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Immigration and migration in the Gilded Age

AP.USH:
KC‑6.1.II.B.ii (KC)
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KC‑6.2.I.A (KC)
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KC‑6.2.I.B (KC)
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MIG (Theme)
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Unit 6: Learning Objective F
American cities grew rapidly during the Gilded Age. What brought people to the cities and what were their experiences like? In this video, Kim explores continuity and change in migration patterns from 1865-1898.

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  • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user Michael Fulcher
    Why did Chicago grow so much? It wasnt very big before so why was it all of a sudden where you wanted to be?
    (8 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user weber
      Chicago only became a town (with laws and a government) in 1837, so to have 100,000 people 23 years later was pretty impressive. In those early years it had problems with cholera and other water-borne diseases. It fixed these eventually by reversing the direction the Chicago river flowed and by putting in "water cribs" way out in Lake Michigan to draw in clean water for the city. It also gradually raised the levels of its streets--all major engineering projects that required lots of workers but also made it a more desirable place for businesses. When canals were a big deal they built one to connect the Great Lakes with the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, and then when railroads came along Chicago was a logical hub for railroad lines. That brought the meat packers and every other industry that needed railroads to ship in supplies and ship out products. Chicago was big enough to have ethnic neighborhoods where people could find support as new immigrants, but not as crowded as New York. And, the most important thing, it had lots and lots of manual labor and factory jobs.
      Good luck on your badges and keep exploring Khan Academy, there's so much to learn here!
      (5 votes)
  • purple pi pink style avatar for user Heavenly
    how Political Bosses both helped and hurt immigrants in American cities.
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Ammar😎
    How did the whole thing started out?
    (2 votes)
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  • starky seedling style avatar for user betzril
    What was the reason mainly german and irish immagrants came to america? I know other countries came to the US, but why focus in on german and irish people?
    (1 vote)
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    • boggle green style avatar for user Rionna
      There were many German and Irish immigrants who came to America during that time because they had lots of motivation to go to America. Reasons included oppression, poverty, famine, and political disturbances in their homelands. (Remember the Irish potato famine was during this time.) The Irish and German were some of the largest immigrant groups, so they had a large effect on America.

      That doesn't mean that there weren't other immigrants who came in large numbers and affected the country, though. The video mentions significant numbers of people from southern and eastern Europe, Mexico, and Asia coming to America, too.
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user davidw788
    what is the housing like for poor factory workers?
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user Humble Learner
      Not so good. Many people would be cramped into one semi-building. There was a huge distance between the rich and poor. On one side, you have a man in a huge mansion. On the other, there was a man living in a house with 7 other people with on windows, electricity, and barely enough room to breathe.
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Morales Sanches, Jared
    I wonder if it was possible for those who left their families once,to get back to their countries and have a comfortable life, maybe like the ones they've desired before. If yes, how often does this tended to happen.
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Morales Sanches, Jared
    I wonder if it was possible for those who left their families once,to get back to their countries and have a comfortable life, maybe like the ones they've desired before. If yes, how often does this tended to happen.
    (1 vote)
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  • piceratops seed style avatar for user Vera, Adrian
    why wasn't Chicago big before
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user rrunyon26
    why are they alking about irish immagrants
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

