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Jessie Potter

Mr. Widenhofer
AP United States History
January 16, 2018

Long Essay

Prompt: “The experience of the new immigrants in the late 19th century was little different from

the experience of preceding groups of immigrants to the United States.” Assess the validity of

this statement.

The prompt is partially valid due to the fact that although there were some similarities

between the experience of old and new immigrants, such as nativist reactions and reasons for

immigrating to the United States, there were also differences in areas such as literacy rates,

economic status, religion, and regions where the immigrants came from. Before and during the

new immigration, urbanization was on the rise in the United States. Many people were moving to

cities, causing them to grow rapidly. There were new innovations in communication,

transportation, and industry, creating a multitude of new jobs. These jobs created opportunities for

a new wave of immigrants to come to the United States and take advantage of.

One similarity between the old and new immigrants was nativist reactions. During old

immigration, the Know-Nothing Party was formed, a political party that hated foreigners. During

new immigration, the APA, or American Protective Association, formed. Although they were not

a political party, they still held power as an organization that’s sole purpose was to get people to

not vote for any Catholics running for office. Both groups formed as a reaction to immigrants

coming to the United States, as they didn’t like the new cultures, ideas, and religions that they

brought with them.


Another similarity between the old and new immigrants was their reasons for coming to

the United States. Europe’s population was increasing, but the amount of jobs was not. Many

Europeans were poor and unemployed. The United States provided jobs and opportunities for them

and the hope that they could create a better life for their children as the United States also lacked

the class system that kept people from improving their station in Europe.

As mentioned earlier, there were also many differences between the old and new

immigrants. One major difference was literacy rates. The old immigrants generally came from

Britain, Ireland, or Germany, meaning there was a high chance that English was their first language

or they were bilingual. They were also highly literate and the majority could read and write.

However, the new immigrants rarely spoke English and if they could read or write, it was usually

only in their native language. This was one of the things that caused the old immigrants to

assimilate more easily to American culture.

Another difference between the old and new immigrants was economic status. The old

immigrants, although not wealthy, generally had some money and although some, like the Irish,

stayed in the city, some also moved to the country to start farms. The new immigrants however

were significantly poorer and most stayed in the city to work low-paying jobs and live in terrible

conditions as this was still a step higher from where they came from.

The last major difference between the old and new immigrants was their religion and the

regions from which they came. The old immigrants came from mostly Northern and Western

Europe and were generally Protestant like the majority of America, although the Irish were

Catholic. However, the new immigrants came from mostly Southern and Eastern Europe and were

generally Roman Catholic or Orthodox.


Although immigration was at an all-time high during new immigration, it would not stay

that way forever. World War I broke out in 1914, dramatically slowing down immigration. Soon

after, Russia became a Communist nation. The thought of Communism spreading made people

fearful and caused the United States to pass the Emergency Quota Act and the National Origins

Act, both which put a numerical limit on the amount of immigrants that could come to the United

States. This was an attempt to limit immigration from those countries around Russia, primarily in

Eastern Europe, and to stop the spread of Communism. However, due to these laws being passed,

immigration in the United States never climbed back to what it was during new immigration and

has never been the same since.

In conclusion, there were both similarities and differences between old and new

immigration. Examples of similarities were nativist reactions and reasons for coming to the United

States while differences included literacy rates, economic status, religion, and regions where the

immigrants came from. The wave of new immigration was caused by urbanization and new jobs

and innovations, leading to a new mix of cultures and ideas coming to the Unites States that

changed the country in many ways that can still be seen today.