Previous Page Search Again Next Page

Chapter II

The Finns

I n Immigration

It is impossible to imagine the rapid growth and development of the United States without the contribution made by the massive waves of immigration to this land of unlimited possibilities. Immigration began to appear as a significant factor in the late eighteenth century, when some 3,000 persons a year made the move from Europe, first chiefly from England. By 1810 the figure had increased to 4,000 a year, and it was increasing steadily.

Motivating immigration on such a scale were the development of industry, the expansion of international trade, a changing economic picture within nations. At a time when masses of wage earners in western Europe began to feel that social and economic upheavals had made their incomes uncertain, reports from the new United States spoke of the enticing possibilities open in the great west to settlers and workers and all enterprising persons. Ships began to cross the Atlantic on regular schedules and, with the advent of steam, the trip became less arduous and less expensive as well. The restrictions various countries had placed on emigration were gradually relaxed, almost as if to acknowledge the right of individuals to move about at will, and increasing numbers left the countries of their origin. The wave of immigration continued to rise, from the 4,000 a year in 1810 to over 400,000 a year in 1850, then close to 600,000 a year during the 1850s.

The Civil War cut the figure to less than 200,000 a year, but when the war was over, the United States, previously a predominantly agricultural country, developed rapidly into a strongly industrial nation, and in less than three decades the value of its industrial production had already surpassed that of its agricultural income, and a decade later was twice as large as the income from the land.'


Previous Page Search Again Next Page