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The Era of Mass Migration from the Dual Monarchy to the U.S. (Post-Civil War to World War I)

Between 1876 and 1910, some 3.5 million people migrated to the U.S. from the Habsburg Monarchy (1.8 million from the Austrian provinces and 1.7 million from the Hungarian ones).

After the Civil War, a growing number of people from the Dual Monarchy migrated to the United States. Initially, most of these migrants were Czechs from Bohemia and Vorarlbergers from the Austrian half of the Habsburg Monarchy. Towards the end of the 19th century, more and more Jews (from Galicia), Slovaks, Slovenes, Dalmatians, Hungarians migrated to the U.S. for economic reasons. They found work increasingly in the new industrial centers of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, and New York. Some went to the western mining centers in Minnesota and Colorado. Between 1876 and 1910, some 3.5 million people migrated to the US from the Habsburg Monarchy (1.8 million from the Austrian provinces and 1.7 million from the Hungarian ones). 7.5 percent of Pittsburgh’s half million population came from Austria-Hungary. People from the Habsburg Monarchy constituted the largest immigrant cohort in the years before World War I. The Great War stopped this massive migration flow from Central Europe.

Two successful migrants from Vorarlberg managed to make it to fame and fortune in the United States. The painter Franz Martin Drexel from Dornbirn first had some success as a portraitist in Philadelphia. In 1837, he began to deal in foreign currencies in Louisville and started the banking house of F.M. Drexel in Philadelphia in the 1840s, adding an office in San Francisco to make a fortune in the gold rush. With his two sons, Franz Martin developed his bank into one of the most successful banking houses in the U.S., also cooperating with America’s premier financier J.P. Morgan. In 1891, the Drexels endowed an institute that eventually became Drexel University in Philadelphia. Drexel’s granddaughter Katherine Drexel became a nun and financed some 60 schools in African-American ghettoes and Native-American reservations from her inheritance. In 1924, she founded Xavier University in New Orleans, the first black college in the U.S. In 2000, the Vatican canonized Saint Katherine.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, ca. 1900. The U.S. government barred immigrants who were sick, suspicious, had criminal records, or were likely to become “public charges.”

Library of Congress

Mesabi Range, Minnesota

Mesabi Range, Minnesota, 1903. Miners at work on the Mesabi range in northeast Minnesota.

Library of Congress

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, ca. 1915. An immigrant girl and boy with belongings.

Library of Congress

Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio, between 1900 and 1910. The photo shows Cleveland Harbor. Just like Pittsburgh, Cleveland attracted many immigrants from Austria-Hungary in search of work. Hard labor in industry and coal were not the exception.

Library of Congress