The Movement to Americanize the Immigrant
By Edward George Hartmann
The AM stressed “the desirability of the rapid assimilation of the millions of immigrants.” 7 “Unlike these others (KKK, Nativism) it did not stress a negative program of restriction or repression as a means of solving the immigrant question. Instead it outlined a positive program of education and guidance.” 8 It had a “faith in the assimilative capabilities of the immigrant and of his eventual transformation into a patriotic, loyal, and intelligent supporter of the great body of principles and practices which the leaders of the movement chose to consider ‘America’s priceless heritage’.” 8
Chapter One – Background of the Americanization Movement
The Old Immigration members had similar backgrounds: a high standard of living a low rate of illiteracy, fairly active share in political self-government, and with small exceptions, were Protestant Christians. Their entry did not disturb the American way of life too visibly. Even so they were the brunt of vicious attacks.
immigrants were “comparatively backward.” 14 Low standards of living, illiterate,
no experience in self-government and non-Protestant. Between 1873 and 1910 nearly 10 million came
from southern and eastern
crowding rose rents to where immigrants had to take in boarders and then the
overcrowding. Many were sleeping in a
room, it was unsanitary and many bachelors with growing children made immorality
common. To most people those crowding
Since there had been antagonism towards waves of similar immigrants, it would have been strange to not have it happen this time.
Labor, in particular, was very hostile. 17
As early as 1894 calls for restriction were made by labor. 18
In 1887 the
American Protective Association was started.
It was anti-Roman Catholic and wanted restriction. In 1894 we got the Immigration Restriction
League, a New England Teutonic stock organization. Its big victory was the 1917 literacy
test. They were instrumental in keeping
the issue of immigration restriction during the entire World War One period by
way of spreading literature about the danger immigrants presented.
Their attacks brought forth a series of articles in immigrants defense by social workers, educators, and intellectuals. Pointing to our history of immigration they said it was unfair to assume that they were lacking in the assimilative qualities of the old immigrants. 22
“If anything was to be deplored and feared, they declared, it was the too rapid assimilation by the children of the foreign-born of the undesirable features of American life about them.” 22-23 They worried that this led to contempt for their parents, which was a bad thing. 23 The problem was that very little was being done to stir the melting pot.
“The great existing danger in the immigrant situation, they pointed out, lay not in the fact that these people could not become assimilated to American ideals and to the American way of life, but in the fact that very little effort was being made to help the process of assimilation by bettering relations between the newcomers and their American neighbors, by helping to preserve the hold of the immigrant parents over their children, or by seeking to amalgamate the better features of the various immigrant cultures with the native American one as a lasting contribution from abroad.” 23
succeeding in teaching English with special instructions in 1901,
Particularly active was the Educational Alliance of NYC on the LES set up in 1890 to ‘Americanize’ the Jewish immigrants. The Jews themselves realized that a center for assimilative activities was a necessity in the ghetto districts. Fairs, starting in 1899, secured money to build a community center. Lecture series were always a part of this effort. They taught English and taught native speakers how to teach their kids.
The Society for Italian Immigrants did the same thing. It was started by Americans of Italian descent to help and guide the newcomers. It dedicated most of its educational work to Italians who found work in far flung labor camps. To do this successfully they enlisted the help of Miss Sarah W. Moore, who was an experienced teacher and social worker. She had great success creating her own textbook for the workers and three levels of English classes in 1906.
The YMCA was huge in this too 1907. By 1912 more than 55,000 immigrants had been helped by the Y to learn English. 300 branches were offering courses in English. By 1912. 29 They also had lectures in personal hygiene, sanitation, geography, industrial safety and government.
Englanders also set up schools. The
Society of Colonial Dames of America did patriotic stuff. They gave scholarships for this reason
starting in 1904 to the U of C. They set
up lectures for Italians in Italian in
Chapter Two – The North American Civic League for Immigrants and Affiliated Organizations
was created as a result of a conference called by the YMCA in 1907. This was meant to protect,
aid, educate and inspire the newcomer.
Composed of conservative business interest it had clout. Their aim: “To change the unskilled
inefficient immigrant into the skilled worker and efficient citizen, to strike
at the cause of poverty, to improve the environment and the spirit of
It was specified that this be a non-sectarian organization dedicated purely to the immigration situation.
work was to investigate the situation.
They found that immigrants were often brought under the sway of
“mischievous rascals” the lack of language and distrust of government were
problems that led to a “negative philosophy” and made them a potentially
“destructive force.” 42. They selected
They hooked up with many local organizations and had very well received pamphlets that were ordered around the county and sold at cost. Their greatest success was with their lecture series. They believed that wholesome recreation was very important. They hoped to be the coordinating branch of all immigrant-aid societies. Sympathetic and prominent members of the foreign-born worked with the league. President Brewer felt that they in particular refuted the pessimists.
