Foreign-Born Immigrant Regions
The Irish homes of Illinois,
The happy homes of Illinois,
No landlord there
Can cause despair,
Nor blight our fields in Illinois!
-- McGee c. 1850 (in Barry 1902)
Atlantic Europe was driven by a westward impulse ( Hansen 1961). Promoters, immigrants, and British travelers influenced Europeans' migration to the American interior in the early nineteenth century. Midcontinental Illinois, with its open spaces and frontier communities, offered fertile soil, cheap land, jobs, and freedom. Personal letters and visits from relatives and friends from America formed a powerful bond in social networks linking origins and destinations. Potential emigrants' mental maps were affected by social networks as long-distance migration emerged as a vigorous topic of village intercourse. Information fields were critical to the formation and effectiveness of chain and channelized migration patterns within "American fever." By 1850, Europeans' segmented patterns were interwoven among Upland South, New England, and Midland-Midwest immigrant structures in Illinois.
Travel books and letters concerning America and Illinois shaped a "siren's illusion" of the New West ( Rodman 1947). Morris Birkbecks' Letters from Illinois ( 1818a) and Notes on a Journey in America ( 1818b) were the earliest influential European promotional literature for the new state. The latter volume went through eleven editions and the former seven editions in three years ( Rodman 1947, 333). English travelers' impressions proliferated into the 1840s ( Buckingham 1842; Hoff mann 1835; Latrobe 1835; Martineau 1837; Shirreff 1835; Stuart 1833; Woods 1822). First-hand impressions of travelers and American emigrants were widely accepted in Europe. Vivid place and landscape images portrayed the prairies' beauty, peoples' customs and life, and opportunities in frontier Illinois ( Jones 1954).