The Austro-Hungarian group, and the Slavonic peoples comprised in the Russian group do not so especially concern New York City, for, while about three-quarters of all immigrants of these races land in New York, a large proportion of them pass directly to the interior. The following table, giving, from the immigration reports for the year 1899-1900, the numbers in the different Slavonic race groups, and of the Magyars, who claimed to be on their way to certain points inland or who were intending to remain in New York, shows to some degree the general tendency of the different groups to settle down at the port of entry. It will be noticed that the number of Bohemians and Moravians arriving in New York, as compared with the number of those races arriving at all ports who gave New York State as their destination is, approximately, as 3 to 1; of Poles as 4 to 1; of Ruthenians and Magyars as 5 to 1; of Lithuanians and Slovaks as 6 to 1; and of Croatians and Slovenians as 9 to 1.
Of the Hebrew part of the Russian group, and of other Hebrews, not so large a proportion landed at the port of New York in 1899-1900 out of all arrivals as was the case with the Slavs and Magyars, but a very large proportion gave New York State as their destination. To give the exact figures, 73.3 per cent of all Hebrew arrivals at all ports landed at the port of New York, and 72 per cent of all Hebrew arrivals at all ports gave New York State as their destination. This means that a very large number of the Hebrew immigrants settle down at once in the city.
Of the third group--the Italians--no less than 97.4 per cent of the arrivals for 1899-1900 were received at the port of New York, and 54.5 per cent of the arrivals at all ports gave New York as their destination. It is said that many Italians who claim to be coming to New York do not stop in the city, but are reshipped here by bankers and railway ticket agents to distant points, so that the proportion of those who will settle down in the city should be set considerably lower than the number of arrivals for the State would indicate. On the other hand, many Italians who are reshipped in this way return to New York City as their headquarters in their intervals of idleness, and common observation shows a great crowding of Italians throughout the city.
By 1890 these newer peoples had become a considerable element in the city's population. In that year, according to the United States census, the foreign- born population of New York City made up 12.23 per cent of the total population, as compared with 39.68 per cent in 1880, and the numbers contributed by the different nationality groups presented in the chart and table of immigration are shown in the following chart and table for the two decennial periods:
It will be noticed that the Irish born have decreased both absolutely and relatively, and that the great German immigration of the eighties has by this time (1890) made the Germans the most numerous element in the foreign population. It will also be noticed how great was the percentage of increase, within the decade, of Italians, Austro-Hungarians, and Russians, and yet how very far any or all of these three groups were from reaching the numbers of either Irish or Germans. It will be noticed, too, how very small a part the Scandinavians played numerically in our foreign population, their energy and other striking characteristics leading us to regard them as more numerous than they really were.
Comparing the proportion each nationality bears to other nationalities in the city with the same proportion for the United States as a whole, it is seen that the city had more than its share of Germans, Irish, Russians, Italians, Austrians, Hungarians, and French, and less than its share of English, Scotch, Scandinavians, Canadians, Bohemians, Poles, Swiss, Chinese, Dutch, and Welsh. (See following table.)
To get an idea of the full extent of foreign influence in the city, however, native-born children of foreign parentage must be taken into account. This class shows foreign characteristics to a greater or less degree, from the young child of immigrant parents who came here after marriage--practically a foreigner in all essential respects--to the adult who has been reared in an American community and was born of parents who, perhaps, themselves came here in childhood and were to a great extent Americanized by the time their children were born. Making this distinction, the population of New York City in 1890 was divided as follows:
The foreign element in New York in 1890, then, made up four-fifths of its population. These classes were divided as to age as follows:
And by sexes as follows:
It will be observed that females predominate in all three classes. Among foreign immigrants in general males predominate, and it would be expected that in the foreign population of the city males would also predominate. As a matter of fact, however, not only are females in excess of males for this class, but in greater excess than in the class of native whites of native parentage, which may be assumed to show the normal proportion for a city population of males to females.
This is accounted for, it may be supposed, by the presence of a great army of female domestic servants in the city. An indication that this supposition is the correct one is seen in the fact that when the proportion of males to females in each general nativity class is given by wards, the wards below Fourteenth street, where there is comparatively little employment of domestic servants, and where foreign residents are settled in homes of their own or lodging places, show without exception a surplus of foreign-born males; while the wards above Fourteenth street, where there is, it is true, a considerable foreign resident population, but where the bulk of the domestic service is employed, show equally without exception, until the suburban Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth wards are reached, a surplus of foreign-born females.
The following table shows how all three classes of the population are divided by sexes above and below Fourteenth street, respectively:
It is here seen that in the uptown and downtown groups as well as in the whole city, the other two classes of population show the same preponderance of one sex or the other as the foreign born. For all classes males predominate downtown and females uptown--the downtown districts containing a large working population of single men and also a large "floating element" making their headquarters in
It is also seen, incidentally, how much greater is the proportion of foreign born to the total population in the downtown than in the uptown wards. In the wards below Fourteenth street the foreign born were about one-half of the population, the native-born of foreign parentage about three-eighths, and the native born of native parentage about one-eighth; above Fourteenth street, foreigners were a little less than two-fifths, native born of foreign parentage also a little less than two-fifths and natives of native parentage somewhat more than one-fifth.