In 1910 they had a conference to make the public schools more suitable to educate the immigrant. They had always outsourced and pressured schools to use their materials. Women’s clubs and Pastors of immigrant communities were to publicize the night lasses.
similar movements grew up in other places. One from the
Chicago Women’s Trade Union League.
They particularly focused on the moral pitfalls facing immigrant
girls. The League for the protection of
immigrants and the Immigrants’ protective league started here too and were the
same as the others, but more on employment bureaus. Its leader was Grace Abbott. Like the
meantime, proponents decided to make a NY version of the
They sought to pressure the state to do its duties and to educational and civic work they would not do. They drew up a five point plan:
1) Assimilation (or the opposite of restriction).
2) Education, elementary, industrial, civic, and English
4) Naturalization and creating contact between immigrants and American institutions.
5) Protection. Of immigrants who had become “penniless, diseased or exhausted.”
Surveys for the education of the public, coordinating other agencies work and developing new ones were the three methods.
In Valhalla NY they set up education facilities at a camp for young and old workers, household economics for women and girls, Special moving pictures on Saturday nights and dances once a month. This effort was replicated at many labor camps.
With moving pictures and victrolas they increased the reach of this entertainment to 40 camps.
They published 14,000 pamphlets on “How to Secure First-Papers.”
Chapter Three – The Movement Strengthened Through State Action
The Dillingham commission did more to publicize immigration than NACL could have. The report said that we should take care to see, in the future, that we would only take in the “quality and quantity that the process of assimilation was not rendered too difficult.” It showed an oversupply of unskilled labor. It was also racist and used illiteracy to justify that conclusion.
was the best assimilator. It passed laws
regulating banks, ticket agents and notaries public to protect immigrants. The Bureau allowed people to lodge complaints
in their own language. The Bureau of
Industries and Immigration was opened on Oct 3, 1910 with Kellor at the helm.
As Chief investigator she had four special investigators with her to care for
Italian, Polish, Yiddish and Hungarian speaking immigrants.
Governor Wilson of
Chapter Four – Industry and Federal Agencies Join the Movement
In 1910 – 1914 industrial Americanization movements got going too. The NACLI recognized that blunders had been made in regards to the handling of immigrants. I education happened, the danger of industrial disorders and economic unrest could be lessened. The immigrant would be appreciative of American ideas including the laissez-faire maxims.
The league arranged for a conference of industrial leaders. Those in attendance put themselves on record as being behind the league’s program as a means of “self-preservation” from the menace of immigrant “radical” action.
On Dec. 1st
1910 another meeting happened for Senator Dillingham of
Frank Shaw was made the leader and confirmed that there was an “industrial threat.” They put out a new message entitled Respect the Law and Preserve Order.
Still they believed that the future depended on education of the adult alien worker. They went after chambers of commerce.
Brewer said that the industrial unrest that necessitated the militia being called out in 1912justifiec the League’s creation. They saw all disruption being due to the “mishandled non-English-speaking population.” 94 “Volleys in the streets – ribald attacks on courts and departments of public order – and impassioned appeals to frenzied, if misguided mobs, are having an educational value.”
The enthusiasm of the pleas was only dampened by the industrialist’s feeling that they had successfully beaten the immigrant strikers and so could rest.
In 1912 the
NY branch, who had been heading in the original direction, had their own conference.
They wanted to reach all of American and so changed their name to the
Committee for Immigrants in
actually signaled approval earlier when he wrote “For the enrichment of our
national life as well as for the happiness and welfare of individuals we must
respect their ideals and preserve and strengthen all of the best of their
They held a conference on the education of immigrants on May 16th and 17th of 1913 reprinted in Bulletin 51.
H. H. Wheaton was the Bureau’s specialist in immigrant education and had been in charge of the investigation they did.
The census of 1910 showed 5,500,000 illiterates in the U.S. .101 And millions were barely able to read and write English at all.
next four years they devoted most of their time to announcing the need of
Americanization. [I think I disagree in terms of the Committee for Immigrants] While
they were publicizing, the Federal Bureau of Naturalization entered into the
Americanization movement by joining forces with the public schools starting in
1914. They were vested with the power to
say who could be naturalized and what the standards were to be. In 1914 they submitted a plan for dignifying
in the eyes of the public the proceedings of admission to citizenship and
placing it upon that high plane which it has always held in the minds of those
who thoroughly appreciate and value citizenship.”
Naturalization Bureau did a lot of on site visits.
Chapter Five – War in
The movement had not yet gained the attention of the public. That changed in 1915. Germans were the enemy and had a distinct language to hate.
