The history of immigration to America falls in four notable eras: the colonial era, the mid-19th century, at the start of the 20th century, and post-1965 period. In each of these eras, America witnessed the arrival of distinct races, ethnicities, and national groups. This scenario was influenced by, among other factors, the invitation of various immigrants by the queen during the colonial era, and legislations which controlled the naturalization process after independence. The queen of England had facilitated the migration of Germans to America, after they sought refuge in Britain, following periods of intense invasion in their country by the neighboring nationals. Additionally, German immigration was favored by post independence legislations such as the 1790 Act, which outlawed naturalization of the nonwhites and in essence increasing the chances of naturalizing whites. This act was a major pull factor for many other Europeans who were struggling in their homeland, for example, the Irish. Naturalization was later extended to the blacks in 1860s and to the Asians in 1950, leading to the influx of these groups into the American society.
During the colonial era, 175,000 English people migrated to America to lay their basis for wider colonization. This group was followed by large numbers of immigrants, who came to America as servants during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. According to the historian estimates, about 400,000 immigrants arrived in the period between seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. More immigrants from northern Europe arrived in America during the mid-19th century. In the early 20th century, most of the arrivals originated from Eastern and Southern Europe while those of the post-1965 period came from Asia and Latin America. Nevertheless, the 20th century also witnessed a sizeable German immigration to America. This was after the establishment of new countries in territories formerly controlled by Germany leading to loss of their homes.
In 1700, the number of black and white inhabitants in 13 American colonies was about 250,000. Most of the whites had been born in England, or their ancestral roots could be traced back in England. By 1776, the number of immigrants to the colonies had increased by more than ten times. These new immigrants were mainly people of African descent or non-English speaking Europeans. The Germans dominated the Europeans who were searching for greener pastures in the colonies. Around 1700, several Germans fled their homeland following invasions from other nationalities with the hope of settling in the peaceful nations of Europe and Western Hemisphere, with some going to as far as Australia. The southwestern portion of the German dominion suffered the worst of these invasions. Its inhabitants were tortured, robbed, and killed. At times, the invaders could cruelly burn the entire villages down. During this time, political instability had an insignificant effect on the emigrants. Despite the attempts by the rulers of Germany to stop the emigration, its flow intensified. In fact, statistics show that over 15,000 Germans left for Britain in 1709. In the same year, about 3,000 of them proceeded to New York.
By 1945, it was estimated that 45,000 inhabitants of Pennsylvania were Germans. More Germans were still immigrating to the United States by 1800, but these late comers had varying reasons. As America modernized, most Germans abandoned their family businesses to venture in more profitable engagements. Modernization led to inventions of faster and convenient modes of transportation like steam trains and boats, and these inventions facilitated more immigration to America. While, in America, most Germans opted to engage in farming; and, therefore, settled on the countryside. Those who lived in urban centers with over 25,000 inhabitants were just about two fifth. By 1870, one third of the colonies’ agricultural industry was in the hands of the Germans. Huge numbers of these German farmers were located in Texas, Midwest, and Pennsylvania. However, although some did reach California, only those in the east coast remained as stereotypical farmers. Among the reasons why the west coast Germans could not succeed was that some earlier farmers could not hand over their fertile lands to them at any price. Nevertheless, the period between 1850 and 1893 witnessed among the highest German emigration rates in the 19th century.
Most Germans in the cities lived in clusters that literary replicated Germany’s way of life. The clusters were home to prominent businesses such as beer industries. Other present entrepreneurs included the butchers, bakers, cabinetmakers, distillers, cigar makers, and tailors. Strikingly, most German women did not match the average women in America in the provision of labor force. While a majority of the American women chose to work in factories or as clerks, German women opted to work as bakers, domestic workers, hoteliers, nurses, hair dressers, laundry workers, and tailors.
Although great efforts were made to unite all German Americans; religious, geographical, and ideological differences posed huge challenges to these attempts. Not all of them could appreciate the achievements of their fatherland. While intellectuals and politicized members pushed for unity, ordinary Germans could not see the urgency of such moves. Most of them were liberals who did not want to be identified with a single grouping. Many of them simply advocated for a more democratic Germany. Religious differences were more prevalent. While most of the German Americans were Protestants, a third of them were Catholics. Moreover, a sizeable number of them, about 250,000 were of Jewish denomination.
Assimilation of German Americans has been so effective that they are hardly recognized as immigrants. They enjoy all right as Americans with some even rising to senior positions like military generals and even presidents. For example, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, George Washington, and Richard Nixon had German roots. Their level of integration into the American society has been so outstanding that a vast majority of them contributes in a number of cultural and technological issues. Notable examples of German Americans who have excelled in various fields include Baron von Steuben, who helped reorganize the Army that fought in the War of independence and Henry Steinway, who founded the Steinway & Sons piano factory. Furthermore, it is the Germans who brought the custom of the Christmas tree in America. In sports and athletics, the Germans made notable contributions as they were strong advocates of the sporting programs. For example, they are credited with the initiation of organized gymnastics. Another notable example is the Buffalo Germans, a basketball team that had been so successful in the early twentieth century.
Examples of push factors that have lead to a huge German population in America include the shortage of land as well as religious and political oppression. These factors accelerated the rate of emigration which had started during the invasion periods. The Germans were attracted to America by fertile land as well as room from exercising their religious freedoms. They had been largely accommodated into the American society until the start of the First World War when some were accused of being sympathetic to the hostile Germany. Some were imprisoned, others barred from joining the Red Cross for fear of sabotage; and some like Robert Prager were brutally murders. After the war, tension with the Germans subdued until the outbreak of the Second World War. Segregation during the World War Two alienated the Germans a little as compared to its heights during World War I.
The Germans have survived in the American society mainly through assimilation. They facilitated their own melt down into the common American society through abandoning most of their cultural practices which could have alienated them. Most of them chose to readily assimilate following the outbreak of the World War I, a period which saw most German language media, schools, and churches switching to English or having to entirely close down. Many Germans chose to submit to the Constitution and the Leadership of America with few of them showing the enthusiasm in holding public offices. However, the Germans have usually been voting as a block. Protestants and Jewish Germans mainly stand by the Republican party which the Catholic Germans vote for the Democrats. Nevertheless, few Germans still choose to live in clusters which are commonly known as turner societies. These societies are largely meant to promote the social well being of the people of German ancestry. Mostly Germans have westernized and adopted the mainstream American cultures and custom. However, about 1.5 million Americans still have German as their first language.
Germans have also made lasting contributions to the American society. They have made notable influence in most fields of the American society including architecture, sports, theology, military, and science. Notable examples include Generals John Pershing and Baron von Steuben; entrepreneurs John Rockefeller, Walter Chrysler, and Donald Trump; engineer John Roebling; scientist Albert Einstein; and architect Walter Gropius. The success of these and other Germans has been possible due to the acceptance and successful assimilation of the Germans into the American society. They have greatly inspired the American society with their success and influenced the common American culture greatly. By and large, their presence in America has been considered a major success, and several observers are keen to establish whether the Asians will impact the American society as much.