At the turn of the 1800 and 1900, millions of people left their homeland looking for fortune or simply a job which would allow them to survive. America was the main destination, especially the US where within a few decades 12 millions of immigrants from all nations moved there: Italians, Germans, Norwegians, Spaniards, Polish, Russian, Chinese and Japanese people.
Italian workers in an unknown steel plant
All this stack of people would carry along cultures and ways of living different from the American citizens, who very often did not like it very much. However the heavy as well as poorly paid work that the many immigrants did was fundamental for the economic development of the US.
Workers from the cotton mill – almost no one knew how to speak or how to write their name in English
Between the 1860 and 1910 the number of farms rose from 2 to 6 millions while mines, factories and industries could have not expanded without the help of the immigrants.
Italian worker in New York – 1912
Immigrants who worked in awful conditions and often lived in equally awful conditions.
Woodcutters in Georgia
Sadly though, the contribution of the immigrants to the development of the country was rarely recognised, let alone the one of the black community, but that is another long story.
A child gathers cotton in Oklahoma – 1916
“Because we all have one thing in common, our families’ yearnings for a better life brought us to this land. And our perspectives, ideas, and sweat — along with the blood, resilience, and innovation of African slaves and their descendants — helped America become the “most productive, the most wealthy, and the most powerful nation in history.” Immigrants make America great, because immigrants made America”.
12 years old French child working in a cotton mill
As proof of this contribution of the millions of people there are the many pictures left of that time. Still the images do not fully convey the difficulties that those workers had to face: men, women and children that would work way hard in fields, factories and mines.
New York – 1910 circa
A land of promise, the US which gave hope to the ones who did not have it anymore. Certainly not a paradise either though, as it’s shown in “Pane Amaro” (Bitter Bread), book written by Elena Gianini Belotti about the dramatic story of her father, who moved to the US after after the family business went bankrupt. The book allows the understanding of the many difficulties, oppressions and violences that many people had to endure when they left their countries with great expectations from the land of promise.
Polish child resting in a cardboard box – 1909
Syrian children in Massachusetts – 1911
7 years old child cleaning oysters
14 years old Italian child working in a box factory – 1913
Polish coal miner Minatore – 1938