Czech, Pole, Slovak and many other nationalities hoped for a homeland and their
comrades back home. They propagandized
for their homeland’s sides. To many
Americans that seemed a violation of the nation’s hospitality to say the least. The Germans were very loud in this
regard. They more than any other group
pissed people off. They were agitating
“A hyphen came to symbolize one who put the interests of your homeland before those of his adopted country. Roosevelt and Wilson spoke out.
The word “Americanization” began to replace “assimilation” 107
The Federal Bureau of Nationalization was responsible for laying the plans for the crusade that blossomed in the summer of 1915. In December of 1914 it suggested that the Mayor of Philadelphia have a naturalization celebration, which it had May, 10 1915.
GET THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF NATURALIZATION, reports of the department of labor, 1916, op. cit., 464.
“Miss Frances A. Kellor, one of the key workers in the crusade” 108
[Americans] began to ask why aliens had not become Americanized; why
After the 1915 event the bureau launched its nation-wide cooperative educational campaign “for the betterment and strengthening of the citizenship of the entire nation, though the aid of the public school.” The response and endorsement went beyond its expectations 109
New Voters Day in
description of the festival has the following highlights “At the Philadelphia
reception 5,000 newly naturalized citizens occupied the front seats in a great
convention hall, 8,000 older citizens sat behind and above them, a chorus of
4,500 voices, itself as composite racially as the
thousands it faced, rose in semi-circles at the rear of the platform. . . . Great flags draped each of the twenty
main pillars; festoons of bunting hung from the high arched roof. . . Facing the new citizens, and topped by a
wreath thirty feet in diameter, were the words, in electric lighted letters:
‘Welcome to a government of the people, by the people, for the people’. Among the speakers, at the
front of the platform, sat the gray-haired mayor of
this time, for publicity purposes the Committee for Immigrants in
“However well government, business, and philanthropy may conceive and launch a national policy, its ultimate success will depend upon the average American citizen. He and he alone can eliminate race prejudice and class distinction, hold out the hand of friendship, perform such personal services as will disarm the exploiter, and enable the immigrant to express his best self. Such a citizen is the natural foe of the I.W.W. and of the destructive forces that seek to direct unwisely the expression of the immigrant in the new country, and upon him rest the hope and defense of the country’s ideals and institutions.”
Such celebrations had happened before. But July 4th being national it would make the “newcomers feel for the first time the friendly aims of the government in place of the repression, discrimination, and injustices hitherto dealt out to him.” 115 Ibid
Some organizers thought the idea dangerous as some nationalities might clash as they arranged the celebrations at a conference. Others worried that the foreign born might not respond. But they did so even more than the native born. 116
The prize for the best essay on the meaning of Americanization Day was publicized in foreign newspapers.
wrote a letter to the mayors saying that every community should take part in
giving the newcomers a national consciousness and in making them
feel that their interests ad affections were deeply rooted in
They also advertised in train stations and with a June 14th flag day in public schools. The campaign began on May 22nd and ended July 3rd.
Part of the tips for potential speakers sent out was a list of the deplorable conditions revealed by the commissions. 120
The hardest part was getting the interest of the ‘old American’ stock. They thought of the foreigners as industrial cogs and many were racists. And many thought of the fourth as a pleasure and sport day.
the day more than 150 participated. Seattle
Kellor said the success was in using other local organizations to put it on.
Kellor pointed out that the effects of Americanization Day were “far-reaching and widespread. Not only were the existing agencies, already actively engaged in work on behalf of the movement stimulated to greater effort, but circles heretofore completely indifferent to the problem of the immigrant began to engage in Americanization activities.”
immigrants in America Review Kellor said that Americanization Day “originated
in the hearts and minds of thousands of Americans to have July 4th,
1915, express their gratitude for the peace and prosperity of the nation, for
the safety of their loved ones, ,and for the maintenance of national ideals and
honor.” She said later that the
celebration changed for all time the relationship of the American-born and the
foreign-born men and women, “for once the barriers had been let down, the
Americans found the immigrants much like themselves, with the same sorrows,
aspirations, ,hopes, and joys, and the same patriotism and loyalty to America.” Kellor, “By-Products of Americanization Day”,
The name was changed to the National Americanization Committee and it stayed operational until 1919.
[National Americanization Committee] defined Americanization as the union of
many peoples of the country into one nation and the use of the English language
throughout the nation, the establishment of American standards of living in
every community of the country, a common interpretation of American
citizenship, and a recognition of foreign-born men and women in the social, and
civic as well as the industrial aspects of American life. This definition of Americanization involved
equal responsibility for native and foreign-born residents. For the native American it meant the responsibility for the
abolition of race prejudice, for the foreign-born learning English and loyally
supporting the best ideals and traditions of
They recognized it was complex, but the English language, citizenship and American standards of living were without question the first steps in the right direction to achieve this goal. 124-125
They pointed out that accidents and unrest happen because people don’t speak English.
