Nativsm and Immigration in New york city before and the after industrial revolution
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Nativism and Immigration in New York City: Before and After the Industrial Revolution
From 1820, the United States started to supervise closely the immigrants’ arrival through the Castle Garden Port of New York. However, the use of customs, and entry ports was intertwined with the beginning of the United States’ history. In 1819, the recently created customs service assumed the responsibility of overseeing of immigration. Cargo ships arriving in the United States had to submit a manifest on which the names of the passengers appeared correctly labeled (NARA 1). It was not until 1891 when the U.S. government created an independent office to supervise immigration, the Office of Superintendence of Immigration in the Treasury Department.
Along with the creation of the Superintendence of Immigration, the government decided to create the first immigration station on Ellis Island. The Island is an exclave of the State of New York in New Jersey. The original size of the island was of approximately 3.3 acres, although successive enlargement over the years increased its size to 27.5 acres. Most of the island’s new land was landfill obtained from the excessive earth from the construction of New York’s subway.
It is important to note that by the nineteen century, the United States was a buoyant country. A country growing as fast as the U.S. became a prime spot for prospective settlers who looked to escape from a war-torn Europe. Italians escaping from poor farming conditions and the circumstances surrounding the country’s unification; Irish emigrating to flee from the famine; German looking for better farming lands, and greater opportunities. All of them and many more ethnicities, all together looking to find the “American Dream”. Through foreign eyes, the country seemed like the Promised Land. A place where discrimination was frowned upon, and living was possible. In a strict sense, the poor conditions of living in Europe bolstered immigration and shaped the ethnicities of today’s Americans. According to the statistics, over twelve million immigrants entered the country through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954 (NPS 1)
In this essay, we shall talk about the immigration to New York City before, and after the Industrial Revolution in America. Besides, we aim to link that event with other events that stemmed from it, such as the tenement laws; Jacob Riis reports on the conditions of living in lower Manhattan, and the Sacco and Vanzetti incident. That way, we expect to offer a comprehensive vision of the immigration and immigrants. To keep the essay coherent, we shall address the issues, chronologically.
NEW YORK TENEMENT LAWS
New York was not prepared for the number of immigrants that came during nineteen century. This caused a situation where finding affordable, and adequate housing with an immigrant wage, was almost impossible. Because of that, many immigrants began building slums in the riverbanks of the Hudson River, contaminating the river, and attracting diseases. For those able to find appropriate housing within the city, the situation was not that different. Many immigrants were forced to live in subhuman conditions of squalor in overcrowded houses and suites. The tenement laws that protected the native-born Americans did not necessarily protect the immigrants since they lived in subleased houses, and the landlords did not care about them.
The first tenement laws came by the hand of philanthropic efforts. In 1865, the University Settlement was established and succeeded in providing better housing for a few (Gray 1). However, those first approaches proved of little help due to the mass of immigrants that flowed from Ellis Island each year. The efforts continued, and in 1874, a reform association appeared. The organization intended to distribute the population evenly in the city’s boroughs. In 1860 and 1870 a new generation of tenements were built on the Lower East Side, and in other neighborhoods of southern Manhattan. Nevertheless, most of those buildings had no laws nor regulations that regulated the construction. For instance, while laws mandated a fire escape on the buildings and indoor toilets, those buildings did not have access to those things. In the same way, those rules, and laws were not enforced by the owners, as they did not know them (Dolkart 1).
Most of the tenements built between 1880 and 1920 were charming buildings with brick facades and inserts. Most of those buildings were ethnically divided, and gave shelter to immigrant communities of various nationalities. Given the families’ size, and the lack of space, children slept together in the same bed, often sharing their bedrooms with another family member. Most tenements in the Lower East side of Manhattan were close to docks, and another kind of factories that provided employment to the immigrants in the area. Although living in those places conveniently located to sources of income, it was not the best idea given the fact that docks and factories were heavily polluted and housed many diseases the immigrants caught. In the same way, most of those tenements had plagues such as mice; cockroaches and rats. Although it is hard to imagine, it was thanks to the tenement reforms done in the 1900s that those situations came to an end.
In the same way, overcrowding proved to be an important part of the tenements, and buildings. For instance, many lots had been planned to house a single family, but those lots often housed many more families (Dolkart 2). One of those buildings, like the one where is now the Tenement Museum, had four apartments per floor, and three rooms per apartments. In those apartments, only one room had a window, and the apartments had little to no light. Besides, the building had no inner plumbing, and the toilets were flushed once in a day, in the best conditions (Dolkart 2). As we can see, the conditions were indigent, and most immigrants lived under awful conditions. In the same way, the high prices of the tenement rents made difficult to those immigrants to pay their rents, live a fulfilling life, and save to bring their families to the country.JACOB RIIS AND “HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES.”
