Before the notorious potato famine, many Irish were moving across the Atlantic to America in hopes of a more prosperous, uncomplicated and trouble-free lifestyle. Irish emigrants looked at America to offer a higher standard of living through high wages and low commodity costs. With the myths of an easily attainable lifestyle existing in America, it is no wonder why later; there were so many potato famine-era immigrants that they established the basis for the significant Irish population and ethnicity in the United States. The emphasis in the last proposition, however, is on the word myth. Many of those fleeing Ireland may or may not have believed that America would offer a prosperous and uncomplicated lifestyle. But most did believe that America offered a better life than that which they were subjected to in their home country.
With the British suppressing Irish citizens and their Catholic religion, a move to America seemed to be the answer to a better life. Irish began relocating in America in search of "the land of abundance". Many referred to the states as the "golden door."
The traveling Irish faced hardships as bad if not worse as they made their way to America. They traveled on ships across the Atlantic under horrendous conditions for an extensive period of time. The ship experience was so horrid that some referred to the ships as coffin ships. Moreover, the land of abundance isn't exactly what the Irish encountered when they disembarked. They were often so poor due to the potato famine that they had no choice but to settle at their port of entry to the states. There, the Irish lived in homes that "reflected both proximity to Irish workplaces and poverty . . . Along the canal corridor and near the docks one found the cheapest housing" (242). Most Irish dwellings had been subdivided to allow several families in one home. The Social Fabric describes American opportunity for the Irish:
Even with the advantage of knowing English, the famine-era Irish had much going against them in America. They had few marketable skills, little education, and no money. Substantial social disorganization, poverty, crime, disease, alcoholism, and family dissolution accompanied their resettlement in America (241).
Employment wasn't offering an answer to the undesirable living conditions due to the Irish's lack of experience and skills. There was an abundant need for unskilled labor in America but because there were so many people looking for work, the wages remained ultimately low. Pay was often so low that Irish families would supplement their income by selling milk in the cities (242). Because the Irish portrayed an undesirable, under-standard, and unskilled image, job-seekers would commonly see a "NINA" (No Irish need apply) sign in the windows of what could have been prospective employers.
The Social Fabric states that Germans were often found as unskilled laborers also. Actually, Germans outnumbered Irish in unskilled labor positions, but Germans...