Home > Presentations by Historians > D. Henkin
OUSD Teaching American History Grant III
October 28, 2008

"Economic Impact of Mid-19th Century Immigration?
Professor David Henkin, University of California, Berkeley

Following up on David Henkin?s Presentation ? Links to Resources

Link #1) 19th Century U.S. Immigration Statistics ? This site contains a number of charts and graphs on 19th century immigration patterns and links to additional sites. http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/immigration-statistics.htm

Link #2) Historical Census Browser

What can you and you students can do on this site? Explore the site to:

Examine state and county topics for individual census years.

  • Make charts and maps
  • examine multiple topics within a census year
  • produce tables of data by state or county
  • sort data by selected categories
  • create ratios between any two data categories

Choose a census year to begin examining data:



















Examine state and county topics over time.

  • examine a topic across multiple census years
  • produce tables of data by state or county

Choose a category to begin examining data:

General Population

Ethnicity/Race/Place of Birth

Education & Literacy



Slave Population

Generate maps of selected data Click on "Map It!" at the top of data columns to view the data in the form of an interactive map.

What you cannot do on this site:
Find Information about individuals
Find information for areas below the county level (e.g. cities, census tracts)
Download data. The site is not intended as a tool for downloading data for further research or more involved manipulation. Those who require this level of analysis should download the original data from ICPSR.

Link #3) A ?learning module? containing readings and primary sources on immigration from the Gilda Lehrman Institute of American History http://www.gilderlehrman.org/teachers/module15/index.html

Link # 4) ?Irish Immigration and the Nativist Reaction (1847-1856)? ? An outline of topics, each with a primary source, available at this cite include.

  1. The Potato Famine in Ireland (1847)
  2. The Exodus Begins (1850s)
  3. The Waves of Immigration
  4. Nativist Response to Irish Immigration
  5. The Propagation Society (1855)
  6. Irish Immigration Lesson Plan
  7. PowerPoint Presentation of Irish Immigration ? provides an overview of the resources contained in the previous topics
  8. Historiography

Links to Thomas Nast Immigration Cartoons

Link # 5) From Harper?s Weekly ? contains a number of political cartoons by Nast and others on mid-19th century immigration as well as other issues (New York politics, Reconstruction, etc.) http://www.harpweek.com/09Cartoon/BrowseByDateCartoon.asp?Month=February&Date=18

Link #6) Cartoons of Thomas Nast: Reconstruction, Chinese Immigration, Native Americans, Gilded Era. Includes the two cartoons David Henkin used in his talk.

The cartoon on the following page is from this link and is followed with a short piece that draws upon Ron Takaki?s work to establish its historical context and perspective Note that the explanation concludes by suggesting a small number of Chinese brought in to break up a labor strike in Massachusetts provides the ?beginnings of eventually large Chinese communities in the Eastern cities of the United States.?

This addresses one of the questions (about the number of Chinese workers who went east after the completion of the transcontinental railroad) raised in our discussion after David Henkin?s talk yesterday.

Takaki has a longer discussion of the event in ?Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans? pages 96-98. From that discussion he writes
?A large and hostile crowd met them at the depot, hooted them, hustled them somewhat, and threw stones at them,? The Nation reported. Thirty plainclothes policemen marched the newcomers to dormitories at Sampson?s factory, where they were placed behind locked and guarded gates. A few days later, the BostonCommonwealth announced: ?They are with us!The ?Celestials??with almond eyes, pigtails, rare industry, quick adaptation, high morality and all?seventy-five of them?hard at work in the town of North Adams.? The SpringfieldRepublican predicted the ?van of the invading army of Celestials? would free Sampson from ?the cramping tyranny of that worst of American trades?unions, the ?Knights of St. Crispin.?

?White workers as well as white employers watched as Sampson opened his factory again and began production. They did not have to wait long for results. Within three months, the Chinese workers were producing more shoes than the same number of white workers would have made. The success of Sampson?s experiment was reported in the press. ?The Chinese, and this especially annoys the Crispins,? the editor of The Nation wrote, ?show the usual quickness of their race in learning the process of their new business and already do creditable hand and machine work.? 10

Thomas Nast, cartoon - "The Comet of Chinese Labor" (1870)

Thomas Nast, cartoon - "The Comet of Chinese Labor" (1870)

In 1870 workers at the &"Model Shoe Factory" of Calvin T. Sampson in North Adams, Massachusetts, struck, protesting low wages and the introduction of labor-eliminating machines. The strike was considered an ominous threat to factory owners since the workers had organized into a labor union known as The Secret Order of the Knights of St. Crispin (1867) which by 1870 had become the largest labor organization in the United States. Unable to hire scabs in nearby towns, Owner Sampson decided to bring in a new weapon against the Crispin's: 75 Chinese laborers imported from San Francisco and made accessible to the East Coast based Sampson via the new wonder of the transcontinental railroad.

Thomas Nast's cartoon portrays the arriving Chinese (June 13, 1870) as a comet blazing across the sky as various interested parties point and gaze below, many of them workers hostile to the new arrivals. A few days after their arrival, writes Ronald Takaki, "the Boston Commonwealth exclaimed: 'They are with us! the "Celestials"--with almond eyes, pigtails, rare industry, quick adaptation, high morality, and all . . . ";

Sampson's Chinese labor force handily out produced for lower wages the efforts of the white workers of The Knights of St. Crispin. His pioneering effort at union busting was soon emulated by fellow entrepreneurs in the East: 1870 is thus the date for the beginnings of eventually large Chinese communities in the Eastern cities of the United States.

Source: Ronald Takaki, Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th
Century America, New York: Oxford University Press, 1979, pp. 233-35.