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Zach McCurter

UNST 103

May 17, 2008

Factors Affecting German Immigration

Throughout history push and pull factors have aided in the formation of

new nations and only added to struggles of others. There are a combination

of factors that can cause a person or group of people to become uneasy with

their environment, and ultimately propel them to leave what they call home

and seek a new life. Examples of these “push” factors are often due to

scarcity of land, political and/or religious persecution, poverty, and

revolutions. Just as factors may warrant someone to leave their home, there

are situations which may pull a person to another country. For example, the

promise of religious and political freedom, hope in starting over and the

chance to successfully do so, availability and need for workers as industry

advances or a nation grows, a chance to claim land of their own, and the

idea of a new world of opportunity and endless possibilities. The combination

of a push to leave a country and a pull to become a part of one is how the

United States was formed. In this short paper push and pull factors effecting

German immigrants to the United States will be discussed.

Since 1840 more than 20 million Germans have migrated to the United

States. In the early years even before 1840 German immigrants could easily

find work on the transcontinental railroad and in the rapidly growing factories

responsible for making large cities even larger. As workers of the railroad
made head-way through the country new settlements were formed and word

of the opportunity for a better life quickly spread to people back home.

Although not all immigrant workers stayed in the United States. Many of the

immigrants would send their pay to their families back home and some

return to their families with their pockets full.

Immigration peaked during the period of 1880-1910 when nearly 8

million Germans, close to 40 percent of all German immigrants, made the

trek across the ocean to seek hope for a new life. During this period almost

half of the German’s migrating to the United States ended up in the top ten

most populated cities. This trend is likely due to the fact that the frontier had

closed and a person was no longer able to simply stake a claim for land, and

also communities of immigrants had been established making the transition

easier into a new culture and world. The most likely cause of the immigration

spike was from technological advances in steam powered boats making the

trip much easier, constant revolution in Germany that showed little evidence

of ending, availability of work for higher wage, and seeking refuge for

political and religious reasons. Many German immigrants during the nineteenth

century came for economic reasons and a shrinking land base. Culture and religious

conflict was also a major factor. Some Germans were even forced to join the military

during this period.

A dramatic decline in immigration occurred directly after the peak

period of 1880-1910 as World War I began to cause controversy and mixed

feelings of immigration. Many Americans began to question immigrant’s


loyalty to the United States and became suspicious. Eventually laws

regulating the number of immigrants allowed into the country were

responsible for the decline of immigrants. During the Second World War even

children seeking refuge from Nazi Germany were turned away because of

newly implemented immigration quotas. Newly migrated Germans were

detained as paranoia of tyrants was wide spread.