Something as to the degree of social assimilation reached by any given race element in the total "foreign element" may be seen from a comparison of the numbers among them of the first generation, of the second generation, and of those of the second generation who have one native and one foreign parent.
The proportion of the second generation to the first is some indication of the length of time that the given nationality-element has been in the country, or of the degree in which they have become permanent settlers here; while the proportion of children arising from marriage between native and foreign parents is an indication of race tendency to amalgamate with the people already in possession of the country.
The following tables give the absolute numbers and percentages of these different classes in New York City in 1890:
The highest proportion of the first to the second generation is shown by the Hungarians, Scandinavians, Italians, and Russians, in the order named, the first generation being above 70 per cent for all. This is due, obviously, to the newer incoming of these four classes; but it is worthy of notice that the Russians, the very late arrivals, have the largest proportionate population of any of the four groups, showing that permanent settlement in families begins for them earlier than for the others. The Italians, however, the next latest comers, follow closely in the percentage of the second generation, showing that with them, too, family life begins within a reasonable standing above the Germans in this regard, as coming earlier, and diminishing of late years more rapidly in volume of immigration.
Of the second generation by far the greater proportion for all races had both parents foreign, of the same race. As would be expected, this proportion is high for the newest races, Russians, Italians, and Hungarians, in the order named. The highest proportion of all, however, is shown by the Bohemians, although these people, from longer residence here, show a larger proportion of the second generation than the three peoples just named. This is a curious bit of testimony to the peculiar exclusiveness or clannishness with which these people are charged. Notwithstanding longer acquaintance with the country, Bohemians living here will marry with Bohemians in higher proportion than Russians with Russians or Italians with Italians.
In this table is to be noted the greater proportion of offspring from native mothers and foreign fathers than from native fathers and foreign mothers. The foreigner in general is on a lower social and economic plane than the native, and in general females are less inclined to marry into a lower social plane than are men; but in this case the preponderance of males in foreign immigration has brought a pressure to bear that has broken over that reluctance, and we see marriages of native women and foreign men from twice to nine times as frequent (according to races) as marriages of native men and foreign women. And, naturally, the preponderance of the former class is greater the newer the immigration.
The following table shows how the different nationalities were distributed throughout the city in 1890:
The accompanying maps show, by different degrees of shading, the different degrees of density reached by the classes of population shown in the above table, but by smaller divisions of area, the sanitary district being taken as the unit in the maps instead of the ward, as in the table.
Of special interest is a comparison between the Irish map, the German map, and the map showing native whites of native parentage. The Irish and German groups are approximately of the same size, the German group being some 4,500 the larger; the group of native whites of native parentage is somewhat smaller than either, falling some 65,000 below the Irish. No other group given, however, approaches the first two so closely in size or can be used as so good a parallel.
Turning to the maps it is seen that the native whites of native parentage are distributed over the city with remarkable evenness, and at low degrees of density. In no district are they to be found above the fourth degree of the scale employed (50-100 to the acre). A striking feature of this map is the large proportion of the strictly native element it reveals in the downtown districts, when the heavy overlaying of foreign density, which otherwise conceals them from view, is taken away. In the Seventh, Eleventh, Thirteenth, and Seventeenth wards, even in the densely foreign Tenth Ward, in parts of the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth wards, in the Eighth, Ninth, and Fifteenth, all below Fourteenth street, native whites of native parentage are found as numerously as anywhere uptown.
The Irish element are also distributed quite evenly throughout the city, but, with an additional 65,000 of population to be placed, are found in a larger number of districts in that fourth degree of density which is the highest reached by the native whites of native parentage, and in 6 districts are found in the fifth degree of density employed, showing a population of 100 to 200 to the acre.
The Germans, with a population of about the same size as the Irish, do not nearly so completely cover the map. They are massed closely in certain districts, and in others are scarcely found at all. In a certain districts a sixth and even a seventh degree of density (showing a population of over 300 to the acre) has to be employed to represent their congestion.
The table and maps are based upon data given in the Eleventh Census Report, "Vital Statistics of New York City and Brooklyn," and the parts dealing with the foreign element give the separate race elements by birthplaces of mothers, a classification which includes all of the foreign born of a given nationality, all of the native born with both parents foreign, and all of the native born with foreign mothers and native fathers. It thus corresponds to the total foreign element presented in previous tables, with the comparatively small class of native born with native mothers and foreign fathers omitted.
In the Irish and German maps it will be noticed how the Irish and German population has pressed up along the upper East and West Side since 1864, especially up the East Side, and that the German population has taken especial hold in the former district, the Irish in the latter.
It will be noticed also how much less thickly settled the Irish are in their old haunt, the Sixth Ward, than in some other localities, as, for instance, the Tenth, Seventh, and Fourteenth wards, on the West Side just above Fortieth street and on the East Side just below that street. And the Germans are found to be less numerous in their original district, the Tenth Ward, than they are in the Seventeenth, just above, or in the lower part of the ward--their first point of settlement--as in the upper.