Jacob Riis, a Danish-born photographer, and journalist decided in 1890 to conduct research on the way immigrants live in the tenements. In his critical study, Riis talks about the daily lives in the tenements. The everyday lives of the immigrants proved to be of an unequal attractive. Many people in the city were not aware of the situation many of those families lived, and the reporting style proposed by Riis in his essay showed a raw reality that many people refused to see. However, what Riis failed to see is that many of those immigrants had inner lives, lives that are not portrayed in his essay. In Riis essay, most immigrants are shown as alcoholics and sickness-ridden people. We understand that it was not possible to offer a thorough image of how their lives were, but his study turned out to be extremely cherry-picked. It is true that many things happened to immigrants, such as measles, and alcoholism (Riis 1), but those immigrants had family support and support nets that many natives did not have. In a strict sense, those immigrant neighborhoods were real communities, where people lived together, entertaining and helping each other. Riis offered a picture of the other half of the society –the immigrants-, nevertheless, he portrayed the other half –the natives- as a better half who had responsibility for the lives of the rest.
SACCO AND VANZETTI
On August 23 of 1927 Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were convicted of the murder of a guard and a paymaster during an armed robbery. Both men were known anarchists and given their convictions, open advocates against the violence of any kind. Nevertheless, at that moment, anarchists were poorly viewed by the public, as they considered that anarchism was close to communism, which is not always true. In the same way, many histories have found that the conviction of Sacco and Vanzetti was significant because of anti-Italian resentment by the judges, and the jury. However, although the case’s proofs were not clear, the men were convicted. During their seven year incarceration, both men raised much press toward them. Many prominent names of that era sent letters and published notes on their behalf, wanting their conviction to be overturned. In 1974, Massachusetts’ Governor Michael Dukakis publically said that both men had been unjustly tried and that their opinion was based on those grounds. He also said that their names should be cleared, and fully rehabilitated (Grimes 1). The importance of the alleged crime of Sacco and Vanzetti is that is one of the first hate crimes committed in the country. Both men were convicted just by being Italian. Indeed, the circumstances around their capture are still undisclosed, but innocent or not; their conviction was based on their ethnicity. What the incident showed is that Italian-Americans were becoming an important part of the city’s life and that many people were not still used to the idea of “immigrants” in their towns.
Immigrants in New York have faced rough conditions throughout their history. From their arrival, they were subject to poor conditions, and squalor. Most of them came to the country looking for a better future, but the country did not receive them with the open arms. From poor living conditions; low wages, and discrimination, the history of immigration is not a bed of roses. Although not a bloody one, it is an account of pains and hard work that has shaped the country, and the way people lives.
History has many lessons to teach us. The Statue of Liberty’s light served as a beacon for millions of immigrants in the city’s history. However, as we can see, although the country welcomed them all, the city was not prepared to face the sheer amount that entered. This and the poor city planning created conditions so poor that it is hard to imagine how actual people lived there. Although the new tenement laws improved the situation, they did not change it. For many immigrants, their only choice was to live there, and since they did not have a voice who represented their pleas for better housing passed unnoticed. New York is always expanding, but it seems that modern-day New York learned the lessons taught by immigrants and reshaped its construction style toward buildings that offered actual living space, not just a place to sleep. However, those 19th and early 20th-century tenement buildings remain as part of the city’s history showing us how that “other half” lived.
Dolkart, A. “Living Together.” The Architecture and Development of New York City: Living Together. Columbia University. Web. 1 July 2015. <http://ci.columbia.edu/0240s/0243_2/0243_2_fulltext.pdf>.
“Ellis Island History -A Brief Look.” NPS.gov. Web. 1 July 2015. <http://www.nps.gov/elis/learn/historyculture/upload/Brief-History-of-Ellis-Island.pdf>.
Gray, G. Housing and Citizenship: A Study of Low-Cost Housing. San Francisco: Reinhold Publishing, 2007. Print.
Grimes, W. “Prejudice and Politics: Sacco, Vanzetti, and Fear.” New York Times 15 Aug. 2007. Web. 1 July 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/15/books/15grim.html?_r=0>.
“Immigrants Arriving at the Port of New York: Records of the U.S. Customs Service, 1820–1897.” Www.archives.gov. National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 1 July 2015. <http://www.archives.gov/research/immigration/port/nyc-1820-1897.pdf>.
Reiis, J. “How the Other Half Lives.” 1890. Web. 1 July 2015. <http://pdcrodas.webs.ull.es/anglo/RiisHowTheOtherHalfLives.pdf>.
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