which can still be seem today. Another large group was the Scotts-Irish which were largely hostile to the the English. There seems to have been no effort by the English to restrict the flow of this group which was essentially hostile to Britain. In fact, the English ruling class seems top have been releaved to be rid of these people. Many arriving in the early and mid-18th century settled in the back woods and were to play a major role in the coming Revolution. Because of the cost of traveling to America, many came as indentured servants. The term of servitude was generally 7 years. Africans were brought to America as slaves, although the legal institution of slavery only developed over time. The bulknof African slaves were brought to the southern colonies.

Late 18th Century

America as a result of the Revolutionry War (1776-83) gained independence from Britain in 1783. The Scotts-Irish essentially expelled by Britain played a major role in the American victory, especially defeating the British southern strategy. The first wave of immigration after independence occurred as a result of the disorders caused by the French Revolution (1789). The numbers were, however, relatively small. America at the time had no real immigration controls. You simply walked off the boat amd took up life in America. The Constitutional Convention avoided the issue of slavery. Although slavery is not enshrined in the Constitution, it was tacitly recognized in voting provisions determining representation in the House of Representatives--the 3/5s rule. The Cobstitution did require an end to the African slave trade by 1808. By not mentioning slavery directly, the institution became a matter of state law.

Early 19th Century

The French Revolution was followed by the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). Europeans fled the economic distress and battlefield horrors by emmigrationg to America. The numbers in retrospect were, however, still relatively limited. Trans-oceanic travel was still a major undertaking. There was still no real controls on immigration. The African slave trade legally ended in 1808 as a result of a Constitutional provision. Illegal importantion continued for some time.

Mid-19th Century

Economic distress in Ireland, especially the Potato Famine (1845-46) and the inadequate British relief effort, caused the first major wave of European immigration to America. This proved shocking to many Americans for several reasons. The numbers of Irish seeking refuge from the Famine were very large. They tended to settle in the cities where concentrated in certain neigborhoods they were very visible. (The Scotts-Irish who came to America in the 18th century moved to the back woods where they farmed and were much less vissible. And perhaps most shocking of all to largely Protestant America, they were Catholic. Another shock to still largely European America were the Chinese that came to America after the discovery of gold in California (1848). The 1848 Revolutions caused an unsurge of immigration, especially from Germany.

Late 19th Century

The number of immigrants gradually increased during the 19th century and had reached very substantial nunbers during the late 19th century. Large scale European imigration to America began after the Civil War (1861-65). Technological change, especially steam power made low-cost Atlantic passages possible. Steam ship companies began recruiting immigrants. This made it possible for Europeans with very little money to safely reach America. Most immigrants during the first half of the 19th century came from the British Isles and northern Europe (Germany and Svandinavia). This gradually changed and during the second half of the 19th century immigration increased from Eastern and Southern Europe. During this period, immigrants from Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia constituted more than half of the total. These immigrants and the diversity they brought with them were to have a fundamental impact on the American Republic. That diversity was, however, unsettling to many Americans and Congress enacted law to regulate and control emmigration. Ellis Island became the primary port of entry for these immigrants.

Early 20th Century

Extensive European immigration contunued after the turn of the 20th century. An imposing new building was completed on Ellis Island to process immigrants (1900). By the early 20th century about 1 million mostly European immigrants were entering American annually. Over 1.2 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island in the per year (1907). Large numbers of immigrants continued to flow from Eastern Europe and Italy. Eastern European immigration was promarily from the multi-ethnic Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires substanially increasing America's ehnic diversity. Jewish emigration continued to be substantial from Russia. This sharply fell off during World War I (1914-18). Countries at war did not want men of military age emmigrating. And sea travel was disrupted by the War. The Royal Navy blockaded the ports of the Central Powers. The Germans blockaded the Russian Baltic ports. After the War, immigration began to rise.

Inter-War Years

Europeans began to emigrate to America again after World War. The disruption and dislocations of the War created conditions in which there was a great desire to emigrate to America which was not only largely untouched by the War was increasingly prosperous. Immigration began to rise again toward pre-War levels. This created demands for restrictions on immigrants. A range of factors were involved. Unions objected to the competition with imiigrants willing to work for low wages. Conservatives saw the immigrants as a potential political until restricted by Congress in 1921 and 24 with the National Origins Acts. Early immigration laws had primarily been aimed at the Chinese. The restrictive laws passed by Congress in the 1920s affected all countries.






HBC





Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main U.S. immigration page]
[Return to the Main U.S. country page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Economics] [Essays]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[ Boys' Clothing Home]



Created: 10:37 PM 8/6/2005
Last updated: 5:43 PM 9/5/2006