New Immigrants and Old

 

Americans at the turn of the century were alarmed about what they perceived as a change in the type of immigrants entering the United States. Some of the traits they saw as distinguishing the new immigrants from the old immigrants were real; some were imagined; some were half-true. The old immigration peaked in the 1880s. The new immigration peaked in 1907.

 

New immigrants and old--what people said

The old immigrants. . .

The new immigrants. . .

came from northern or western Europe

came from southern or eastern Europe

were Protestant

were not Protestant--were Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish

were literate and skilled

were illiterate and unskilled

came over as families

came over as birds of passage

were quick to assimilate

were clannish and reluctant to assimilate

were experienced in the ways of democracy

were radicals or autocrats

had some money in their pockets

arrived impoverished

were tall and fair

were short and dark

 

Examples of the old immigrants: English, German, Norwegian.

 

Examples of the new immigrants: Italians, Poles, eastern European Jews.