Both Irish and Germans, in fact, show the results of pressure by newer people.
Turning to the map showing these newer races, it is seen that the Italians, who were shown in 1864 to have taken up their quarters in the Sixth ward, are by this time more numerous in both the Sixth and the Fourteenth than the Irish. They also fill the upper part of the Fourth Ward (along Roosevelt, James, and Oliver streets, an old Irish neighborhood) almost as numerously as the Irish.
They are found, too, in the West Side tenement district below Fourteenth street, described in preceding pages. Here they form another "quarter," in streets formerly occupied by negroes and Irish, along Thompson, Sullivan, Grand, Broome, and Houston streets. On the map is to be seen the beginnings of a new Italian quarter, in a spot unsettled in 1864, away uptown, in Harlem, that has come to be known as "Little Italy." In this district, which centers about One hundred and Tenth street, at this time more Irish and many more Germans than Italians were to be found.
The Russians and Poles--practically all Hebrews--are seen with the lower Tenth Ward--one of their points of first settlement--as a densely packed center, spreading out from there on all sides. They have fairly driven the Germans out of the lower Tenth Ward, and are pressing closely upon them, at this time, to the north. They are also found thickly settled across the Bowery in the Sixth Ward, and across Division street in the Seventh, where in one district they are as numerous as the Irish. No uptown Jewish district is shown on this map, although the table indicates that quite a number, in absolute figures, were to be found in the Nineteenth Ward, on the East Side, between Fortieth and Eighty- sixth streets.
East of Avenue B, in the Eleventh and part of the Thirteenth wards, were to be found many Hungarians, with East Houston street as their center. A considerable proportion of these were Jews, thus adding to the Jewish character of the district.
The only representatives of the Slavonic races that could be represented as distinctly as such on the map--on account of the confusion of races in the census classification--were the Bohemians. A few of these are seen on the East Side, above Rivington and Houston streets, mingled with Russian Jews and Hungarians, but their distinctive neighborhood was in the upper East Side.
These maps show clearly the tendency of races to segregation noticed 30 years before. The Italians are seen mainly in former Irish districts, the Hebrews in former German districts; and wherever these newer peoples came the older races began to move out. The Hungarians and Bohemians, too, are gathered into compact groups, and other smaller groups of different nationalities could be shown in like manner.
The Hebrews and Italians, however, of the newer races coming in, are, it may be recalled, the ones especially important with regard to their influence upon city conditions.
The little handful of Italians that made up the immigration from Italy in the earlier decades were mainly a vagabond but harmless class of organ grinders, ragpickers, bear laders, and the like. Italians of this type were remarked in the Sixth Ward as early as 1864 as noticeable elements of the population, in the report of the council of hygiene, which does not mention their presence in any other district.
This ward and the Fourteenth, just above it, were apparently the first Italian districts. In the latter ward, near its northern boundary, just below Houston street, was a little colony worth glancing at in passing. This was in Jersey street, already described, in 1864, as an exceptionally offensive neighborhood, thickly settled by the very poor, three-fourths of whom were negroes. The houses in the street were then very old, built of wood, and much out of repair.
By 1879 the street was swarming with Italians of the ragpicker class. Their way of life was thus described:
* * * Here (in the yard of No. 5 Jersey street) on lines strung across were thousands of rags hung up to dry; on the ground piled against the board fences rags mixed with bones, bottles, and papers; the middle of the yard covered with every imaginable variety of dirt. * * * We then turned to go into the cellars, in which was a large and a small room. Opposite the door stood a stove, upon which meat was being cooked; to the right stood a bedstead roughly constructed out of boards; in the left-hand corner a similar one. The small room contains another. These board bunks were covered with 3 or 4 army blankets, and would each accommodate 4 men. There was no other furniture in the room, which was so dark that we could only see by waiting till the eyes became accustomed to the light. There was scarcely standing room for the heaps of bags and rags, and right opposite to them stood a large pile of bones, mostly having meat on them, in various stages of decomposition. * * * Notwithstanding the dense tobacco smoke, the smell could be likened only to that of an exhumed body. There were 9 men in the room at the time of our visit, but a larger number occupy the room.It is a bit of testimony to the sturdy physical constitution of these people that even in such surroundings the inspector "met with no sickness excepting one case of whooping cough and a number afflicted with rheumatism."
