annonIn 1886 the statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World,” a gift fromthe people of France, was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland. Set atthe entrance to New York, the statue was just in time to greet the biggestmigration in global history. Between 1880 and World War I, about 22 million men, women, andchildren entered the United States. More than a million arrived in each ofthe years 1905, 1906, 1907, 1910, 1913, and 1914.
Not everyone had to travel in steerage. Passengers who couldafford the expense paid for first- or second-class quarters. Upon arrivalthese immigrants were examined by courteous officials who boarded the shipsat anchor. But those in steerage were sent to a holding center for a fullphysical and mental examination. The facility at Ellis Island which openedin 1892 could process up to 5,000 people a day.
On some days between 1905and 1914 it had to process more than 10,000 immigrants a day. Many arrivals had left their homelands to escape mobs who attackedthem because of their ethnicity, religion, or politics. The German,Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman (Turkish) empires ruled over manydifferent peoples and nationalities and often cruelly mistreated them. Until 1899, U. S.Order now
immigration officials asked arrivals which nationthey had left, not their religion or ancestry. So oppressed people werelisted under the countries from which they fled. Armenians who escapedfrom Turkey were recorded as Turks, and Jews who had been beaten by mobs inRussia were listed as Russians. This so called “new immigration” was different in many other waysfrom previous immigration. For the first time, Catholic an Jewishimmigrants outnumbered Protestants, and still other arrivals were Muslims,Buddhists, or Greek or Russian Orthodox church members.
Until 1897, 90 percent of all overseas immigrants had come fromProtestant northern and western Europe. Many of these nations haddemocratic traditions and education systems. Even among the poor, many hadspent a few years in school or had acquired some industrial skills on thejob, and more than a few spoke English. Many of these men and womensettled in agriculture regions of the Untied States.
Their goal was to buyreadily available land and start small family farms. The people of the new immigration differed from earlier arrivals onother ways. Very few spoke English, and some could not read or write anylanguage. Most were Catholic, but ten percent were Jewish.
All of this was soon proved to be not true. Only one third wereactually illiterate, and 90 percent of those who could not speak Englishlearned to do in less than ten years after they arrived. Their staminahelped make America an industrial giant and the world’s economic power. The new immigrants came at a turning point in American growth.
Bosses rarely knew their workers. Class animosity often divided managementand labor. Corporations showed little interest in their workers. Instead,these business sought to maximize profits.
To lower wages, plant managers often tried to pit one racial,religious, or ethnic minority against another to keep the pot of hostilityboiling. A labor paper reported that employers were “keeping up a constantwar of the races. ” Bosses placed spies among their employees so they couldreport “troublemakers” – any who urged workers to organize unions.