- [Instructor] Here's a graph showing the population growth in four US cities from 1860 to 1900. In 1860, before the Civil War, New York City was the biggest city in the United States, but even it didn't have more than a million people. There wasn't a single city of more than a million in the whole country at that point. Compare that to just 40 years later when not one, but three cities had passed the million mark, and New York had nearly 3.5 million residents. Proportionally, Chicago's population growth was even more drastic, from only about 100,000 residents in 1860, it got 17 times bigger by 1900, with about 1.7 million residents. Traditionally, Americans had been a pretty rural farming people, but starting in the late 19th century, there was a rapid shift towards urbanization. By 1920, urban residents would outnumber country dwellers in the United States for the first time. And today, more than 80% of Americans live in cities. So what led to this explosion in the population of cities in the decades after the Civil War? The major factors behind this shift were industrialization, immigration, and migration. Now we've been talking about those three things in various forms in American history up until this point, from the cool inventions of the first industrial revolution to the influx of Irish and German immigrants in the 1840s to the movement of Americans ever westward. So industrialization, immigration, and migration weren't new forces in American society, but there were unique aspects of all three of these processes during the Gilded Age that contributed to the development of cities in this era. One thing that changed was the nature of work that people did. During the Gilded Age, there was a tipping point in the American labor market. In 1880, for the first time ever, the number of people who worked for someone else for wages, people who had a boss and needed to do what they said to get paid, outnumbered Americans who worked for themselves, like farmers who could decide for themselves when to sow or harvest their crops. The second industrial revolution, which began after the Civil War, was a booming era of expansion and industrial production. So there were a lot of factory jobs available, and most of those jobs were for unskilled laborers, that is workers who don't require any kind of special training before they start a job. So there was an overall transition from farm work that was self-directed to unskilled factory work done for a boss. Another change during the Gilded Age was in who was doing the immigrating and migrating. Until the 1840s, most immigrants to the United States had been Protestant Christians from northern and western Europe, and they were relatively well off financially. After the Civil War, a variety of factors abroad, combined with the wide availability of jobs in the United States, brought different types of immigrants to American cities. These new immigrants, as they were called, tended to be from southern and eastern Europe, Mexico, and Asia, and they differed from old immigrants in that they tended to be poorer, have darker complexions, and practiced Catholicism or Judaism instead of Protestantism. In addition in this era, African Americans from the south began to migrate to northern and mid-western cities. All of these immigrants and migrants created a large industrial workforce. But why did they all move to the city? Let's take a look at some of the push and pull factors that prompted people to uproot themselves and head to American cities during the Gilded Age. First, there were push factors, or things that were pushing people out of their previous living situations. A big one was poverty and just a lack of financial mobility at home. Farmers in many countries were hit hard by the mechanization of agriculture, which happened in this time period. About a third of the people moving to cities were Americans leaving farms and heading to the city for industrial jobs. Another push factor was persecution and discrimination at home. The Russian government took an increasingly intolerant position towards Jews in this time period, who were subject to mob violence and campaigns of ethnic cleansing in Europe. In the American south, the emergence of Jim Crow laws and an increase in lynchings were among the reasons that African Americans elected to leave after the Civil War. But what were the pull factors that landed them in cities? For one thing, many struggling immigrants from abroad didn't have the money to go anywhere else. So after they arrived, they just stayed put. But the main reason that people moved to cities is because that's where the jobs were. With the development of steam power and electrification, factories no longer had to be located next to waterways. So cities developed as industrial hubs. Often cities would develop as the center for one specific industry, like steel in Pittsburgh, meat packaging in Chicago, or clothing in New York. People also found communities of support in cities. Earlier immigrants might send money and information to their families and friends back home, helping them to move and get established. This facilitated the development of urban neighborhoods, where people from similar backgrounds spoke the same language, ate the same food, and provided each other with assistance. In these ethnic enclaves, people could get newspapers and even go to see theater performances in their native languages. So let's finish by taking a look at two narratives of immigrants arriving in American cities in this time period. The first one is from Lee Chew, who immigrated to San Francisco from China at age 16 in the year 1880. He wrote, "When I got to San Francisco, "which was before the passage of the Exclusion Act, "I was half starved, because I was afraid "to eat the provisions of the barbarians. "But a few days living in the Chinese quarter "made me happy again. "A man got me work as a house servant "in an American family. "When I went to work for that American family, "I could not speak a word of English, "and I didn't know anything about housework. "I did not understand what the lady said to me, "but she showed me how to cook, wash, iron, sweep, dust, "make beds, wash dishes, clean windows, paint and brass, "polish the knives and forks, et cetera. "In six months, "I had learned how to do the work of our house quite well, "and I was getting $5 a week and board "and putting away about $4.25 a week. "I had also learned some English. "I sent money home to comfort my parents. "But though I dressed well and lived well and had pleasure, "going quite often to the Chinese theater "and to dinner parties in Chinatown, "I saved $50 in the first six months." The second one is from Mary Antin, who immigrated to Boston from what is now Belarus at the age of 13 in the year 1894. She wrote, "The first meal was an object lesson of much variety. "My father produced several kinds of food ready to eat, "without any cooking, from little tin cans "that had printing all over them. "He attempted to introduce us to a queer, "slippery kind of fruit, which he called banana, "but had to give it up for the time being. "On our second day, a little girl from across the alley "came and offered to conduct us to school. "My father was out, but we five between us "had a few words of English by this time. "We knew the word school. "We understood. "This child who had never seen us 'til yesterday, "who could not pronounce our names, "who was not much better dressed than we, "was able to offer us the freedom of the schools of Boston. "We had to visit the stores and be dressed "from head to foot in American clothing. "We had to learn the mysteries of the iron stove, "the washboard, and the speaking tube, "and above all, we had to learn English. "With our despised immigrant clothing, "we shed also our impossible Hebrew names. "A committee of our friends, "several years ahead of us in American experience, "put their heads together "and concocted American names for us all." So what similarities and differences do you see between the experiences of Lee Chew and Mary Antin? Why do you think they immigrated to American cities, and what do you think their lives would be like going forward in the Gilded Age?