Another picture of this colony, as it was in 1884, is as follows:
In Jersey street exist two courtyards. * * * Six 3-story houses are in each. These houses are old and long ago worn out. They are packed with tenants, rotten with age and decay, and so constructed as to have made them very undesirable for dwelling purposes in their earliest infancy. The Italians who chiefly inhabit them are the scum of New York chiffoniers, and as such saturated with the filth inseparable from their business. * * * The courtyard swarms with, in daytime, females in the picturesque attires of Genoa and Piedmont, moving between the dirty children. The abundant rags, paper, sacks, barrows, barrels, washtubs, dogs, and cats are all festooned overhead by clotheslines weighted with such garments as are only known in Italy. Sorting is chiefly done indoors, but at times a ragpicker may be seen at his work in any convenient spot to be had. * * * In each yard live 24 families (nominally only, because lodgers here as elsewhere are always welcome), paying rents of from $6 to $9 monthly for 2 rooms, the inner one being subdivided by a partition consisting perhaps of a simple curtain, and measuring when so arranged about 5 by 6 feet each.The surroundings and habits of these people might be filthy, but as to their general character the earlier report says:
Jersey street at first sight looks like a pestilence-breeding, law-breaking colony. A more intimate acquaintance with it, and a few words with one or two white and colored inhabitants, confirmed the first but not the second impression; no more peaceable, thrifty, orderly neighbors could be found than these Italians. They do not beg, are seldom or never arrested for theft, are quiet; though quick to quarrel among themselves, are equally ready to forgive. The officer on duty mentioned that this colony, numbering perhaps 200 Italian families, cannot be matched by any similar number of corresponding social condition in New York City for their law- abiding qualities. He seems quite proud of them.]Lower down in the ward, on Crosby street, another colony of Italians was mentioned in 1879. Here will be seen the mingling of the newer Italian immigrants with the older Irish; the Italians, as the economically inferior race, occupying the rear tenements, and the Irish, as the product of longer years of tenement-house living, showing, one would infer from the description, an even deeper degree of filth and certainly of moral degradation than the Italians.
No.--Crosby street is a very low class of tenement house, bearing a bad reputation. The visitor for the section stated that it was the worst house and inhabited by the worst people he had ever met with, and that having refused relief to some of the tenants, he was afraid to enter it. * * * Four buildings, 2 front and 2 rear, each 6 stories high, stood, separated by a yard about 20 feet in width. * * * The rear buildings are occupied exclusively by Italians, all ragpickers, the front by Irish and a few Germans. An investigation of the front house revealed a shocking amount of dirt; in some instances the floors were invisible under the refuse and garbage. One family represented the mother as out of work, though I afterwards learned she was in her bedroom drunk, while the youngest daughter, half nude, was sitting on the floor, fairly surrounded with dirt, and the eldest, as she answered my questions, held her hand over her nose, which I could see was bruised and bleeding. The odor from the room was sickening. Learning that the cellar was used for ragpickers * * * I made an inspection. The cellar is divided into 21 compartments * * * containing more or less rags, bones, old papers, bottles, placed here before being taken to the rear dwelling to be assorted. * * * Large spaces, not subdivided, contained immense heaps of what even the ragpickers refuse. * * * In summer the stench is unbearable. The cellars in the rear house are also used for ragpickers' stores. I could glean but little information, as scarcely any of the Italians could utter a word of English.]By 1880 the Fourteenth Ward contained so many Italians that it was spoken of familiarly as "New Italy." Italians had also come into the Fourth Ward, in Roosevelt street, and were crowding more and more thickly in the Sixth. A large proportion of these early Italian immigrants were men without their families, and we hear of them most frequently as crowded together in lodgings of the character described in Jersey street. There was little pauperism among these people, if we may judge from the relative infrequency of Italian cases appearing in the reports of private charitable societies. It was noted that they were a class of people who worked and paid their rent.
During these years the itinerant class--ragpickers, organ grinders, and the like--which predominated in the earliest Italian immigration, was being replaced by another class--the stable element of the population in the home country--the steady, industrious peasantry whom only extreme poverty induced to break the bonds attaching them to their native land. Called here by the industrial expansion of the country after the civil war, this class came as unskilled day laborers, were taken charge of in masses by Italian bankers and padroni, and sent hither and thither as occasion was found for their labor. New York City has been and is the headquarters of this class. As has been remarked, 97 per cent of all Italian immigrants to this country now land at the port of New York. Some proceed directly to other parts of the country, but a very large proportion find their agents or employers in New York City, are kept in the city until their services are required in some other part of the country, and return to the city in dull seasons, to be maintained, perhaps, by the contractor until other employment can be found, or at any rate to be on the spot when employment is offered.
The newer immigrants of this class are mainly men without families, either unmarried or having left their families at home, and many of them return year by year to Italy in the dull season with the money they have earned here. But after a few years of this the family is either brought over or the "cafone" marries and settles down here, becoming a permanent member of the community. This statement may seem a little too positive and definite, in view of the fact that the opposite claim is so often made, and that little or no statistical evidence can be offered in proof of the assertion. But too many bits of circumstantial evidence combine to substantiate this to be ignored--the increasing number of women and children in Italian districts, the personal acquaintance of charitable workers with many family histories, observation by social students of life in Italy itself--all these produce the strongest possible impression that the Italian day laborer after a few years of taking himself most considerably off the hands of the city when he has no work to do, settles down here, when he has enough money to carry him through the year, with wife and family.
