The United States has been known as the world’s Melting Pot for over 200 years, and for good reason. This young nation has experienced wave after wave of immigration over its relatively short history, and that pattern is likely to continue on into the foreseeable future. The first US immigration wave was kicked off by European Pilgrims in the early 1600s, who arrived on the East Coast looking for religious freedom. What followed has been a steady stream of immigration waves, most involving people looking for an opportunity to succeed in the Land of Opportunity.
Here are some of the highlights featured in our infographic History of Immigration to the United States. If you’re a citizen of the US, it’s likely that your ancestors arrived in one of these waves of immigration themselves:
- The US Census of 1790 was the first official census of the nation. Most of America’s residents at the time were of English, Irish, and German descent.
- Between the 17th and 19th centuries, most immigrants arriving on American shores were actually brought here without their consent – they were slaves. It is estimated that between 500,000 and 650,000 Africans were brought to America as slaves during that time period, along with slaves from other parts of the world. Thankfully, slavery was finally made illegal in the US with the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865.
- The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s brought more Europeans looking for work in US factories and on US railroads.
- The California Gold Rush (mid-19th century) brought a wave of immigrants seeking work and opportunity from China, other parts of Asia, and many other places as well.
- Many immigrants looking for escape from violent regimes began arriving around the turn of the 20th century.
- Which nation has produced the most immigrants to the US over the past 100 years? If you guessed Mexico, you’d be right.
If you want to learn more about the immigration history of the world’s Melting Pot, check out this infographic here.