Guiding Questions:

What steps did immigrants take toward becoming American, while retaining their identity and traditional values?

What do immigrants' possessions and home furnishings reveal about the jobs they obtained in the increasingly industrialized U.S.?

What do immigrants' possessions and furnishings reveal about how they combined their native cultural identity with their new life in the U.S.?

examining chinese and jewish immigrants' possessions for clues about their occupations, ethnic identity, and values

Introduction

Cellar Tenement Women's Municipal LeagueThe Industrial Revolution introduced mechanized transportation, such as the Transcontinental Railroad, mass production in factories, such as Lowell's textile mills, and the 'finish work' in sweat shops and tenement apartments--all a drastic shift from the manual labor of farmers and craftsmen such as tailors and shoemakers. With these changes in mind, you will examine the connection that immigration had with the rise of industry, as well as the expanding work opportunities that drew immigrants to the United States.

Imagine how hard it must have been to leave behind familiar things—language, food, culture, customs, clothing, and physical environment—and head to a new country. Consider some of the reasons that persuaded immigrants to leave their native countries, and what may have pulled them to the U.S. Then consider what these immigrants could bring with them and what they could buy anew.

Imagine you are a European Jewish or Chinese immigrant to the United States c. 1900 -- what possessions would you have at home and what would these reveal about your life?

Header image: A bedroom in a North End tenement, courtesy of the Boston Public Library Print Department Holdings

Inline image: Cellar Tenement Women's Municipal League, courtesy of the Boston Public Library Print Department Holdings