There is another class of Italian immigration, not so numerous as the former, but still of considerable importance. This is the class that in the country makes up the great army of barbers, bootblacks, fruiterers, and shoemakers in our cities and towns. These are, some of them, of the "cafone" class at home, but in general they are from cities and small towns in Italy, and have been engaged in some sort of commercial pursuit there. There is absolutely no doubt about this class being permanent population; and it may be observed that their business success is notable and that they have brought their trades generally to a higher level than that in which they found them. The Italian fruit peddler bestows a considerable amount of his inherited racial art sense in "composing" his wares to form an attractive picture; the Italian barber pays considerable attention to the attractiveness of his place; the Italian bootblack is not the little ragged urchin of yesterday with battered box and a shrill velocity of motion, but a well-kept looking individual anywhere from 15 to 30 years of age, with a regularly established place of business ranging from the throne-like arm chair and umbrella to the regular shop as well-kept as the barber's. There are bootblacks who make from $10 to $15 a day. The Italian shoemaker lags behind in this list, being of the old-fashioned cobbler type.
There are, besides, many Italian watchmakers, bakers, confectioners, keepers of cafes and ice-cream saloons, wine dealers, grocers, dry-goods dealers, and many in other businesses. About 400 persons are employed in macaroni factories. There are also many tailors working for Jews, and cigar and cigarette makers. Some are to be found in department stores; and some, having found politics a remunerative calling, are found in the street-cleaning department and on the police force.
Still another element of the Italian population, not a very large one, however, is made up of persons of a higher social grade at home--young men of the upper and lower middle classes who have been either fully or in part prepared to enter some profession, or government office, and who cannot find opportunity to do so. Conditions in Italy are such that this class is a large and growing one there. Such young men are not willing to work at anything but professional employment at home, but in a strange land they are willing to turn their hands to anything; even common day labor that will give them daily bread. Individuals of this class are to be found then among those of the two others, and in many cases, after a short period of work in this way, the worker finds his way to a more suitable position. This class, however, is the most difficult to provide for in the city, if they insist upon having the work which they have regarded as corresponding to their social standing. There is abundant opportunity for the unskilled day laborer, or for the tradesman, but the average educated European finds himself at a serious disadvantage in competition with Americans for the better grade of commercial or professional positions.
These are the main elements in the Italian city population. Skilled workmen from the north of Italy in large numbers go directly to the interior as marble-cutters, miners, mill hands, etc. These are, however, some 2,000 workers in marble and mosaic, and many mechanics, masons, stonecutters, bricklayers, carpenters, and cabinetmakers in New York City. Italian cabinetmakers are found largely in the piano factories.
The day laborers and the poorer part of the tradespeople are found with much the same habits as to daily life that were noted in the rag-picking class. They are not distinguished, as a class, for especial neatness and cleanliness. They live in close quarters, with bad air and little light, with 2 to 4 rooms to a family. Sometimes two families will live in 2 or 3 rooms.
All classes are highly industrious, thrifty, and saving. They are strict in keeping to their agreements; always pay their rent, doctors' bills, and lawyers' fees. They are considered very desirable tenants. In an earlier period little money was spent by this people on drink and vicious pursuits; but more lately considerable intemperance, gambling, and vice are to be seen in Italian quarters.
The tradespeople prosper rapidly. The Italian barber enlarges his shop, perhaps finally sells out and becomes a banker; the fruit peddler buys a little shop, then a big one, and may finally become a wealthy importer; and in like manner with the other shopkeepers.
The more ambitious and successful among them move to the suburbs and become property owners in Long Island City, Flushing, Corona, Astoria, etc.
The day laborer cannot be said to make notable progress in the first generation. He succeeds well enough, however, it is said, to get out of the clutches of the padroni after 3 or 4 years' residence here.
In all classes the Italian of the first generation is somewhat slower than some other races to take on the habits and customs of the people he has come among. Italians are distrustful of other races and even of those of their own race who are not of their province. Notwithstanding the abuses of the padroni, Italians cannot be induced to accept employment through other means. And in their colonies they gather in provincial groups. For instance, in the Mulberry Bend district are to be found Neapolitans and Calabrians mostly; in Baxter street, near the Five Points, is a colony of Genoese; in Elizabeth street, between Houston and Spring, a colony of Sicilians.
The quarter west of Broadway in the Eighth and Fifteenth wards is made up mainly of North Italians who have been longer in New York and are rather more prosperous than the others, although some Neapolitans have come into Sullivan and Thompson streets to work in the flower and feather trades. In "Little Italy," One hundred and tenth to One hundred and fifteenth streets, South Italians predominate. In Sixty-ninth street, near the Hudson River, is to be found a small group of Tyrolese and Austrian Italians.
Both men and women are slow to adopt American ways of dress. The women go unbonneted in peaceful unconsciousness of any need for change. The men may be distinguished from their Irish fellow-workmen a half block away by the characteristic Italian garments that they wear with the characteristic Italian attempt at the ornamental.
In the second generation encouraging signs of social progress are seen. Italian children are brought under the Americanizing influence of the public schools within and before they learn the languages partly through the workings of the compulsory education laws, partly through the double desire of the parents, first to have the children learn English so as to serve as family interpreters, next to get them out of the way in the narrow tenement-house quarters they call home. In school Italian children are found more or less difficult to discipline and irresponsible. They have no fear of authority, but they are good natured and when their confidence is won thoroughly loyal. They are fair students, better than the Irish, but not as good as the Hebrews and Germans at book work. They show, however, great talent for manual work, drawing, etc. One defect they have is lack of application. As one teacher expresses it: "At one moment they will be absorbed in what you are saying, and the next equally interested in a fly on the wall."
