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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

  • Theme > Immigration and Migration (x)

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"Newcomers Help Massachusetts Economy"

While immigrants have long been portrayed as representing unfair competition for American-born workers and maligned as a burden on social services, data shows that their presence is beneficial, even essential, to the economy. As these statistics [...]

"Russian Jews as Desirable Immigrants" (Excerpt)

Ida Van Etten was a writer and the first Secretary of the Working Women's Society of New York. In this excerpt from an article published in Forum, Van Etten defends the character of the Russian Jewish immigrants that were then arriving in New York [...]

Background Essay on Late 19th and Early 20th Century Immigration

This summary of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century immigration describes the "new immigration" that originated from Southern and Eastern Europe. The essay also outlines American responses to the new wave of immigration, including some of [...]

Background Essay on San Francisco's Chinatown

This short essay describes the origins of San Francisco's Chinatown, as well as some of its major economic, political, and social facets. The essay also describes the challenges San Francisco's Chinese community faced from the city's white [...]

An Irishman Encourages His Countrymen to "Go South"

The vast majority of nineteenth-century Irish emigrants to the United States settled in cities in the Northeast.  A smaller percentage headed for the western territories.  Some Irishmen were encouraged to go South instead.   After the Civil War, [...]

An English-Chinese Phrase Book

This phrase book was published in 1875 and distributed at Wells Fargo bank offices throughout the West, in cities and towns where Chinese immigrants lived and worked. Modeled on the traditional Chinese method of memorizing and reciting "sets" of [...]

Chinatown's Groceries Thrive in San Francisco

San Francisco's Chinatown was a thriving commercial center for Chinese immigrants in California. By 1856, there were already thirty-three Chinese-owned groceries and general stores that sold a wide variety of goods and foodstuffs, mostly imported [...]

The Theater Draws Immigrants and Tourists to Chinatown

During the 1870s and 1880s, San Francisco's Chinatown included as many as four theater companies that regularly performed Chinese operas and other entertainment. The cost of admission to evening performances was usually 20-25 cents for Chinese (50 [...]

Diners Describe the First Chinese Restaurants in America

The first Chinese eateries in America sprang up in 1850s California and catered to Cantonese miners and railroad laborers. Known as "chow chows" (Chinese slang for anything edible), they were identified by yellow triangle signs. By the 1880s San [...]

A Protestant Nation Is Threatened on the Shores of the "American River Ganges"

In this 1871 political cartoon, which appeared in Harper's Weekly magazine, Thomas Nast predicts dire consequences for American citizens and institutions (elected government and public schools) because of the perceived influence of the Roman [...]

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