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INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT This paper is the result of a survey of the Americanization movement undertaken last fall in Washington, D.C., for the American Council on Education. Though written while the war was in progress, it is in no sense polemical; it is intended as a brief description of the chief agencies of Americanization, both private and voluntary as well as municipal, state, and federal. It also contains a summary of certain typical courses and methods. It was originally planned as a publication of the Council's Committee on Civic Education. Shortly after the signing of the armistice, November 11, 1918, the Council discontinued its work. The paper accordingly appears in the American Journal of Sociology.


Foreign immigration to the United States prior to 1820 was largely from the British Isles. In colonial times, it is true, bands of Huguenots had settled in certain parts of South Carolina and elsewhere, and other Frenchmen had established themselves in Louisiana; Hollanders had founded New Amsterdam; Swedish settlements had been made in Delaware and New Jersey; and groups of Germans had migrated to Pennsylvania and western

New York. But, in comparison with the total white population, these non-British settlers formed but a small fraction of the whole.

Moreover, of the total number of Americans in the United States in 1820, by far the larger portion were of English or of Scotch-Irish ancestry. But shortly after 1820, the first year in which the Census Bureau records foreign immigration, there began a considerable Irish movement to America. This movement reached its height in the late forties and the fifties, owing chiefly to the severe potato famine in Ireland and to other causes of internal discontent and unrest. About the same time there began the first considerable migration of Germans to this country -a migration which was to continue in increasingly large numbers down to the early eighties. The crushing of the liberals in Germany in 1848 and the years following, together with the economic distress which occurred about the same time, were the propelling forces in this movement. During the same period, or a little later, large numbers of Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes also came to America.

In fact, down to 1885 by far the major number of foreign immigrants to the United States hailed from the countries of Northwestern Europe. With few exceptions these settlers were of Teutonic and Celtic origin, possessing ideals, customs, standards of living, modes of thought, and religion of the same general tenor as those of the earlier settlers. Illiteracy was uncommon; education was highly esteemed; for the most part homes were established in farming communities; and, with the exception of the Germans, there was little tendency among the incomers to settle in racial groups. In short, down to 1880 or 1885, foreign immigration presented few obstacles to successful Americanization.

About 1885 a change began to take place. In larger and larger waves immigrants began coming from Southern and Eastern Europe. Before 1885 nine-tenths of the incomers were from the countries of Northwestern Europe; by 1905, twenty years later, three-fourths of them had as their birthplace the countries, of Southern and Eastern Europe. In these latter countries religion was dominantly Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, and Jewish; customs, habits, and to some extent ideals formed striking contrasts to those of Northern and Western Europe. Illiteracy ranged from 13 -7 per cent in Austria to 78.9 per cent in Serbia. Whereas in our earlier immigration the illiteracy of immigrants had occasionally been less than that of native Americans, in 1910, 12.7 per cent of the foreign-born were illiterate, against 3 per cent of the native Americans. Most serious of all perhaps was the fact that, unlike the earlier immigrants, many of the late-comers manifested no intention of making America a permanent home and no desire of becoming Americans.

Keeping in mind these facts, the conditions revealed by the census of 1910 should occasion no surprise. In that year there were some 13,000,000 foreign-born whites in the United States, 3,000,000 of whom were ten years of age and over and were unable to speak, read, or write the English language. Over 2,500,000 of these were twenty-one years of age and over.

Of these 2,500,ooo, over 1,500,000 were illiterate, and only 35,614 of the total 2,500,000 were in school. In other words, but a fraction over i per cent were undergoing any systematic training in the rudiments of Americanization.

Commissioner of Education Claxton thus sums up the situation:

In 1910 there were in the United States approximately 13,000,000 foreignborn persons, and about 20,000,000 more with one or both parents born in foreign countries. About 3,000,000 of the foreign-born over ten years of age could not speak English and about 1,650,000 could not read or write in any language. Nearly 50 per cent of the foreign-born population were males of voting age, but only 4 in every 1,000 attended school to learn our language and citizenship. Over 4,000,000 additional aliens were admitted between 1910 and 1915."

