The Extraordinary Journey - Settlement

Settlement / Assimilation


Due to the increased nationalistic atmosphere during World War I, the assimilation process for these immigrants was harsh and caused many to denounce their heritage. This created generational tension between those who had made the journey from the old country – determined to continue their European way of life – and their children who were born in America, had attended public schools and were more receptive to conforming to American Culture

The federal government also contributed to the country’s tension.  The 1911 Immigration Commission cited the recent influx of immigrants as the cause of long hours, low pay, poor working conditions, and failure of labor unions.  In part, they were correct. Mine and factory owners actively recruited unskilled immigrants as strikebreakers to stop the fledgling labor movement, which was largely organized by Irish who had experienced similar situations three decades earlier.  The National Origins Act of 1921 and 1924 set limits on immigration, reducing it and adopting national quotas in an effort to discourage immigration from Europe.

Remittances from those in America to their families in Europe were also investigated. This practice was considered detrimental to the American economy in spite of the fact that unskilled laborers were the reason the United States experienced its unprecedented economic boom.  Even the examiners at Ellis Island were there to “protect” the American public by inspecting each prospective immigrant for disease or disability. The station was structured and arranged so that inspectors could easily spot individuals that needed to be closely examined. The anthracite region of Northeastern Pennsylvania played an integral part in the industrial revolution.  Pennsylvania was the center of the oil, steel, coal and railroad industries and was home to prominent industry leaders such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and the modern corporation.  Of the 4 million Eastern European immigrants that came to the United States, 80 percent of them settled in the northeast quadrant due to the region’s strong coal mining and industry. Many moved in what historians called a “chain migration” pattern. Whole families migrated together, and even entire villages were transferred to America through the efforts of company recruiters overseas and those who had already made the trip.  Through letters, family in the US would set up a new arrival with employment, a place to stay and tickets for the Ocean journey. Often, all of this would happen based on an employer’s recommendation. In fact, in 1908, all of the Eastern European immigrants, most of whom were Polish, arrived at Ellis Island and cited joining either family or friends as their reason for arrival.  These immigrants sold any possessions they had in the old world, sometimes making enough money to buy acreage in America. According to J. ZAubrzycki, “…it was undoubtedly a mass movement, not of individuals but of closely knit primary groups, and often of whole communities mainly motivated by economic factors.”