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Immigration in the 19th Century

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By the turn of the 19th Century, the United States had become a stable new country with almost limitless opportunity. The nation was slowly expanding westward under a nationalistic and optimistic spirit of growth and adventure, and increasing industry on the East Coast promised a steady stream of new jobs. Additionally, abundant natural resources and a relative lack of habitual aristocracy attracted people from all over the world.

During the 1800s, immigration to the United States began in real earnest. Many historians believe that as few as 400,000 people came across the Atlantic to the future US in the 17th and 18th centuries. The stream of people began as a trickle, with as few as 8,000 people coming to the new country in the early years of the 1800s. By 1820, the US had stabilized after a series of early wars and was primed to begin its slow march toward the Pacific, adding more territory and creating more opportunity.

Immigration in the 19th Century began in earnest in the 1830s, when instability in Europe began to drive millions of people across the ocean to new opportunities in a new land. Between 1836 and 1914, 30 million Europeans crossed the Atlantic and moved to the US. Some of the biggest events in this period of history include:

  • The Great Potato Famine. In the 1840s and 1850s, a blight on the important potato crop sent millions of Irish peasants to the US and its comparative land of plenty.
  • War in Germany. During much of the 19th Century, Germany was in the throes of unification and warfare. As a result, millions of German citizens moved to America, many of them settling in the Midwest. The peak years were from 1881 and 1885, when about a million German émigrés settled in the US.
  • Congestion in Britain. The British continued to move to their former colony in droves, sending 3.5 million people across the Atlantic between 1820 and 1930.



Source by James Witherspoon