Side by Side--Newcomers
Yugoslavian immigrants in Chicago, ca. 1910
- Foreign-born immigrants (1,205,314 in Illinois in 1910) and
blacks migrating from the South (about 72,000 in Illinois in 1910)
were considered newcomers.
- Many recent foreign immigrants were German, Austrian, or
Swedish and were guided into an easy adjustment to American life by
established "old" immigrant communities.
- "New" immigrant populations were mostly from Eastern and
Southern Europe. Most were males who came without families. They
were largely unskilled workers, not accustomed to urban life. They
chose to live and work with their countrymen, who shared the same
language, customs, and values. Once they were established, many men
sent for their families. Others chose to return home.
- In 1910, over 70% of the newcomers were living in Chicago and
Cook County, where unskilled industrial jobs could be found.
Smaller cities with industries, including Rockford, Joliet, Aurora,
and Elgin, had large immigrant populations. Large groups of Slavs
and Italians moved into mining communities, replacing Irish and
German miners escaping the dangerous conditions.
- Newcomers worked long hours (sometimes 60-80 hours per week
before 1903) for low wages (an average of 22 cents per hour in a
large packinghouse), with no guarantee of work the next day. Often
the women and children in the family had to work to make ends meet.
Almost 32,000 foreign-born and black women worked as domestics in
Illinois in 1900.
- Many newcomers suffered bigotry and inequality of
opportunities. Some employers refused to hire them; others, such as
the Pullman Car Co., required language tests to weed out
foreign-speaking immigrants. State and municipal laws were written
to segregate the races. Sometimes this bigotry led to
- Newcomers were often crowded into tenement buildings in
neighborhoods that were filthy and foul-smelling. In one
three-block Polish neighborhood in Chicago there lived 7,306
children. In Chicago, 90% of blacks were confined to a densely
populated region on the south side, known as the "Black Belt." The
population of these narrowly defined black neighborhoods doubled
between 1910 and 1920, yet the boundaries hardly changed.
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