A tale of forbidden love between two immigrants in America, The Melting Pot opened on Broadway in 1908 to great critical and popular acclaim.
Israel Zangwill, a British-Jew of Russian heritage authored what came to be one of Broadway’s most popular productions to date, addressing the themes of appropriation of diversity and amalgamation of difference. The play explores the intersection of Jewish and American identities and the hero declares the United States to be “God’s Crucible, the great Melting Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming.” This overriding message, which makes no mention of non-Europeans, greatly appealed to advocates of “Americanization,” a widespread government-sponsored movement in the early twentieth century to assimilate European ethnic groups into an overarching American identity. “American culture,” in this case, was synonymous with Anglo-Saxon Protestantism. The term “melting pot” remains a strong metaphor in American society today, and is both embraced and criticized as a model for imagining American culture.