Italian parents, under the compulsion of extreme poverty, and also from lack of appreciation of the value of education, are anxious to get their children out of the schools and at work at as early an age as possible. This is the principal cause of the great amount of truancy among Italian children noticed in the large cities.
While the children are in school, however, Italian parents are most friendly to the school and the principal and most respectful of school authority. Sent for upon some question of discipline, they are never resentful toward the principal, as American parents are rather prone to be under like circumstances, and, indeed, show a somewhat terrifying eagerness to add discipline on their own part in the shape of corporal punishment to that already administered by the school.
From the desire or necessity of the parent to have the children go to work not a very great proportion of them go from the grammar school to the high school or college, or even through the grammar grades. The children themselves, however, once started in school, grow interested in their work and would be quite willing to keep on.
Comparing those who have succeeded in keeping on until the higher grammar grades are reached with those in the lower grades, a notable improvement is seen. Pupils in the higher grades are bright, active, alert, and clean. Principals and teachers wage a perpetual warfare against dirt, gaining a substantial victory in the highest grade that is most gratifying.
The boy who drops out of the public school from the lower grammar or primary classes is likely to become a day laborer like his father, but the one who has passed into the higher grades has acquired a desire for something better. Some will make an effort to graduate from the grammar school, will succeed in securing a year or two in the high school or city college, and will become teachers, doctors, and lawyers. Others, with or without this additional training, go into business. Some go into factories or become errand or messenger boys; many are employed in department stores. Boys who have reached this point are more unwilling to take to unskilled labor, it is said by those who are familiar with them, than the second or third generation of the Irish, and it is unfortunately true that their unwillingness goes so far that they will remain unemployed indefinitely, hanging about as corner loungers, if they can not secure the clerkships, factory places, etc., that they want.
It cannot, however, be ascribed wholly as a fault to the Italian boy that his aspirations take the shape suggested by the public school itself, which is being criticised more and more freely as time goes on for its exclusive devotion to the bookish side of life, to the exclusion of the manual and industrial element in it.
Italian children who have gone a considerable way through the public schools acquire very definite ideas of social advancement. They begin to be ashamed of the habits and customs of their parents, and bring all the pressure to bear that they can to change these. The child thus becomes an important influence in Americanizing the parents, who are allowed no peace until the peculiar "old-country" customs that mark them off, in the child's mind, as a class apart from the dominant race, the American, are cast aside.
The adult Italian, too, has his opportunity for Americanization in the public schools if he wishes to make use of it. Under the city school system evening classes for instructing adult foreigners in the English language primarily, incidentally in some of the fundamentals of American civic life, are formed as rapidly as there is demand for them.
In all of the principal Italian neighborhoods are evening schools conducting classes for Italians, and Italian evening classes are also found in neighborhoods where they are not considered especially numerous as residents. The schools make especial efforts to bring the advantages they offer to the notice of foreigners. One admirable school in the Fourth Ward issued a circular in the Italian language, announcing three grades of study for Italians, stating that this involves no expense to the pupil, of whom the only requirement made is that he shall attend the school, and urging all in the neighborhood to come. "Taking advantage of this opportunity," the circular concludes, with a touch of Italian rhetoric, "you will deserve well of all men. Despising it, you will incur odium and blame from the Americans and from all those who desire your welfare and who are laboring so diligently for your benefit."
This circular was distributed and broadcast in the most populous Italian quarter of the city, but comparatively few pupils were gathered into the school. These were men of various occupations who needed the English language to help them in getting along. They showed little desire for education in general, their attendance was more or less irregular, and when they had learned the English they needed they dropped out. This is largely the case in other evening classes for Italians, but many individual instances of progress and real interest in advancement may be noted. In some cases Italians who were in English classes one year would be found taking bookkeeping and stenography in evening classes the next.
In these evening classes it is hard to keep the attendance up through the 90 nights which make up the year's allowance. This is hardly to be wondered at, however. The pupils in these classes are workingmen and boys, and the wonder is that after a long and hard day's work they have the patience and energy to plod through books at night. The men attending these classes are mechanics of various kinds, cabinet-makers, bricklayers, stonemasons, barbers, and in large proportion common laborers.
Italian girls and young women are also taking advantage of evening classes, and are a remarkably bright, enterprising-looking set. Italian parents generally object to allowing their daughters to go out at night unattended, so that many of the girls appear in the classes with younger sisters as a bodyguard.
In these schools, besides the English classes, are classes in sewing and cooking, in stenography and bookkeeping, and other branches. The proportion of Italian girls who attend these evening schools is comparatively small, but those who do are nearly all aiming to enter the higher classes and to prepare themselves for clerical work in offices and the like.
A probable result of the spread of education among Italian girls will be to lower the birthrate of the Italian population in the city by postponing marriage. The Italian woman in Italy, of the lower classes, marries very young and bears very many children. The Italian woman of the first generation in this country does the same; but the Italian girl of the second generation, seeing other openings before her than matrimony, will marry later, make a better marriage when it is finally made, bear fewer children, and be able to provide for them better. This tendency, indeed, has already been remarked.
