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100 Years Ago

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Adapting is the Key to Immigrant Success

For being "...a teeming nation of nations" Americans have not always treated their fellow immigrants kindly or as equals. In the case of slaves, they were treated as servants, the Irish were looked upon as a drain on society [many ads of the day included "Irish need not apply."], and others such as the Polish, Italians, Jews and Asians were treated with little respect.

In the beginning, the immigrants were discriminated against and would work for a third less than others. This, of course, threatened the American worker’s position and pay scale. In one way, it benefited the U.S. because it could produce products less expensively, but it also took away jobs from the average American who was not willing, or able, to work for such low wages.

In response, many immigrants, including those in Shelby County, Ohio, first settled in a community made up of people from their native land or even their native town and region (this occurred in Berlin [Ft. Loramie]). They kept their old customs and acquired a limited knowledge of their new country’s culture, language and values. Although some immigrants would eventually blend completely into America’s culture, there are still communities today such as "China Town" where the people of one country stay together to live and work. In time, however, most immigrants began to assimilate.

Immigrants who adapted most easily usually had a similar background to their new environment. The English speaking immigrants in Sidney, throughout the county and across the nation adapted quickly to their new culture and thereby lost many of the cultural ties to their homelands, including an easily connected sense of heritage. Many of their descendants have become Americans with only a vague recollection of their original roots while those 19th century immigrants who spoke foreign languages have retained more of their cultural connections.

'Immigration' segment written in November, 1997 by David Lodge


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