Irish and German Immigration
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How is the immigration from Latin American countries today similar to the immigration from Ireland and Germany in the 1800's?

Irish Immigration

Irish Immigrants

Colonial Immigration

Many early Irish immigrants to the United States were Scotch-Irish (combination of Scot and Irish blood). Pushed out of Ireland by religious conflicts, lack of political power and harsh economic conditions, these immigrants were pulled to America by the promise of land ownership and greater religious freedom.

Most Scotch-Irish immigrants were educated, skilled workers. Even those who paid for their emigration by becoming indentured servants were well equipped to lead successful, independent lives when their period of servitude ended. Many easily blended into American life.

The Scotch-Irish settled in the middle colonies, especially in Pennsylvania where the city of Philadelphia was a major port of entry. Over subsequent decades, the Scotch-Irish migrated south following the Great Philadelphia Road, the main route used for settling the interior southern colonies. Traveling down Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, then south into the North Carolina Piedmont region, they reached South Carolina by the 1760s. Settlers here often became frontiersmen and Indian fighters.

Irish-Catholic Immigration to America

Ireland’s Potato Famine, beginning in 1845, is often credited with launching the second wave of Irish immigration to America. The fungus which decimated potato crops created a devastating blight. Starvation plagued Ireland and within five years, a million Irish were dead while half a million had arrived in America to start a new life. Living conditions in Ireland were horrible long before the Potato Blight of 1845, however, and a large number of Irish left their homeland as early as the 1820s.


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1880 Irish

Ireland’s population decreased dramatically throughout the nineteenth century. Census figures show an Irish population of 8.2 million in 1841, 6.6 million a decade later, and only 4.7 million in 1891. It is estimated that as many as 4.5 million Irish arrived in America between 1820 and 1930.

Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish made up over one third of all immigrants to the United States. In the 1840s, they comprised nearly half of all immigrants to this nation. Very much like the English in earlier Jamestown, pre-famine immigrants from Ireland were predominately male, while in the famine years and their aftermath, entire families left the country. In later years, the majority of Irish immigrants were women.

What can these statistics tell us about life in Ireland during this period?

How was Irish immigration in the 1800's similar to immigration today?

German Immigration

German Immigrants

Building a New Nation


In the 18th century, Germans accounted for one-third of the population of the American colonies, and were second in number only to the English. The German language was widely spoken in nearly every colonial city and was circulated in locally published periodicals and books. When the members of the Continental Congress first met in Philadelphia, they walked down streets lined with German businesses sporting German signs, and their deliberations were reported in German broadsides and debated in German coffeehouses. When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, a German newspaper was the first to break the news, and German copies of the Declaration were on the streets the next day. This German tradition of publishing helped served as the glue for the growing Pennsylvania "Dutch" culture that spread throughout the U.S.


The military traditions of German-speaking immigrants also made a significant contribution to revolutionary America. General Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben, for instance, volunteered to serve General George Washington without pay and was put to work organizing and drilling the volunteers of the Continental Army. Von Steuben's Prussian discipline and tactics were to a large degree responsible for the Revolution's later military victories.

A New Surge of Growth

By 1830 German immigration had increased more than tenfold from the rates of the previous century. From that year until World War I, almost 90 percent of all German emigrants chose the United States as their destination. By 1832, more than 10,000 immigrants arrived in the U.S. from Germany. By 1854, that number had jumped to nearly 200,000 immigrants.

For typical working people in Germany, who were forced to endure land seizures, unemployment, increased competition from British goods, and problems from the failed German Revolution of 1848, prospects in the United States seemed bright. It soon became easier to leave Germany, as restrictions on emigration were eased. As a result, more than 5 million people left Germany for the U.S. during the 19th century.

At the same time, the United States once again became a refuge for Germans fleeing persecution. Antisemitic violence in Germany and Austria-Hungary drove thousands of German Jews to emigrate. While there were approximately 1500 European Jews living in the U.S. in 1800, there were almost 15,000 by the middle of the century.

How did German immigration differ from irish immigration? How were they similar?

Of the two, which one was more similar to the immigration of today?

Source: Library of Congress Immigration Site

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