This was the launch of industrial Americanization.
Chapter Six – Americanization Endeavors During the Year 1916
started great with a National Conference on Immigration in
They reached out, particularly, to women’s clubs and organizations. Ms. Percy Pennypacker was the president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. DAR also got involved. The Bureau of Education created materials for these clubs to use. Practically every state group responded to the call.
Thousands of women were sent out into communities, partially with the job of education, partially to do housing inspections and to tell employers about the minimum requirements and that “improved housing meant better health, stronger men and women, and community happiness which would result in greater contentment and efficiency. Housing was to be the focus and the competition was launched at Astor’s house. 138 Plans for workers homes in towns with 30,000 and housing to replace the freight cars construction gangs slept in along the railroads were asked for.
From the start the educational aspect was the important thing. They were very happy with the attention from Architectural and Engineering groups. News of the competition was sent to many of the targeted towns to stimulate interest in folks who needed it, could provide it and could profit off of it.
The committee outlined programs for people to do Americanization Days and did their Call to National Service pamphlet.
Unfortunately labor started to get suspicious of the National Americanization Committee. They wanted the movement to be accompanied by reforms in labor conditions, unionization, and increases in wages. Samuel Gompers in August 1916’s American Federationist wrote:
“It is not reasonable to expect an intelligent understanding of American ideals or patriotism among those whose daily lives are filled with industrial injustice and who meet with nothing but abuse and exploitation.” 141
[WAS This WHEN Mary was involved with Gompers?] Was he completely ignorant of Kellor’s work??]
Gompers continuing, “So long as that corporation [united States Steel Corporation] hires armed thugs to beat into submission workers who have the manhood to make a fight for their rights, that corporation will remain an institution destructive to the American spirit and an obstacle to the work of Americanizing aliens within our country.” 141
Frank Walsh of the United Mine Workers was incensed that the NAC would not use the unions as Americanization agencies. He wrote Frank Trumbull,
“I am forced to believe that the last thing your committee desires is the Americanization of the immigrant, and that instead you are attempting to set up a paternalism that will bring the workers of this country even more absolutely under the control of the employers than they are at present.
Among the active members of your committee are many large employers who are relentlessly resisting any movement that threatens to free their employees from industrial tyranny and gross economic exploitation and by thus freeing them to Americanize them in the only true sense in which that word can be used.” 142
None of the bigwigs on the committee were doing much for the immigrants working on their projects. He attacked the committees most avid members, Astor, Vanderbilt and Stotesbury as people that lived of the unearned income obtained through exploitation of land and other natural resources.
“you cite with approval the policy of employers who have used compulsion to force workmen into night schools where they may learn English. You would have employers extend their arbitrary control over the lives of the workers’ leisure hours, dictating to them what they shall do in the evening and threatening them with the loss of their opportunity to earn a living – that is, with starvation for themselves and their families, if they do not obey.” 143
Scharrenberg of the California State Federation nof Labor said the aliens needed more than patriotic talks. “What a hollow mockery is all talk of Americanization unless the ‘Americanizers’ see to it that sufficient leisure is provided. . . shorten the work day – the labor union has been the pioneer and has maintained the leadership right up to date.” The labor unions wanted to and thought they were doing Americanization the right way.
An editorial in the United Mine Workers’ Journal said, “In the labor union halls we find means to make them understand the problems of the workers; we soon find that they have long recognized our problems as theirs.
“However, we cannot but recognize how much simpler would be our task if all the workers could be taught to understand, to speak, and to read the one language, and as the English language does and should predominate in this country, we can only see advantage in any program calculated to make possible for foreign-speaking workers instruction in the language of this country.”
“Possibly this movement for ‘Americanization’ was never initiated with the intent to better the conditions of the workers. But if in this movement we see the possibility of advantage that may accrue it behooves us to give it our support.” 145-146
This became the dominant view of labor especially as the war years came on and criticism from this quarter ceased.
