Immigration in the Early 20th Century: Essay

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Imagine having to leave one country for another with different people but more opportunity. What would that be like for a person? This is what crossed early immigrants’ minds on their journey to America, along with what they were aspiring to do within our country. That could’ve included better employment options, escaping economic and political unrest, buying more land, and a more stable life. Many immigrants, however, probably didn’t think about the impact they would have on American cities, as their moving to our country resulted in a boom in population, an increase in urbanization and industrialization, and a mixing bowl of cultures that remains today. They made up the basis of the growth of the American city during the early 20th century.

The reasons that immigrants fled their home countries are very important in that they might not have come to the United States without them, whether these reasons were upsetting or inspiring. Some immigrants came for jobs and a new beginning, as labor recruiters were sent to other countries to draw in potential workers. America began its industrial revolution in the 1790s when an immigrant from the United Kingdom, Samuel Slater, came to America and opened the first industrial mill. After that, immigrants continued to make the United States an industrial icon internationally as they worked in factories and mills and built railroads and canals. These railroads and canals allowed for more people to travel into these cities, which increased the population, and tourists, and added to the overall size of cities. In addition, the help in factories resulted in the making and distributing of new inventions. The United States then became the world’s largest industrial center, as it went from rural living to mostly urban. Other immigrants came for other reasons, for example, some immigrated to America for a more steady source of income and food, while others came to escape economic depression and political discontent in their home countries. America was one of the only places these people could go, as other countries wouldn’t even allow such people to come into their lands. The rise of immigrants flooding into the country didn’t have many options in the cities concerning housing, and tenant apartments were built for them. These apartments caused growth in cities, and they were often crowded because of the flow of people immigrating to America; these apartments also became the work area for several immigrants. In 1897, the first American subway was constructed in Boston with the help of immigrants, and in 1904 the largest subway system in the world was opened in New York City; both of these additions contributed to the size of these large cities.

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The population, places, and cultures involved with the immigration of millions of people played a key role in how early cities grew because the effects are still seen today. “Between 1870 and 1920, over 25 million immigrants arrived in the United States. The population began to increase: by 1890, immigrants and their children made up approximately 60 percent of the population in northern cities, and by the beginning of the 20th century, this number had risen to 80 or 90 percent. By the start of WWI in 1914, over 13 million immigrants had traveled to America, and they made up almost 15 percent of the total US population of the time, which was close to 40 million. In addition, the 1920 US Census stated that, for the first time, a majority of Americans lived in urban areas. Several major cities of the present lead the way. New York City, NY had a combined population of 4 million people by 1920, mostly because of immigration, and now has the highest population of any present US city with “8, 601, 186 people” (White, 2019). The city of Chicago, IL experienced the Chicago Fire in 1871, but immigration played a part in building it back up into the second-largest city in the United States; its current population sits at more than 2,500,000 people. New factories built in Trenton, NJ allowed the city to get bigger as immigrants from Europe came to work in the factories, and its population is now about 100,000 people. There are several differences between these cities, but there are two similarities: they are all closer to the Atlantic coast, and they all have places for immigrants to work. Other cities that were significantly impacted were Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. Finally, the heritage of the immigrants who arrived in the United States in the early 20th century resulted in the cultural growth of American cities. The ideas and traditions of immigrants from Ireland, Germany, France, Scandinavia, China, and other areas are all integrated into America’s cultural center of today in art, music, innovation, religion, language, education, cooking, and the rights of citizens. Their immigration also resulted in our present-day mixing bowl of cultures and unique people in our society.

The immigration of individuals from places all over the world brought about a growth in American cities during the early 20th century that is still impacting us today. This development is seen in our current size of cities, population sizes, industrial success, our increase in urbanization over time, and the variety of cultures that affect our country every day. Without their reasons for immigration, whether positive or negative, these people might not have traveled to this side of the globe. I feel that it would be a different and dull America if we lacked the diversity we have today within our people and traditions, and I think our major cities of the present might not have become major cities at all. These immigrants might have had their thoughts on employment, escaping unrest, or maybe how different their new life in the United States would be, but I bet they never realized that they would influence that very same country 100 years in the future.

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Immigration in the Early 20th Century: Essay. (2024, March 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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