To the Home Page of the National Humanities Center Web Site National Humanities Center Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature  contact us | site guide | search 
Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: People: Assimilation and the Crucible of the City
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: People
Text 1. The American Metropolis
Text 2. Coney Island
Text 3. Horatio Alger, Jr., Ragged Dick
Text 4. Lewis W. Hine photographs
Text 5. Jacob Riis, How the Other Lives
Text 6. Anzia Yezierska, Russians
Text 7. Two Wives
Text 8. Lee Chew, The Biography of a Chinaman
Text 9. Exclusion
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 10. Zitkala-Sa, Native Americans

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
Men awaiting deportation, Ellis Island, 1902
Men awaiting deportation, Ellis Island, 1902
- Immigration Restriction League, Publication 39, Extracts from "The Report of the Commissioner-
General of Immigration for the Year Ending June 30, 1903"
- U.S. House of Representatives, Report of the Select Committee on Immigration, 1892, excerpt

As noted above, the vast tide of immigrants that swept into this country in the late nineteenth-century engendered considerable fear among some native-born Americans. Anguish over disease, crime, filth, loss of national character, and subversion drove prominent citizens in Boston, many on the faculty of Harvard, to establish, in 1894, the Immigration Restriction League. Here we offer one of the League's publications, extracts from a 1903 report on immigration. The report calls for the exclusion of various categories of "undesirable" aliens, but the author's real argument is with the immigrants already here. He sees their concentration in the cities of the East as a threat to the nation's stability. The House Select Committee report takes up the problem on the West coast, where Chinese—not Italian, Russian, or Austrian immigrants—are the source of native discontent. 6 pages.

Discussion questions
  1. Compare the immigration commissioner's portrayal of immigrants with Riis's portrayal of the inhabitants of the Bend.
  2. What distinctions does the commissioner make among immigrants?
  3. How do both documents interpret past immigration?
  4. Compare the perceived threats that European and Chinese immigrants pose to the nation. What might account for the differences?
  5. Compare the ways in which the two reports propose to deal with immigrants already living in the United States. What might account for the differences?
  6. Compare Lee Chew's story to the House report's portrayal of Chinese immigrants.

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  How was the American cultural mainstream defined at this time?
  •  What messages and strategies of socialization did the government and other culture brokers extend to immigrants, African Americans, and Native Americans during this period?
  •  What benefits and costs for these groups were associated with a strategy of assimilation?
  •  How did the city function as a site of assimilation?

Toolbox: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Memory | Progress | People | Power | Empire

Contact Us | Site Guide | Search

Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature
National Humanities Center
Web site comments and questions, contact:
Copyright © 2005 National Humanities Center. All rights reserved.
Revised: July 2006