Committee on Immigration of the Chamber of Commerce of the
They created industrial Americanization conferences where they discussed such things. A lot of education efforts resulted. Committees led by foreigners were started to bring information and public meetings addressed in English and foreign languages happened throughout the anthracite region. In the 31 cities that couldn’t find an organization to carry out such work the Chambers of Commerce took on the task of organizing and many many courses were created. They also sponsored ‘America First’ dinners in twenty – four cities in which employers and representatives of the foreign-born industrial forces could meet, sometimes for the first time. 152
While the NAC and the CICCUS aka the ICC were working the Federal bureau of Naturalization was still continuing the work it started in 1914. It made about 30,000 pamphlets. Mostly for the use of teachers. It was careful to note that it was not getting into the education business, just giving aids to public schools. Its innovation was in new types of outreach. They sent letters to all those eligible, asked students to ask their friends asked children to ask their parents to come. It still had difficulty. It started giving prizes for essays and naturalization. The Federal Bureau of Naturalization also created the outline course in citizenship texts. In doing it they relied on advice from public schools throughout the nation. The textbook didn’t come out until 1917 though. They got cards from each person that applied for citizenship and gave them to the local schools. They went from 93 cities cooperating to over 1000 in a little over a year.
They turned to the wife of the 49,094 petitioners. Each wife was sent a card. The Bureau of Naturalization had a conference on July 10th 1916 at which the Commissioner Raymond Crist, Samuel Gompers and the President Wilson spoke. 157 This was a crowning moment in their two and one-half years of preparation which had led to the unification of the public schools with the federal program. 157
While the Bureau of Education did propaganda, the Bureau of Naturalization confined itself to working directly with public schools.
of Education had, again, its Division of Immigration Education which was funded
by the Committee for Immigrants in
Thus in 1916 the work had accelerated along the lines pursued in the previous year. With the 1917 entry into the war the new emphasis on ‘War Americanization’ came on board.
Chapter Seven –
Americanizers recognized this as a golden opportunity to push their efforts to the limit. This was done by accepting various governmental agency posts. This increased until every hamlet with a foreign population felt the full impact of the crusade.
overshadowed Americanization for the first half of 1917. Ever in the forefront was the Committee for
They created a National Committee of Patriotic Literature. They made 50,000 Songs of our Country and 50,000 Your Flag and Mine pamphlets and 50,000 art flag posters. They financed and directed the work of the Division of Aliens in the Resource Mobilization Bureau of the Adjunct-General’s Office; demonstrating state military methods of handling aliens in war time.
They created a Committee on Public Safety. They suggested inclusion of Americanization activities by home defense leagues, which were adopted by the National Committee on Patriotic and Defense Societies and widely distributed.
In NYC, the committee secured the appointment of a committee on aliens in the Mayor’s Committee on National Defense in May 1917. They started a campaign to increase the night school attendance of the foreign-born organized community Americanization centers, sponsored a training course for workers among the immigrants and gave advice on the problem of Americanization.
The Committee for Immigrant affiliate the NAC published War Americanization for States. They set up a sub-committee to look into the elimination of plant conditions favoring unrest, agitation and disloyalty and enforcement of sanitation and labor laws and discrimination. They kept up the public school work. And they tried to bring about state laws that would compel the education of non-English speaking residents between the ages of 14 and 21 in schools.
The CIA and NAC tried to get official recognition from the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense with a ten point reason preamble:
It mentioned 13 million foreign – born in America of which 3 million do not speak English and live apart from national institutions; the go where you will do as you pleas policy; the inheritance of industrial injustice; the knowledge of activity of agents of the German government in retarding production; certainty the IWW are making propaganda headway; The prevalence of unrest and strikes; The increase in fires, accidents and explosions in industry; delays in executing war contracts due to industry control by aliens; the influence of the foreign-language press and the absence of adequate government agencies to anticipate the results of all of the above.
They recommended a four point policy: the prevention of anti-American propaganda via surveillance of aliens; the elimination of incentives of unrest, disorder, and disloyalty; the mobilization of alien enemies in internment camps on probation; the provision of opportunities for all aliens who desired loyally to become Americanized in respect to language, citizenship and cooperation.
They recommended an bureaucracy full of aliens to coordinate the work; semi annual registration of the inhabitants by real estate owners; declarations by all immigrants to require declarations of intention to learn English; remove the obstacles to citizenship and raise the standards and lessen technical delays, create a federal bureau of employment; create more adult education AND regulation of employment prohibiting the solicitation of labor by employers from war industries, the setting of safety measures and uniform rules of health protection, welfare and housing and the giving of government money for housing. Finally setting up an Americanization program in support of the America First work.
Extra stuff included protection of women workers and awarding contracts on the basis of humane working conditions. Government regulation of housing and a system to find the families of enlisted men employment.
The council took no action until 1918 so in the meantime the CIA and NAC did education.
They went to Congress with three bills successfully. One gave $50,000 to the Federal Bureau of Ed for Americanization through education. Another was a commission on illiteracy. The third would allow the Bureau of Education to teach about democracy in schools. This stuff didn’t pass though.
ally was still the Bureau of Education. They were, after all, still funding its
division on immigration. Its work can be
credited to the CIA and NAC. They held
conferences and gave out information to school districts on education. Claxton had them doing ‘
of the Lockwood Act in
The Bureau of Naturalization was buzzing along. In 1917 they released The Work of the Public Schools with the Bureau of Naturalization. Because of the efforts of all groups the Bureau’s report showed astonishing advances. By July of 1917 1,754 centers were creating opportunities for the adult immigrant. This really broke the idea that schools are open from 8 – 3. five days a week.
