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America grew to become a land of factories, corporate enterprise, and industrial workers. The rise of immigration in the United States supplied many industrial companies with workers. There was an outburst in the growth of America’s big city population, places of 100,000 people went from about 6 million to 14 million between 1880 and 1900, cities had become a world of newcomers. The country’s transformation from a rural agricultural society into an urban industrial nation attracted immigrants worldwide. Some of the largest groups of immigrants to come to the United States were the Irish and Italian. The Irish and Italian immigrants in America were so different and alike at the same time. Both parties faced harsh oppression, shared similarities, and lived contrasting lives in America.
The Irish faced oppression in America because of their poor living conditions, and their willingness to work for low wages. Their oppression was often made worse by religious conflict. During the time Irish immigrants immigrated there was a lot of tension between Protestants and Catholics. The tension between these two groups led verbal attacks, and also often led to mob violence. In 1831, a group of Protestants burned down St. Mary’s Catholic Church in New York City, and later in May of 1844, the Philadelphia nativist riots began, leaving thirteen dead.
Italian immigration began during the 1880 and 1924, during this time anti-immigration sentiment was still continued by some large groups of Americans, thus making it harder for immigrants coming to America. Italians immigrants were blamed for taking American jobs due to the US going through an economic depression. During the 1880s anti-immigrant societies sprang up around the country. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan saw a growth in membership during these years. Catholic churches and charities were vandalized and burned, and Italians were attacked by mobs. In the 1890s alone, more than 20 Italians were killed. One of the worst acts of violence committed against Italian immigrants happened in New Orleans in 1891. When the chief of police was found dead one night out in the street, the mayor blamed ‘Sicilian gangsters’ and gathered up over 100 Sicilian Americans. Eventually 19 Sicilian Americans were arrested and brought to trial, and as Italian Americans all over the country nervously watched, they were found not guilty for lack of evidence. Sadly, before any of them could be released, a mob of 10,000 people, including many of the most influential citizens in New Orleans broke into the jail and killed them. When the news of this broke out Italians not just in America, but worldwide were furious that such a horrifying thing could have happened. However, the American press supported the action and did not blame anyone for the for it.
Although Irish and Italians came at different times they shared various similarities, yet they were vastly different. The Irish’s main push factor to immigrate to America was because of the potato famine. The potato famine began when a fungus-like organism called Phytophthora infestans grew quickly throughout most of Ireland infesting its crops. The infestation ruined over three-quarters of the potatoes all around the country over the next seven years. This became a huge problem because Ireland heavily relied on potatoes as a source of food. The people of Ireland started to struggle to find found food, and began to struggle financially due to the costs of other supplies rising. Over the years, thousands died from starvation, and hundreds of thousands more from disease caused by malnutrition. The Italians push factors were similar to that of the Irish. Due to large crop failures and famines in the 1840s many Italian citizens started to suffer from starvation, disease, and poverty started to rise in Italy. Italians and Irish were also similar in the fact that the majority of them immigrated to New York City. Living in the same area caused them to go through similar oppression of those native born Americans. Just like they were similar in many ways, they were different in many ways. As two of the poorest immigrant communities in America, the Irish and Italian some became rivals. The Irish immigrants started to get scared because they thought that their economic stability was being threatened by the new Italian immigrants. Soon enough the Irish and Italian immigrants became to fight for jobs and means of survival. We also see many of their differences in their political systems. Although they had tensions between the two groups they didn’t last very long, as both the Irish and Italians started to gain stability they soon forgot their differences and together they lived peacefully.
Italian usually came to America speaking little to no English and with very little money. Immigrants often had to live in small, cramped attics or damp, smelly basements, or even had to live in small crowded rooms with up to 6 or 10 people, including men, woman and children. Tenements in the lower part of Manhattan and other areas were crowded, didn’t have any good ventilation, or lacked sewerage. Italian immigrants had to do anything they could do find jobs or a way of maintaining themselves in America. Even if it meant accepting jobs other Americans didn’t want to do, just so they could support themselves and their families. Many Italian immigrants ended up becoming street cleaners or construction workers. The majority of Italian immigrants went into the peddler business, they sold fruits and vegetables imported mainly from by Sicilians. By The late 1800s most food stands in New York were owned by Italians immigrants. Also a large number of Italian immigrants began working as waiters in restaurants and hotels. Sadly, there were a minority of Italian immigrants that weren’t lucky enough to find steady jobs and had to return to Italy.
Irish immigrants much like the Italian immigrants often had to live in subdivided house, House is built for single families. The Irish immigrants’ lives in these houses packed and crowded. For many of these poor immigrants places like Attucks basements and self-made spaces in alleyways became their new home in America. With most immigrants not being able to afford better housing, and with the lack of sewage and clean running water in their homes, living in a clean environment was almost impossible. As a result of unsanitary living conditions, many diseases like tuberculosis, typhus, and other various mental illnesses started to affect the Irish immigrants. As for jobs Irish immigrants often began to take dangerous and degrading jobs just to make enough to support themselves and their families. The Irish woman often became servants or house workers and the Irish male built railroads and canals and worked in mines.
Moving to a new country, not speaking the language and having little to no money wasn’t easy for any of the millions of immigrants that moved to America every year. All immigrants faced harsh oppression and inequality of opportunities in America. The Irish and Italians were two of the largest and pores immigrant groups in America in the 1800s. They were so different and alike at the same time. Both parties faced harsh oppression, shared similarities, and lived contrasting lives in America. Eventually they were able to overcome their obstacles, and were able to give themselves and their families a better life than the ones they had in their home countries. They dreamed of a better life in The United States and with a lot of hard work and hope they were able to achieve their dreams.
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