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More than 13.5 Million Immigrants
came to the United States

Coming to America
*In the five decades
after the Civil War,
roughly 1865-1915,
a flood of immigrants
came to America.
From 1865 to 1900,
some 13.5 million
immigrants arrived
in America.
Video clip

Why did they come?

* Wars, famine,
persecution, and
were the four
major reasons why
people left Europe
and came to the
United States.
Video Clip

How did they get here?

* Passage to the United States often
cost a lifes savings. Because of this
cost, entire families would often save
enough money to send just one or
two family members to America,
hoping that eventually these
members could afford to bring over
the rest of the family.

On the Boat
*The crowded steerage

deck usually contained a

diverse group of people.
Many were poor farmers
whose fathers or
grandfathers land had
been divided so often
that the plots were no
longer large enough to
support even single

The Promise of a Better Life

Others were
schoolmasters unable to
find work or artisans
looking for greater
opportunities. Many
were young men and
women willing to risk
traveling to an unknown
land in hopes of finding
a brighter future.
Video Clip pt1
Video Clip pt 2

Travel Dangers
As for conditions below decks, an agent for the
United States Immigration Commission
described them as follows: During the twelve
days in the steerage I lived insurroundings
that offended every sense. Only a fresh breeze
from the sea overcame the sickening odors.
Everything was dirty, sticky, and disagreeable
to the touch. In such conditions, disease and
even death were not uncommon.

Ellis Island
*In 1890, Congress
designated low-laying,
three- acre Ellis Island
in Upper New York Bay
as an immigration
station. By the end of
1910, six million
immigrants had come
through Ellis Island.

*The immigration
inspection process was a
humiliating and
dehumanizing experience
for many. Newly arrived
immigrants were given
medical inspections and
asked 32 background
questions. Immigrants
with contagious diseases
were shipped back.

With the huge numbers

of immigrants, inspectors
had just 2 minutes to
complete the process
and many immigrants
had their last names
changed by the
inspectors because they
didnt have the time or
patience to struggle with
the foreign spellings.
Video Clip

*Long lines of
immigrants were tagged
according to what
language they spoke and
marked with chalk
according to the medical
ailments they suspected
of having and they
waited for the inspectors
to decide their fate.

What was it like here for them?

Some native-born
Americans feared and
resented the new
immigrants. Their
languages, religions, and
customs seemed
strange. They also
competed for jobs.
Desperate for jobs,
immigrants often
accepted lower wages
and worse working

Where did they live?

*The majority of
immigrants settled in the
big cities where factory
jobs were available. By
1900, 4 out of every 5
people in New York City
were immigrants or
children of immigrants.

Many immigrants lived

in areas with people of
similar ethnic
background. Such
neighborhoods provided
support but separated
the immigrants from the
rest of Americans thus
slowing their assimilation
into US culture.

In the Tenements
*Many immigrants
lived in crowded
buildings. Families
shared living space
and decent lighting
& fresh air were

Living Conditions
Conditions were uncomfortable, crowed,
and dirty.
In New York, 1,231 people lived in only
120 rooms in one part of the city.
In Chicago in one year, over 60% of
newborns never reached their first
birthdays. Many babies asphyxiated in
their own homes.

Five Cents a Spot Rooms

Many immigrants
had no home and
slept in 5 cents a
spot rooms where
people paid for a
small space to spend
the night.
Can you imagine
sleeping crowded
against strangers?

Jacob Riis
An immigrant
himself, Jacob Riis
was well known for
his photographs
documenting the
lives of immigrants
& the urban poor in
his book How the
Other Half Lives.