Committee on Immigration of the Chamber of Commerce of the
Employers got into it too. The report attributed the setting up of citizenship classes in hundreds of communities due to the efforts of the NAC and the Chamber of Commerce for Industrial Americanization.
During all this time Americanization still had not been made an official part of the war program.
Chapter Eight – The Movement Blended into the War Effort
The year 1918 saw the continuation of the Americanization movement and its expansion under the auspices of two new federal agencies, the Council of National Defense and the Committee on Public Information. 187 Americanization efforts stabilized and became fundamental parts of the war program.
Part of the seriousness in which it was taken came with the revelation that 700,000 of the 10,000,000 registrants for the draft could not sign their names. Those who were apathetic now realized that “with one out of thirteen unable to respond intelligently to military or industrial orders on the one hand, and moral or spiritual appeals on the other, all because of the lack of a common medium, the necessity for immediate action on the part of the schools became a matter of national importance.” 187
The Federal Bureau of Education took the lead in publicizing the Americanization movement through its Division of Immigrant Education. Its advisory council was the Committee of One Hundred. It got endorsed by the Council of National Defense. They put out a joint plan of Americanization. The plan, it was recommended, should rely on the Woman’s Committee on Defense via the woman’s divisions of the state councils. 189
were thus organized by the end of the war.
Samuel Gompers was on the big overseeing group. 191 (at least the name is Gompers). One result of this conference was that the
Carnegie Corporation announced it would do its study.
Bureau’s Committee of 100 included foreign leaders and industrialists. It made two bills that didn’t pass and State
bills providing for compulsory attendance of non-speaking persons between 16
and 21 in schools and training for teachers to teach English and civics. A model bill for other states was also drafted. It did over 100,000 circulars and 100,000
enrollment blanks for those who wanted to enroll. 25, 000 other bulletins too. The NAC also wanted to do much and asked for
Among its staff was a representative of each of the twelve important immigrant groups to advise and assist. Another 36 workers and a 100 others were employed. They also worked with 1,000 industrial organizations for the Dept of the Interior.
This continued until March 4th, 1919 when a law passed prohibiting the Federal government and agencies from accepting financial aid from private organizations. Still they worked with 150 Chambers of commerce, surveyed 165 industrial towns and distributed 300,000 leaflets. Among the fliers was “How to Safeguard Industries from Enemies Within.” The rest were innocuous. It also continued its neighborhood association activities for home visits. They surveyed 50,000 agencies for the CPI.
15,000 responded. They found the foreign-born agencies were divided. He also found the native-born were not reaching them. The CPI used this survey to do its work.
The articles they inserted got to more than 5,000,000 people.
They also did the Americanization bulletins starting in September 15th 1918. The bulletin recommended that speakers “tell of the reasons for the war, the advantages of citizenship, how to conduct oneself as a good citizen and other things of interest to the immigrant in connection with the citizenship-training program. Efforts to induce all adult aliens to to attend citizenship classes under the slogan, ‘An All-American Community’, were urged.” 201
“Whereas early action by the state councils in regard to the foreign-born consisted primarily of registration and surveillance to prevent sedition, with the development of the campaign by the state councils Section of the Council of National Defense and the Bureaus of Education and Naturalization, constructive activities looking toward ultimate Americanization predominated.” 202
The Council started on Fourth of July celebrations.
Women turned in 30,000 ‘America First’ pledges to help with the outreach. Through its Educational Propaganda Department the Woman’s Committee made Americanization its principle work for the rest of 1918. 37 state committees were involved. At the signing of the armistice many state councils and divisions said they were going on with their work.
The women varieties of good stuff but one group received pledges from employers that only English would be spoken at their plants. Still another conducted investigations to see to what extent the “enemy language” was being taught. In one place with a big German population the women got foreign-language articles and held 109 Americanization meetings and 33 classes were established. 204-205
also worked to get out “truths about the war, and the tremendous idealism of
groups were celebrating the nation’s birthday, each of the thirty – three
nationalities sent representatives on a pilgrimage to the tomb of
The CPI’s work fell under four heads: Foreign language press work, foreign-language organizational work, general field work, and the issuance of pamphlets.
745 of 865 foreign newspapers cooperated. 208
When the CPI disbanded in the spring of 1919, the Foreign-Language Information Bureau assumed the full duties of the Division of Work among the Foreign – Born. They worked it until 1920 when the Red Cross took it over.
