Immigration and Industrialization: Ethnicity in an American Mill Town, 1870-1940

Immigration and Industrialization: Ethnicity in an American Mill Town, 1870-1940

Immigration and Industrialization: Ethnicity in an American Mill Town, 1870-1940

Immigration and Industrialization: Ethnicity in an American Mill Town, 1870-1940

Excerpt

The mill towns and industrial districts which appeared in latenineteenth-century America were obvious symbols of an emerging industrial society. Places such as Gary, Lackawanna, Homestead, Lorain, McKees Rocks, South Bethlehem, Sparrows Point, Youngstown, Weirton, Joliet, Whiting, Johnstown, and Braddock became both increasingly familiar and alike. Larger cities also acquired factories, mills, and districts populated exclusively by working people. The Cleveland "flats" or the south sides of Chicago and Pittsburgh were not unlike the smaller industrial towns with their sprawling mills, smoke-filled skies, and ethnic and racial diversity.

While historians have noted the highly visible changes effected by industrialization--such as the rise of cities, factories, immigration, and entrepreneurs--the deeper implications of this social process have received only preliminary treatment. Historical explanations have moved slowly beyond the artifacts of industrialization to probe the recesses of the social process itself. As a social process, industrialization altered social structures and social relationships at the national, regional, community, and familial levels. At the community level, the focus of this study, industrialization resembled the movement of a glacier. Vast surface changes were obvious to the naked eye. The smokestacks of an expanding steel mill, the multiplication of neighborhoods, and the creation of new wealth were emblematic of a new social order some felt would lead to progress and prosperity for all. Certainly, proponents of this new order abounded in industrial America.

Beneath a glacier, however, significant alterations in topogra-

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