Migration to the USA

1880 — 1914


Labor & Economy Migrations

The industrial revolution and the impoverishment of broader social classes associated therewith leads to the migration of more than 20 million persons from Germany mostly to the USA between the years 1880-1914.

One of the main reasons for the migration was the disproportionate population growth and employment opportunities during the transition period of the agrarian society to the industrial society. There were too many people for very few jobs. In the so-called “emigrant letters“, the people inform about their new life. Thus, transatlantic migrant networks develop and a lot of people leave in migration waves.

The massive immigration to the alleged American “dream” occurred because of social and economic motives, contrary to the emigration because of religious reasons a hundred years before. This took place also because of the global economic crisis (Great Depression), from which suffered the German Empire during its foundation (“foundation clash“), which occasionally led to mass dismissals. Therefore, the migrants were so poor that they could not pay their tickets. Many sell their work force temporarily at the beginning of the 19th century.

At the end of the 19th century, the transatlantic mass emigration from the German Empire ends. The beginning advanced industrialization increases employment and the people move from rural areas to the cities, instead of a new continent (see also: Labor migration in the German Empire, 1880).

At the same time, the emigration from East-European, Eastern-Middle-European, South-East-European regions to America become mass movements. In Germany, these movements are called “crossings“, because a lot of people travel through German ports like Bremerhaven and Hamburg to the USA. In the USA, this immigration is called disparagingly “New Immigration” and comes across resistance. Economic and social fears connect to religious-cultural delimitations, political-ideological projections and racial prejudices to an aggressive mixture. The calls for an immigration restriction are rising, leading to a quota system law, the “National Origins Act“.

Until the First World War, more than five million emigrants from Russia and Austria-Hungary pass through the German Empire on their way to the sea ports. More than two million are Jewish, which escape poverty, oppression and pogroms in Russia (see also: Anti-Semitism and resistance in the German Empire, 1871-1918).