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Kelsey Smith

Mr. Widenhofer

AP US History

January 9, 2018

“The experience of the new immigrants in the late 19th century was little different from the

experience of preceding groups of immigrants to the United States.” Assess the validity of

this statement.

The United States became increasingly industrialized in the late nineteenth century and

early 1900s. Large cities grew and new inventions like skyscrapers appeared, along with new

concerns about things like waste management. A major contributor to cities expanding so much

during this time was New Immigration. To say that the experience of these New Immigrants in

the late nineteenth century was little different from the experience of preceding groups of

immigrants to the United States is only partially valid. Both groups had many similarities, but

they also had their differences in experiences.

The Old Immigrants were predominantly Irish and Chinese, while the New Immigrants

were of Southern and Eastern European descent. While the Irish and Chinese were coming to a

completely new area, they did not have a very difficult time adjusting to American life, which is

partially due to the majority of people coming to the United States being able to speak more than

one language. The New Immigrants, on the other hand, were mostly illiterate and therefore had a

harder time adjusting to American life. They were very poor and likely to move to cities and

work in factories. As time went on and people from the Old Immigration saw the New

Immigration moving in, Old Immigrants became angry and very defensive of their wealth and
power, forgetting that they had been in the same situation not too long before the arrival of the

New Immigrants. New Immigrants also had a higher birthrate, which threatened Old Immigrants

even more.

Despite these differences, the Old and New Immigrants did have some very similar

experiences. The ideas, such as anarchism and communism, brought to the United States by the

Old Immigration scared the American people and led to groups such as the Know-Nothing Party.

New Immigrants experienced the same thing. As New Immigration brought new ideas and

cultures to the United States, people began to get into the nativist mindset again and formed

groups like the APA. Both the people of the Old and New Immigration were subjected to distrust

due to differences in culture and beliefs. This distrust sometimes grew into full-out, unrestrained

hatred for different groups, an example of this being the Haymarket Square bombing. When the

Haymarket Square bombing occurred it was blamed on New Immigration German anarchists,

which promoted fear of those supporting the idea of anarchism. Although Haymarket Square was

an isolated incident, a much larger scare happened years later. When Russia declared itself to be

a communist nation, the idea of communism became an actual threat to be worried about, unlike

the single case of anarchism at Haymarket Square. As the United States feared the spread of

communism after World War I, it changed immigration policies and put the Emergency Quota

Acts into play for safety. Unlike earlier groups like the Know-Nothing Party and the APA who

did not affect immigration, there were now actual laws in place to limit immigration and the

spread of communism.

In conclusion, to say that the experience of the New Immigrants in the late nineteenth

century was little different from the experience of preceding groups of immigrants to the United

States is only partially valid. Although both groups of immigrants did face discrimination and
were used for votes by political bosses, they did have differing experiences in other aspects. Old

Immigrants were able to adjust more easily to their new lives, while New Immigrants were

poorer and had a more difficult time adjusting to American life.