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View series: The United States: a territorial history

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Immigration and the ‘Melting Pot’

This map is part of a series of 20 animated maps showing the history of The United States: a territorial history.

During the first half of the 19th century, a growing number of immigrants sought freedom or a better economic future in the United States. They came mainly from Northern Europe: the British Isles, Germany, and Scandinavia.

Following the war with Mexico, nearly 70,000 Mexicans were granted American nationality while the Gold Rush attracted large number of migrants from other regions: South America, Australia, China.

During the 50 years following the Civil War, 30 million immigrants arrived in the United States. More than 90% were Europeans.

Large contingents arrived from Germany to settle in the North Midwest, from Ireland moving into the East Coast cities, and from Scandinavia, mostly in Minnesota and the two Dakotas.

Many more arrived from other European regions: Polish immigrants and Central and Eastern European Jews moved mostly into the industrial cities on the East Coast and the area around Chicago.

Italians preferred to settle in cities on the East Coast, particularly New York, and also in California.

A continuous stream of French Canadians crossed the frontier to settle in New England.

Chinese and Japanese immigrants arrived via Seattle or San Francisco on the West Coast.

Towards the end of the century, the Melting Pot had become a dynamic mix of cultures, languages and religions. Many immigrants faced challenges and discrimination in search of the American Dream.