Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Brief History of Immigration Before 1920

How America closed the "Open Door"

I recently bought an old civics textbook (Community Life and Civic Problems, written by Howard Copeland Hill, and published in 1922 by Ginn and Company). I have enjoyed its several chapters about immigration; it was obviously a hot issue, and  it remains so, today, as much as ever.

As I read the text, I saw that some of  my and my husband's ancestors fit very neatly into the general immigration patterns from colonial days to 1920. Perhaps you'll see where your ancestors fit, too. 

According to the textbook, the vast majority of immigrants to America before 1820 came from England. Certainly some immigrants did come from other countries, and plenty of slaves were brought in from Africa, but even if all of these people were added together, they were still a  minority in comparison to the English.

From 1820 to 1855, immigration from Ireland and Germany increased greatly. Most of these immigrants came to America to escape hard times, religious oppression, and tyranny. One of the events that spurred Irish immigration was the potato famine of 1846.

Immigration slowed down during the Civil War, but afterward, the flood of foreigners resumed. Now, the immigrants were largely German, Irish, and Scandinavian. Many of them were poor, but most were not refugees. They immigrated because they were interested in the free land of the West and the freedom and opportunity of America.

Many Chinese also came to America during the gold rush of the 1840s and the periods of intensive railroad construction before and after the Civil War. This was the era in which the Transcontinental Railroad was built.

Unemployment soared when railroad and mine work dwindled. Resentment simmered against the hard-working, frugal "China-man", who in many cases seemed to be prospering. Lynchings and riots occurred on the West Coast. To ease tension and stem the inflow of Chinese workers, an immigration treaty with China was renegotiated.  In 1882, immigration from China was formally suspended for a decade.

The ban on Chinese immigrants followed an 1876 ban on criminal immigrants. For the first time, America's "Open Door" was closed to some people.

After 1885, America saw a sharp increase in "new immigrants." These people came from southern and eastern Europe and from Asia, whereas the "old immigrants" had been mostly from northwestern Europe. Many of the new immigrants, illiterate and unskilled but eager to work, settled in ethnic communities within cities where they found employment in factories. For the first time, some immigrants had no interest in acquiring American citizenship. They wanted to work, save money, and return to their homelands.

In the late 19th century, many Japanese immigrated to work in West Coast farms and factories. They faced the same hostilities that Chinese workers endured. America viewed these workers as a  problem and pursuaded Japan to prohibit immigration to the United States. Some western states passed laws prohibiting Japanese residents from owning land.

By 1910, laws had been passed to exclude convicts, lunatics, idiots, paupers, diseased people, anarchists, laborers under contract, and all those who were likely to become dependents of the state.

In 1917, a law was passed that excluded any "aliens over sixteen years of age, physically capable of reading, who cannot read the English language, or some other language or dialect." In other words, illiterate immigrants were no longer welcome in America. The bill did provide exemptions for some illiterate people if they could prove they were religious or political refugees, or if they already had relatives in the United States.

I scanned the photos of immigrants that accompany this brief history from the 1922 book I mentioned above. (Community Life and Civic Problems, written by Howard Copeland Hill, and published in 1922 by Ginn and Company).   In my personal timeline, these photos were taken just a few years before my mom and dad were born in 1923.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2012

Fun at the Renn Faire, May 19, 2012

When we arrived at the "Tenn-Renn" grounds, we were surprised at the number of people lined up and waiting to enter the festival. We had to climb uphill from our parking place to reach the back of the line. But the line moved quickly, and we reached the ticket booth in about ten minutes.

Looking downhill to the ticket stand
Looking uphill at the line behind us

Inside the gates, we joined other faire-goers in the market place. Merchants were selling all sorts of Renaissance-themed goods, services, and foods from tents and stands.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day Rainbow and More

May in Christian County, KY

I saw this beautiful, full rainbow on Mother's Day about
6:30 pm. On the left side, a double rainbow is slightly visible.

The farm buildings here (and those in the rainbow photo)
are Mennonite-built. Their distinctive, consistent
building style is easy to recognize, once you know it.

This crow was perched on one of the big lights in the
mall parking lot in Hopkinsville. If this photo had
sound effects, you'd quickly turn down the volume.
 He was very noisy! When he saw me paying
 attention to him, he flew over to the highest point
of the mall's roofline and sat there -- still cawing!

Sweet peas in a cemetery fence row, and
overhead, branches and cones of Virginia pine.

I took this photo of our neighbor's field in early May.
Now, many wheatfields are nearly ready for harvest.
We are happy for recent rains because we've had a dry.
spring. But heavy storms right now could lay the wheat
plants down, making harvest difficult and reducing yield.

Most of our wild roses are pink, but this one is very white.
There might be a very slight hint of pink in the buds.

"O, the month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green..."
--Thomas Dekker (c. 1572 – 1632))

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Old Movies for Me!

How a man I never knew changed my life forever

When I was a little kid, Brent was my dad's best friend. Mom will tell you that Brent was Dad's best friend many years before I came along, and that he is the one who introduced them to each other. Mom will also tell you that I met Brent, but I was too little to remember.

Even though I don't remember meeting him, I know that Brent loved movies -- especially old movies. He was an aficionado. He knew why a movie was unique, or what crazy stuff had happened during shooting. He knew what actors and actresses liked each other and which ones didn't.

Brent knew that Isaac's and my education in the great classic movies was being neglected. When I was about 10, he started sending us movies that he thought we should see, that were appropriate for kids. I remember being so excited to get Brent's boxes. Isaac and I would look up all of the new movies in Dad's movie books to see what they were about. Even though I never watch VHS anymore, I still have all of the movies he sent us, because they bring back such happy memories.

I watched those videos hundreds of times over the next ten years. I can recite huge swaths of several of them. Our favorites were the "Road to..." movies, and the Marx Brothers. I still have to restrain myself from quoting them to people who will have no idea what I'm talking about. I've even gone so far as to infect my husband with my old movie love. He still swears that he doesn't like black and white movies, but he loved Harvey.

Brent is the reason that I sing Marx brothers songs. He's the reason that when all of the other little girls in my class had a crush on a member of Hansen or Leonardo Dicaprio, I had a crush on Errol Flynn. And the reason that I view the new Flight of the Phoenix movie with much skepticism. How can you replace Jimmy Stewart? All of these years later, I still don't like modern horror movies. Give me Vincent Price or Boris Karloff any day over these movies with all of their blood and gore.

Brent passed away when I was in high school. Mom tells me that we're his legacy, because he was the last of his line. He passed on his love of those movies to both me and my brother. He also passed on the knowledge that the truly great stories never get old.

- - - - - - - - - - 
Thank you, Keely. Here's Brent  in about 1979, in the kitchen of the first apartment Dennis and I had after we were married. I can't believe it, but he appears to be washing dishes!

Brent has a starring role in many funny, happy memories of our college and newly-wed years in Warrensburg, Missouri. He had juvenile (Type 1) diabetes, and he died at the young age of 38.  G.L.N.
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.