The class of Hebrew immigrants that have given most concern to the cities are those from Russia, eastern Austria-Hungary ("Poland"), and Roumania. This class did not begin to come in great numbers until the beginning of the persecutions of the eighties.
German Jews had long been settled in the Fourth and Sixth wards, as the familiar figure of the "old-clothes" man in Chatham (now Park Row) and Baxter streets indicates. And many Hebrew families had removed to the Seventh Ward between 1860 and 1870. Some of the Russian and Polish immigrants appear to have followed their German brethren to the Sixth Ward; but many pressed at once into the Tenth Ward, making the beginning of that settlement, which, every year with a greater circumference, is now known as distinctively the Jewish quarter.
By 1883 we hear of great overcrowding in Essex and York streets among Russian and Polish Jews. It was said that in one house of 16 apartments of 2 rooms each, about 200 persons were quartered. Like the Italians, the Russian and Polish Jews were poor, were dirty in their habits, but were industrious, and good rent payers. Many of those living in Essex street were peddlers, who traveled about the country during the week and were at home on Saturday nights only, when the overcrowding was exceptionally great.
The legislative commission of 1884 in its report gives some statistics comparing different races as to overcrowding and cleanliness gathered in an inspection of a large number of tenement houses. Referring to the table presented as to comparative cleanliness the report makes the following comment:
It will be seen that the Germans are decidedly in advance, and are followed by the French, English, Americans, Irish, Polish Jews, and Italians in the order named. The low Irish, Germans, and the Polish Jews take very little care of their rooms. * * * The want of cleanliness among the low Irish is very often due to the laziness of the women.A description of life in the "Big Flat"--a notorious tenement house on Mott street just above Canal--in 1886 gives us a glimpse of the Jews at this time, and of the conditions by which they were surrounded.
In the "Big Flat" were gathered, on a given day in 1886, 478 persons, of whom 368 were Hebrews (156 Roumanians, 198 Poles, and 14 Russians), 31 were Italians, 31 Irish, 30 Germans, and 4 native Americans. On the first floor were rooms for 14 families, and these were mostly occupied by low women and streetwalkers.
Two of the first-floor apartments were occupied at the time the study was made by Jewish people (1 by Poles, 1 by Roumanians), 3 by Irish, 4 by Germans, and 1 by native Americans. The hallways were "hang outs" for all the hoodlums of the neighborhood, and after nightfall the lower floor was overrun with low women and young men who did not live in the house. None of the tenants living above the second floor were ever to be seen standing around the lower floor or doors. On the upper floors, 47 of the apartments were occupied by Jews, 6 by Italians, 6 by Germans, 5 by Irish, and 1 by native Americans.
The Jews were principally engaged in tailoring, but there were some 54 peddlers in the building. Both tailors and peddlers were closely packed in very dirty rooms, and lived upon poor and scanty food.
The children were "very poorly clad, having hardly a stitch on them, nothing but a loose gown, and no underclothing at all." Their food during the day was bread, no butter, and that was eaten by them in the hallway--they did not know what it was to sit at a table.
Some indication of the general character of the different nationalities living in the house is shown by the record of arrests made here from January 1, 1886, to the date of the inspection, September, 1886. The arrests, by nationalities, were as follows:
The Hebrew population in the city already dense in 1890, as seen by the map showing their distribution has increased tremendously since then. In 1890 they were seen within certain fairly narrow limits. No figures are as yet at hand to show their exact increase and dispersion, but observation of the different quarters of the city shows that they have extended their limits remarkably within the past 10 years. On the East Side they have pressed up through the Tenth and Thirteenth wards and through the Sixteenth and Eleventh, driving the Germans before them, until it may be said that all of the East Side below Fourteenth street is a Jewish district. As far as observation can tell the tale, the thickly compacted masses of Germans, seen in the map for 1890, are almost wholly dispersed from that region. Some went uptown to the neighborhood of Eighty-seventh street, on the East Side, and elsewhere, but most have gone to Brooklyn and the suburban districts. This fact shows that the city colony, however compact and hard to break it may seem to be, may, by some change in circumstances, be dissolved in a very short period of time, without any apparent effort and almost without public observation. The Germans did not like the proximity of the Jews, and so they left. A like influence may at time scatter the Jewish and Italian colonies now so hopelessly, it seems, crowded together.
The red crosses on the Italian-Russian map show how continuous, even though slight, was the stream of Jewish population already directed up the East Side in 1890. By this time, 11 years later, the numbers in these neighborhoods are greater, and a large Hebrew colony has formed in the Harlem district, mainly between Ninety-Seventh and One hundred and second streets, where the Italians begin, reaching up farther to the north; and here conditions are generally better than in the downtown district. The removal of a Hebrew family up here is usually a token of advancement--in assimilation, at any rate.