In view of the foregoing facts it is not strange perhaps to discover in the last census that while “45 States show an increase in the number of the foreign-born" all but two "show a decrease in the percentage naturalized”;2 and when we remember that the highest percentage of illiteracy and of ignorance of the English

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School Life, I, No. 2, p. 20.

* War Americanization for States, p. 3. Pamphlet published in October, 1917, by National Americanization Committee.


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language is found among aliens from twenty to thirty-five years of age the problem from the economic, military, and educational point of view becomes grave indeed. The war has brought home to us as never before the realization of this situation.

The necessity for the Americanization of our foreign population may be summarized briefly as follows:

1. There are 13,000,000 persons of foreign birth and 33,000,000 of foreign origin living in the United States."

2. Over 100 different foreign languages and dialects are spoken in the United States.

3. Over 1,300 foreign-language newspapers are published in the United States, having a circulation estimated at 10,000,000.

4. Of the persons in the United States 5,000,000 are unable to speak English.

5. Of these persons 2,000,000 are illiterate. 6. Of the unnaturalized persons 3,000,000 are of military age.

7. In 1910, 34 per cent of alien males of draft age were unable to speak English; that is, about half a million of the registered alien

a males between twenty-one and thirty-one years of age were unable to understand military orders given in English.

8. War industries are largely dependent on alien labor: 57 per cent of the employees in the iron and steel industries east of the Mississippi, 61 per cent of the miners of soft coal, 72 per cent of workers in the four largest clothing manufacturing centers, and 683 per cent of construction and maintenance workers on the railroads are foreign-born.

9. Only about 1.3 per cent of adult non-English-speaking aliens are reached by the shcools.

10. Many large schools in American cities have been spending more for teaching German to American children than for teaching English and civics to aliens.?

* By “foreign origin” is meant persons with one or both parents of foreign birth. This is the classification employed by the Census Bureau.

* This summary is taken in large part from a manuscript brief on the pending federal Americanization bill. (This brief is on file at the Committee on Public Information, Washington, D.C.) It draws also from a mimeograph Outline of National and State Programs of the United States Bureau of Education, Bulletin No. 86.

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The agencies promoting the Americanization of our foreign population may be treated under three heads: private and voluntary, state and municipal, and federal."

From February to June, 1918, an extensive survey of the agencies coming into contact with the foreign-born population of the United States was made by Mr. Joseph Mayper, under the joint auspices of the Committee on Public Information and the National Americanization Committee. This survey embraced foreign-born, native-born, educational, industrial, and labor agencies. It included within its scope racial societies, churches, fraternal orders, patriotic and social organizations, chambers of commerce, public and private schools, railroads, mines, and industries of all kinds.

In order to secure accurate and complete information on the location of foreign-language groups and the agencies dealing with them, letters of inquiry “were sent to 2,376 Mayors of Cities, 1,108 Chambers of Commerce, 2,353 trade organizations, 48 State Councils of Defense and their Woman's Divisions, 275 National Racial, Immigrant, Patriotic, and Philanthropic Societies, 50 National Religious Organizations, 1,071 Foreign Newspapers, 5,274 Superintendents of Public Schools, 269 Railroads, etc."

As a result of this inquiry the names of “approximately 50,000 agencies (foreign, native, industrial, and educational) ” obtained. To each of these a registration card was sent asking for information on the principal foreign language spoken, the kinds of service and work being done with persons of foreign origin, and requesting suggestions or plans for the promotion of


* This paper is confined to the consideration of our foreign population above the compulsory school age (usually fourteen or fifteen years). Since an arrangement exists by which the Bureau of Immigration notifies school authorities of the various communities of the United States of the arrival of immigrant children of compulsory school age within their respective vicinities, many of the difficulties of enforcing the compulsory-attendance laws are obviated.

* Preliminary report of Mr. Mayper, pp. 2–3; in manuscript, on file with the Committee of Public Information.


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