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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > Newcomers 1880-1920 > New Groups
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

New Groups : A Nation of Immigrants


Over twenty million immigrants arrived in the United States between 1880 and 1910. The arrival of these newcomers evoked a complex response from the "natives" already living there. Themselves part of a nation of immigrants, American employers wished to turn to account the labor and energy of this latest wave of newcomers. At the same time, many Americans reacted with anxiety and hostility to the staggering numbers of new immigrants.

Although the port cities where they debarked absorbed many immigrants, still more settled elsewhere. Connecticut River Valley towns at the turn of the century in many respects represent the immigrant experience in microcosm. Tens of thousands of Eastern European immigrants, most of them Polish, arrived in the Connecticut River Valley beginning in the 1880s. Lured by rich soil and the promise of jobs in cities like Holyoke and Springfield, these immigrants energized the region's ailing agrarian and industrial economies. Meanwhile, the different cultures, customs, and religions of these latest newcomers strained the cultural underpinnings of the region. Natives reacted with fear and prejudice. Nor were these prejudices and anxieties confined to the poor or less educated. An eminent sociologist bemoaned "the melancholy spectacle of [the old] pioneer breed being swamped and submerged by an overwhelming tide of latecomers from an old-world hive." A local author captured the pervasive fear and resentment longtime residents felt toward the newly-arrived immigrants in the novel, The Invaders.

As the first Polish-American family to buy a house on Main Street in Deerfield, Massachusetts, the Dahowskis exemplified the way in which immigrants altered the economic and cultural landscape of a small farming community. Although they maintained their language and other cultural elements of their homeland, first generation immigrants like the Dahowskis also began the process of 'becoming American,' a process usually completed by their children. Sophie's child would be a cultural bridge between the Old World of his parents and the New World in which he was born.


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Sophie Dahowski and Infant

photographer   Frances and Mary Allen
date   1890-1899
location   Deerfield, Massachusetts
item type   Photograph/Photograph - Original print
accession #   #1996.14.2033

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See Also...


Mrs. Benjamin Stebbins' Son Climbing a Tree

Eleanor Brown Stebbins (1875-1955) (Mrs. Benjamin Stebbins) Washing a Child's Hand

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