The NEA meetings of 1917 in
Chapter Nine – The
In November of 1918 the war ended. Americanization continued as a carryover. There was a fit over the alien radical and then all went back to normal.
Palmer made people want to Americanize. In 1919 5,000 were arrested and 2,635 said to deserve deportation. The raids and arrests were continued into 1920 when 2,700 additional aliens were arrested in 30 cities. 217
Bureaus started fighting and the anti-Red crusade diminished in the spring of 1920. Not before leaving a definite mark on the AM though. They redoubled their efforts.
Two groups in particular did so: The National Security League which came into existend in the immediate pre-war years and got us into preparedness. And the Inter-Racial Council which came from the CIA and the NAC. The NSL organized “scientific” propaganda of “an intelligent faith in and support of American institutions and ideals.” It also set up “scientific experimental stations” in LA to perfect their methods.
It also did a campaign with the DAR and the SAR for a celebration of the constitution. It urged the teaching of English and the prohibiting of foreign-languages, the restricting of the franchise and the spreading of propaganda for the domination of American born politicians.
It also asked for universal military training to ‘guard against militarism.” It started a branch to determine which congressmen were patriotic. They said “the propaganda against the spirit of Bolshevism must be met by a stronger propaganda by American Americans. NATIONAL SECURITY IS THE DUTY OF EVERY GOOD AMERICAN!” 220
The Inter-Racial Council (IRC), was organized in March of 1919. Kellor was Vice-Chair under T. Coleman DuPont. It was organized “by industrial and racial leaders to carry on the racial adjustment and education work begun by the government but which would soon cease through the failure of proper legislation.” 220
On top of Americanization and bettering racial relations they added: To stabilize industrial conditions. To apply American business methods to the foreign born press by building up an American advertising base under it. To reduce unrest and disorder through plant analyses which point out conditions that create industrial unrest. To decrease radicalism through the issuance of information and couner education in the foreign language press dealing with attacks upon American institutions, law and order, and industry.” 221
1,257 foreign language newspapers had 10 million readers. “The intelligent thing to do is to use that foreign-language press and we can make it pro-American nif we go about it the right way.” FK 222
She didn’t want to leave the playing field to the radicals. They did this by gaining control of the organization that supplied advertising to the foreign newspapers.
The council expanded its work along the lines outlined by FK until it was composed of more than 1,100 industrial establishments. It organized conferences amongst the 32 ethnic groups. They put in articles about the impracticability of Bolshevism and the real meaning of American democracy. They also used the English language press.
They put in articles when industry did something good so that the foreign wouldn’t just get attacks on capital. William H. Barr was president. The IWW sold 300,000 worth of literature a year. The IRC condemned the literacy test. That was the only thing from their conference that aroused interest.
“The IRC sought to maintain an attitude of understanding toward the immigrant throughout its existence, and constantly deplored the alien baiting and repressive measures which swept the country as the result of the Bolshevist scare.” 224-225 It preferred propaganda to force urged by professional patriots. It was against, for example, a bill that was going to take second class mail away from Foreign language newspapers unless they put up with restrictions by the Post Office Department, and would have required some English in every paper and other provisions that would have crashed them. They sent an attorney who stressed that it was unconstitutional and unsound policy. The IRC was undoubtedly influential in defeating that bill.
The Bureau of Ed kept up its budget with far fewer funds. It took towards organizing states to do the work. It helped 9 states pass legislation to continue with Americanization work.
They had a last conference in 1919 and a sharp division over what Americanization was started to show itself. Father John O’ Grady criticized that there wasn’t labor there. They lost their money as Congress seemed to want to retighten the belt in the post war. It closed its Americanization bureau in autumn of 1919.
of Naturalization was still going strong.
There was an interest n Americanization in every town and municipality
with a foreign population in the
passing Americanization laws. That was
partially due to the work of the Justice Department.
“Although most Americanizers were good people of intelligence and of civic and social conscience, the super-patriotic were too enthusiastic and conducted themselves in a manner of superiority and self-importance which deeply hurt the feelings of the immigrants and resulted in a feeling of resentment. The ‘red baiting’ campaign by the justice department and the American’s reaction did not help.
As a result
of the bolshevist hysteria a definite emphasis was assumed which sought to
stamp out the remnants of foreign culture still in
Ms. Kellor wrote “Many Americans saw a positive menace in the growing power of immigrants’ organizations and the foreign language press and they began to favor the suppression of all languages but English; the elimination of the foreign language press; the restriction of immigration for a period of years, and the enactment of a compulsory citizenship law.” She added, however, “Others . . .both native and foreign born found in the revelations brought about by the strains of the conflict [the war] a great faith in the assimilation of the immigrant and a better way to undertake it, and pointed to the fact that the new friendships established by the war, and the remarkable steadiness shown by the immigrants under great pressure from abroad revealed an unexpected strength in our racial relations.” 253 from 57-58 Immigration and the Future.
