Nothing New Under The Sun: Immigration

Happy Immigrants
Happy Immigrants

Even honey bees are an invasive species. Plants, insects and people tend to move–and take over. Populations explode and people jostle for position. Mrs. Astor of the late 19th century had a big house in NYC with a ballroom. People naturally wanted to attend her soirees. If you were “in” you were one of “The Four Hundred” which only meant that you were one of the 400 people who could fit in her ballroom. Do any of us have dinner parties without considering how many chairs we have?

That's a lot of people!
That’s a lot of people!

Lower Manhattan was littered with old, once regal mansions chopped up for new immigrants. And at first everyone was sort of okay with it. The island could handle the influx and since many of the new people spoke English they didn’t seem so alien.

This did not mean that a Mrs. Astor wanted to live right next door to some working class shlub. But lets not do the easy thing–the setting of the rich against the poor. The middle class and the already established working class started feeling a bit uneasy as the century wore on. As one of my uncles once said when people were discussing how disgusting the beaches were on Coney Island, “Who cares, we can just move to nicer beaches.” Some of us didn’t have the funds to move at that particular moment and I suspect that many New Yorkers who watched the surge in immigration through the 19th century felt some alarm.

NYC Immigration rates went something like this:

1830: 14,000

1835: 32715

1840: 60,609 (or a 20% addition to the city’s population in one year)

1845: 76,514

1856: 212,796

and so on.

Stats from Mrs. Astor’s New York

“Taxpayers were asked to welcome a very different kind of immigrant; usually untrained, largely illiterate, demanding free public services, practicing a different religion . . . the native poor and the taxpayers resented that immigrants could apply for relief.”

Does it all sound familiar yet? I grew up in a town where a bunch of kids who didn’t do well at school could depend on decent (not great) paying jobs landscaping other people’s yards. Suddenly those jobs were given to non-English speaking illegals and there was some resentment directed mainly at the landscaping company owners who’d started as the less than successful high school kids, built a company and now profited off the cheap labor of the immigrants.

I can personally understand why desperate people would want to flock to a country advertizing free everything but I can also understand the graph below:

I guess we're all a bunch of intolerant jerks.
I guess we’re all a bunch of intolerant jerks.

Graph swiped from Pew Research

Healthcare Gone Crazy!

Disease, Filth and Mayhem!

10 responses to “Nothing New Under The Sun: Immigration”

  1. Is it elitism, xenophobia, predujice, or resentful intolerance? My mom had just missed the quota for German war brides and getting her papers in order was pretty tough. She didn’t do Ellis Island yet paid her dues immigrating to a new country where she was considered the enemy, even by her in-laws. She did her best to fit in with her adopted country by learning the language and how to be an American. She didn’t forget her German heritage, she decided to be blend into the country of choice. Maybe that’s the underlying problem–an unwillingness to blend and adapt fosters resentment.


    • Good point. The sad thing is that people think when they come here that they’ll be on easy street, but nothing ever is that easy, is it.

      People don’t like to feel that they’re being forced to carry other people’s problems on their back. It’s a healthy human response to a feeling that things just aren’t fair.

      The problem seems to be that government will always be unable to compel fairness in life. What’s fair about being born handicapped or into a family of drunkards? Nothing.

      I put my hope in something different because humanity is just too damned flawed 🙂


  2. Not really on topic but coincidentally I saw the Mulberry St crowd scene you used as a full color Photochrom picture somewhere last week. I think the publisher Taschen has an eye-wateringly expensive coffee-table-destroying tome out of the earliest color shots.
    Suddenly the street is more real — I know that’s a cliché — but it’s true. Looking at the crowd, you really imagine you see the different ethnicities and the dynamic of the group is somehow friendlier imho.The Photochrom process involved (according to Wiki) ten to 15 photosensitive litho stones for the different hues I guess, to produce one picture.

    More on topic, in the UK it’s the pressure on schools and socially funded healthcare facilities locally that are the pinch point in acceptance of foreigners. Plus we have the nutty system whereby every single Bulgarian, Romanian and more than 20 other European countries in the EU, many of which have very low wage economies or very high unemployment have the absolute right to come here and benefit from UK social security provisions, but we have to put visa restictions on an Indian brain surgeon or an American research scientist. As I said, nutty.


    • I always thought the EU was a bad idea 🙂 As you may have noticed in past weeks we have a VERY SUDDEN problem with a massive influx at our southern border. Something feels very odd about it. In our case the social services are being greatly stressed as well.

      Politicians always like to use the “it’s about the children” clause when they want something done. I find it horrifying and fake.


      • After I posted that I found an even better version where you can zoom and pan around the scene in close-up. Get the kid on the left with a pot on his head or the two guys on the right sitting on the back of the apple cart. They’re either trying to attract an animal — dog? cat? with a piece of food or they’re pitching pennies. And then you have the moustachioed Sicilian men center and the Irish couple. It’s so I want to be there…


      • I like the little girl in white on the right–looks like she’s checking her cell phone but she’s a blur–so completely unaware of herself being a picture passed down the ages. I like the clothing shop behind her as well–that’s where I’d go! I do feel sorry for the horses though.


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