Foreign-born in 1860

Not a lot of prose in this post. I’ll just share some stunning numbers. Such as, 400,000 immigrants served in the Union Army. The foreign-born population doubled between 1850 and 1860, with most of the newcomers from outside the British Isles. What did this mean? Well . . .
1/3rd of the first generation immigrants here before the Civil War were German.
Milwaukee and Cincinnati (sometimes called “Over the Rhine”) were half German.
47% of the population of New York City was foreign born.
States with highest percentage of foreign-born in 1860
California- 38%
South Dakota- 37%
Wisconsin- 35%
Minnesota- 34%
Utah- 31%
Nevada- 30%
Washington- 27%
New York- 26%
Nebraska- 22%
Massachusetts- 21%
Rhode Island- 21%
Michigan- 20%
Illinois- 19%
New Jersey-18%
Connecticut- 17%
Iowa- 16%
Pennsylvania- 14%
Missouri- 14%

In 1860, the only southern state with a large immigrant population was Louisiana with 11 percent. South Carolina had 2 percent foreign-born and Georgia had 1 percent. Overall, 3.6 million foreign-born lived in the North and 400,000 lived in the South.

Source: Patrick Young, “Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War,” March 2, 2011

Naturally, there was push-back and hostility in many areas, but in an expanding economy, and especially when the Civil War created a desperate need for fighting men, nobody talked about building walls. It’s good to hold these figures in mind, I think, when looking at today’s immigrant situation.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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2 comments on “Foreign-born in 1860
  1. […] has a long and undistinguished history in America. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, foreign-born immigrants comprised just over 13 percent of our nation’s population—about what it is […]

  2. […] has a long and undistinguished history in America. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, foreign-born immigrants comprised just over 13 percent of our nation’s population—about what it is […]

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