The newly arrived Russian Jew is kept in the crowded East Side, not only by his poverty and ignorance, but by his orthodoxy. In this district the rules of his religion can more certainly be followed. Here can be found the lawful food, here the orthodox places of worship, here neighbors and friends can be visited within a "Sabbath day's journey." The young people, however, rapidly shake off such trammels, and in the endeavor to be like Americans urge their parents to move away from this "foreign" district. When they succeed, the Americanizing process may be said to be well under way.
Economic advancement comes to these poverty-stricken Hebrews with surprising rapidity. There is no way of telling definitely what proportion of the very poor eventually rise out of that condition, or how long it takes them to do so. General observation, however, seems to indicate that the proportion is considerable and the rate rapid. It is certain that the adult Hebrew immigrant, unlike the Italian, has definite aspirations toward social, economic, and educational advancement.
The poorest among them will make all possible sacrifices to keep his children in school; and one of the most striking social phenomena in New York City today is the way in which the Jews have taken possession of the public schools, in the highest as well as the lowest grades.
The city college is practically filled with Jewish pupils, a considerable proportion of them children of Russian or Polish immigrants on the East Side.
In the lower schools Jewish children are the delight of their teachers for cleverness at their books, obedience, and general good conduct; and the vacation schools, night schools, social settlements, libraries, bathing places, parks, and playgrounds of the East Side are fairly besieged with Jewish children eager to take advantage of the opportunities they offer. Jewish boys are especially ambitious to enter professions or go into business, and the complaint is made that they overcrowd such callings, refusing to enter occupations involving hand work as well as head work. But here, too, it must be urged, as in the case of the Italians, that the fault, such as it is, is partly to be ascribed to the ideals of the public school itself. And, furthermore, the Hebrew usually shows such excellence in these special lines that the community probably gains materially rather than loses by having his services offered in this way.
It is not all an upward road for the Italian and Hebrew immigrant, however. As in the case of the Irish and Germans, tenement-house life tends to their physical and moral deterioration.
The Jews, already accustomed to city life, have withstood the physical influences of the tenements most remarkably, keeping the death rate down perceptibly in wards where they predominate; but tuberculosis, a disease they do not bring with them from abroad, is now growing more and more common among them, due to living and working in insanitary conditions and surroundings.
There is considerable sickness among the Italians. The country-bred adult, unused to the confined conditions of the tenements, is liable to tuberculosis. Italian children born and reared in the tenements are anemic, and to this, as well as to unwise and irregular eating, their high death rate is due.
The moral surroundings, too, are bad. Not only are there, first, the evil moral influences of overcrowding in general, but also the contact with elements of population already deteriorated by a generation of tenement-house life.
The new immigrant, an unsophisticated Italian peasant or a poor Hebrew of quiet family life and moral traditions, is brought into a district where vice has been developed through years of a sifting process which has taken elsewhere the successful of the former generation of immigrants and left the failures where violence and intemperance, especial faults of that earlier generation, are prevalent. Conditions in the "Big Flat" in Mott street described in preceding pages well illustrate the nature and character of the influences by which the new immigrant is surrounded.
In the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth wards the Italians, and in the Seventh Ward the Hebrews, are thrown in with the corrupt remnants of Irish immigration which now make up the beggars, the drunkards, the thugs, and thieves of those quarters.
The Bowery, running up through the quarters where the newer immigrants--the Italians to the left, the Hebrews to the right--settled in greatest numbers, is the focal line of these evil influences, and the peculiar system of government which allows the conditions prevailing there to continue is to a great extent responsible for the evils seen to be growing in the foreign quarters.
Until within a very few years the Italian laboring population in New York was notably free from glaring vice and intemperance. There were few or no disorderly resorts for Italians, and such a practice as the importation of Italian women for immoral purposes was unknown. Under present city conditions, however, positive inducement having been given for the extension of vice of all kinds, many disorderly resorts have been opened in their most crowded quarters, and it is said that many Italian girls from Naples and other cities have been imported to fill them.
Within the last year or two the Hebrews also have shown tendencies to the grosser vices that have never before characterized them. It can hardly be doubted that a people of their general habits with respect to temperance and the family relation must have fallen under some alien influence to bring about such conditions as are now found to exist on the East Side.
It is in the light of all the above considerations that the records of pauperism and crime for the different races of immigrants of this period should be considered.
Both Italian and Hebrew immigrants are prone to pauperism of the form that consists in placing children out in some institution. This form, though burdensome enough to the community in which it is practiced, can hardly be regarded as so great an indication of the genuine pauper spirit as other forms. Italian or Hebrew parents, in trying to get their children into an institution, are, from their point of view, simply doing their parental duty in getting for their children advantages of education, and so forth, offered by the public that they cannot themselves afford to supply. If the free day schools are so good, and attendance there so greatly desired that children are even driven to go to them by compulsory school laws, why should not, they think, the free boarding school (or "college," as they call the public institutions for children) be still more of an advantage, and why should they not secure this for their children? And the parents have no idea of being paupers themselves. Both Italians and Hebrews work unremittingly, and manage to save enough for their own necessities to keep them from the almshouse. The following table from the Eleventh Census shows the number of paupers per million of the population for the first and second generation of certain nationalities. These statistics are for the country at large, but the general race tendency is shown in them.
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