The prohibiting of branches of study in foreign languages, the efforts made to enact legislation prohibiting mail to foreign press and the high-handed schemes of 100% Americanism offended folks.
The Justice Department’s Citizens’ Protective Association spied on folks.
Carol Aronovici, among others was disheartened by it.
Kellor again, “Many of them [the immigrants] came out of the war with a sense of resentment and in some cases of bitterness. They have lost most oftheir faith in American justice and fair play because they have been dealt with in a summary way, with little expressed comprehension of their own peculiar difficulties. They have acquired a supercilious and critical attitude toward Americanization because its pretensions have not coincided with their experience. They have remembered their humiliation by self-constituted bodies who took the law into their own hands; and they are less sure than they were before the war that the guarantees of the American Constitution will protect them.” Immigration and the future, p. 58.
A Polish language newspaper ran the following:
All foreigners dislike the imposition of mass naturalization methods which they consider bad. Americnization is a natural process and has nothing to do with first and second papers;”
Another from the same paper:
“Poles! Do not deny your mother tongue and use English only. It is deplorable that so many Americans object so much to foreign customs. It smacks decidedly of Prussianism, and it is not at all in accordance with American ideals of freedom.” 256
generation of immigrants may serve
And the much quoted Itailan:
“Americanization is an ugly word. Today it means to proselytize by making the foreign-born forget his mother country and mother tongue.”
Much of this stuff was written between 1919 and 1920.
“Progressive advocates of Americanization were not unaware of the impression of the super-patriots and red-baiters were making upon the immigrant and deplored such tactics in their writings on the subject. Miss Frances Kellor, who had perhaps more than any one person given her time and talents to the movement, bitterly condemned in her speeches and writings the alien baiting and repressive measures that swept the country in 1919 – 1920.” 258 – 259
address to the New York Credit Men’s Association, NYC, Jan 27, 1920 she said:
“Now that the war is over we are discovering that while it has cemented new
friendships among races, and has promoted cooperation between some native and
foreign-born Americans, it has just as definitely created new racial
antagonisms and brought about new misunderstandings between individuals. The American, influenced as he is by the
spread of Bolshevism and by the prevalence of unrest, as well as by some spectacular
evidences of disloyalty
among some aliens during war, leans more and more toward
repression and intolerance of differences.
The immigrant is sensitive to this charge and, he is constantly
receiving messages from abroad urging him to return home, he is becoming less
The Carnegie series was sensitive and some universities continued Americanization with sensitivity. But it was mostly English classes. After the yahoos left, professional educators and social workers and settlement house folk kept on keeping on.
sometimes frustrated, but mostly saw mostly benefits in Americanization. Samuel Gompers praised it and consented to
The depression of 1921 hurt the AM. After 1921 the Inter-racial council disappears. That , the quota restrictions, the fact that the state was doing good education and the return to normalcy killed it in 1921.
Chapter Ten – The Movement Evaluated
just helpful then idealistic under the threat of the IWW, we don’t know what
might have happened to the AM if it weren’t for WW I. The fact that, after the War, the red goliath
In their choice of terminology the AM was vague. “civic loyalty” and “patriotism” were not really defined. “American” came to mean a staunch belief in and support of the ideals expressed by the founding fathers in the great American documents. In representative government, respect for law and order, and equality of opportunity. To these the belief in the role of the public schools, the merits of capitalism and the merits of laissez-faire capitalism, the advantages of thrift and the feeling that America had the highest standard of living and hygiene, and that all could get rich if they asserted themselves. English was necessary. 270
That the goals did not need to be defined meant that they were transparent to the Americanizers. Criticism of the movement came, but not the ideals that it strove to promote. The people that criticized them did so on the basis of what a good American was. English and giving up customs quickly seemed unnecessary to being a great American.
Undoubtedly, many got education to become citizens via the movement. But did that make them good Americans? Most never saw the inside of a classroom, there were too many. They got assimilated by their children.
Bad feelings came of the AM. People were embarrassed to find out that they were considered problems by their American neighbors. Also the KKK of the 1920s added to that. The over zealot AMs hurt.
On the positive side was a greater proportion of tolerance than before. Zealors may have undone matters here and there, but the message of understanding and appreciation of he foreign-born contained in the literature must have made Native Americans feel responsible and created a desire to stamp out bigotry and intolerance. People were brought together for the first time.
It also gave impetus to the budding Adult education movement. This paved the way for adult school for non-immigrants.
when we were having growing pains from industrialization and had not digested
the impoverished masses from