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Immigration History

               Immigration History Film Clips

Immigrant Literacy Tests Passed (NY Times, 1915)

In 1915, some newspaper readers might have preferred to interpret the passage of the Smith-Burnett Immigration bill as a legal measure that would insure a higher standard for immigrants to meet in order to guarantee citizenship; while others tended to interpret the legislation as a restrictive law that was intended only to exclude from citizenship Italians and Eastern-European Jews. This article reported on a massive New York protest decrying the Smith-Burnett bill that was attended by Louis D. Brandeis (1856 1941; appointed to the Supreme Court a year later), Episcopal Bishop David Hummel Greer (1844 - 1919) and former president of Columbia University Seth Low (1850 - 1916).

Green Card holders are to this day still required to show fluency in the English language, although the swearing-in ceremony and their voting ballots are often in their native language. Go figure.


Getting the Immigrant Vote (Vogue Magazine, 1917)

Upon learning that the Woman Suffrage Amendment passed the New York legislature quite handily, the Suffrage Party lost no time in solidifying their base and quickly set to work locating additional voters for future state elections. They discovered that there were five hundred thousand new voters in New York City alone; two hundred thousand of them were foreign-born women.

This VOGUE article is a fun read for a number of reasons, the first one being that it seems that nothing ever really changes in America and the second reason is because this article was written by a pampered patrician of the first order and when you read between the lines you get the sense that she would rather not breathe the same air as Italian and Jewish Immigrants:

"As well-born American women, we can never out-vote the immigrant; we must make her an all-American citizen and voter."


1921 Saw Many Single European Women Moving to the U.S. (Literary Digest, 1921)

The death and disfigurement of over four million young men during the course of the First World War (1914 - 1918) created an enormous problem for the women of Europe:

"A French statesman recently estimated that in his country there are now 1,000,000 women for whom there are no mates, while similar conditions exist also in England, Italy, Germany and Austria."

This article makes clear that in a quest for husbands, half a million women had arrived in the U.S. following the end of hostilities and it was further believed that by the close of 1921 another half million will have landed.


Illiterate Immigrant Soldiers (Current Opinion, 1920)

So deep were the ranks of khaki-clad immigrants who filled the U.S. military's regiments and divisions throughout the course the First World War that our British allies would often refer to the U.S. Army as the "American Foreign Legion"; yet as grateful as the services were to have so many additional strong arms to deploy during a time of national emergency, it was not without a cost.

This article is all about how the army addressed the issue regarding the high number of illiterate immigrants who broadened their phalanx spanning the years 1917 through 1920.


Junk Science and Immigration Policy (Literary Digest, 1917)

The "melting pot" in this sense is applied to the race-conscious study of forensic anthropology. This article concerns the work of Dr. Ales Hrdlika (1869-1943) of the National Museum of Washington, and the records that he maintained regarding the physical features of the earliest European settlers compared to the Americans of the early Twentieth Century (read: Jews and Italians), following so many generations of immigration and intermarriage.

What is amusing is the illustration of "The American Face":

...the diagram drawn to scale from Dr. Hrdlicka's data... shows "the mean man of the old American stock". It is pointed out that the most conspicuous peculiarities of the type are the oblong outline of the face and the well-developed forehead."

*Watch An Ellis Island Film Clip*


No Citizenship for Japanese Immigrants (Literary Digest, 1922)

An article that marks the date of November 13, 1922 as a poor one for the assembled masses who happened to have been of Japanese ancestry in the United States. On that date Justice George Sutherland (1862-1942), of the United States Supreme Court, handed down the ruling that "the Japanese can not be citizens of this country". The opinions of many American Newspapers are presented herein, among them an excerpt from the St. Louis "Star" which summed up the opinion just so:

"The law which prevents the naturalization of Japanese is plainly intended to exclude the Japanese because they are racially unassimlable and their presence creates economic difficulties."

You can read more about Justice Sutherland HERE...


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