The second wave of immigrants to come to the United States came in from Southern or Eastern Europe. These immigrants came to the United States seeking better economic opportunities for their families. The economy of the United States was driven by the culture that resided in the area. In the Seattle area, the farming, ranching, logging and fishing industries drove the economy. This was mainly due to the huge growth of Oregon and Washington by settlers coming in from the European countries. The mining market of San Francisco also grew during this time because of the willingness of the immigrants to pursue hard-working, heavy labor jobs. The Hispanic population was primarily responsible for the cattle and sheep ranching market. Many of the rancheros were family run. In addition, there was a large Mestizo population comprised of mixed Hispanic and Indian blood. The Mestizos kept the farming community and the Catholic Religion in tact to preserve their Hispanic heritage.
The Mexicans migrated into Texas to work in the railway track gangs. This type work was backbreaking labor in very low paying positions.
Immigrants have studied America’s political system for many years. The early years of the 1900’s had an increased emphasis on politics. European immigrants brought their own religion and ethnic background to politics. The Germans campaigned to keep their language while the native-born Americans wanted English to be the standard language. Ethnic and religious backgrounds shaped the political system more than the Democrats and Republicans. Ward politics began with each unit of the city governance enlisting one of its representatives on the city council. It was determined that each immigrant belonged to a ward and a spokesman at city hall. The alderman kept in close contact with the immigrants and assured that their needs were met. The party machines were very strong in the Black and immigrant communities. Tammany Hall was one of the famous political machines of the time. Kickbacks and bribes were only part of the corruption that existed during this period and the machine kept very tight control of its ward in one way or another. The immigrants accepted this as a way of life and in many cases, it was a positive feature for them. The ward politics had a way of protecting the immigrants in a world that was foreign to them.
Because immigrants were arriving so quickly and in such high numbers, the United States was forced to pass a number of new laws. The first of these was the Immigration Act of 1921. This new Act restricted immigration to 3% of the current population.
The urban culture was shaped by the influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. Many of these immigrants moved to American cities and their culture and customs began to shape the cities that they dominated. The immigrants quickly found jobs when they came to the United States and those jobs determined where they would live. They picked these communities so that they would not have far to travel to get to work. Additionally, when they did settle down, they stayed in areas that resembled their own culture and way of life. Because of these ethnic groupings, institutions supporting their needs were developed. Ethnic newspapers were printed, saloons and theaters were built and mini societies were formed to support the native born immigrants. The immigrants presented a new source of literature. Museums, libraries, opera companies and symphony orchestras were among the contributing factors of this new culture. This culture was not always accepted by native-born Americans and other cultures. There were strong feelings of prejudice against the immigrants that often led to violence and terror. The urban culture often represented a source of fear and frustration to the people of the foreign lands because there were so far away from their homeland. In spite of these feelings, the immigrants eventually were assimilated into what became know as the American Culture.
The great wave of Southern and Eastern European immigrants greatly effected the Nation’s economy, politics, and urban culture. The immigrants brought diversity to the culture of the United States that is the basis for the way our country is shaped today.