Immigrants: Becoming American And Defining What It Means To Be An American

1959 words - 8 pages

From the time Christopher Columbus first landed in America precedence was set; the people migrating to this land would be the driving force in keeping this county dynamic in many aspects. Immigrants arriving in America in the last fifty years certainly are not an exception to this precedence. The large influx of immigrants to America has had a great number of diverse effects that have shaped our country into what it is today. In light of the last half-century, immigrants have helped push the frontier westward, urbanize cities in the east, establish labor organizations, industrialize the economy, participate actively in politics, and bring in cultural diversity.
Most Irish immigrants that arrived during the mid nineteenth century faced very few options in finding work. First off, since many Irish arriving in America generally had a very limited amount of money readily available, finding paid work was a very high priority. The large flow of immigrants provided the necessary work force to allow continued industrialization in America. Since immigrants were often willing to work harder and for lower wages than many natives, they took over many factory jobs that were once the work of mostly natives. After the War of 1812, textile mills emerged and marked the beginning of American Industrialization. They were the country's first factories. Although originally the textile mills employed mainly natives, by 1860 Irish immigrants made up 46.9% of the work force, and natives only made up 38.2% of the workers in these factories. By the onset of the Civil War, many of the less desirable factory jobs were taken over by European immigrants. This led to jobs such as shoe-making and cigar-making, a job that previously had belonged to Artisans, now turning into a factory enterprise. Not only were the Irish a needed force to drive industrialization, but in taking many of these unwanted jobs they also initiated the urbanization of America.
As a result of the large number of European immigrants that worked in factories, many Irish immigrants were more likely to live in the nation's cities than those who were born in the U.S. With immigrants flowing into America, the cities to which they came grew in population as well as area. Before the invention of the street car, people needed to live in very close proximity of where they worked, so the large numbers of people who were employed by factories lived within close proximity. As a consequence, cities grew larger and denser; large scale urbanization occurred. Advancements in technology, specifically the development of street cars, allowed those who worked in cities and could afford to live out of the cities the freedom to do so. Unfortunately, the evacuation of those that had money allowed many more poor people to rapidly move into these areas taking over old homes as multi-family units. In addition to old homes serving as multi-family units, new cheap homes were built for the poor to live in. Industrial cities...

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