Original document was submitted as an honors thesis requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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This paper examines the economic and social reasons that are attributed to the high emigration rate in Ireland and in Germany during the nineteenth century, and how the lives of these groups turned out in the United States. As a result of economic deterioration and social inequality, pessimism became prevalent in Ireland from the 1840s onward and in Germany from the 1830s onward. Because the United States was perceived as an optimistic avenue for advancement, thousands of Irish and Germans emigrated their homelands and fled to America in search of a better life. During the first few decades upon their arrival in America, these groups faced massive discrimination by nativists; cultural barriers propagated negative stereotyping, which in turn created a nativist environment that excluded anyone of foreign nationality. The Irish and German immigrants found themselves fighting hard to overcome their oppression in America. By creating a cohesive social network among people of their own kind, whether it was through politics, religion, or in business, these immigrants challenged the social stigmas that were attached to their status. They were able to develop themselves fruitfully through hard work and determination. As the Irish and German immigrants started to expand in the American labor market with their skills, and magnify the social climate of what it meant to be an American, they were steadily elevating up the social ladder. When these groups were increasingly assimilating into the United States, they were no longer being identified as outsiders. Instead, they and the future Irish and German generations have melted their immigrant status and molded their American-Irish and American-German identity. Though the Irish and Germans developed a more successful life in America than in their homelands, they simultaneously contributed to something bigger: They helped built America.

This paper seeks to prove that the Irish and German immigrants of the nineteenth century were able to live a better life in America than in their native lands. The two chief reasons that led a great number of Irish to emigrate Ireland, which are the Great Potato Famine of 1845-52 and religious persecution which occurred throughout the 1800s, is discussed first. To show how the potato crop contributed to drastic impoverishment, specific emphasis is given to the scientific procedure of how the blight unfolded. Emigration statistics exemplifies the high scale of suffering in Ireland, particularly from 1840 to the 1850s. A transition is then drawn to analyze the lives of the Irish in the United States. It is established how the Irish were presented with economic opportunities, but faced terrible discrimination based on their low social status as poor immigrants. Through their continuous spread of an unwanted religion (Catholicism), and utilization of Tammy Hall politics, the Irish acquired power. Their defensive reactions further enabled the Irish to advance socially. In examining the second group’s primary reasons for emigration, this paper focuses on the economic downturn in Germany, and how the influence of American advertisements impacted emigration altogether from the 1830s onward. The variation of German immigrants’ occupations in America is detailed as well as their success in the cultivation of land. Like with the Irish immigrants, obstacles that the Germans encountered, such as their language barrier and suspicions with their religion is addressed. The Germans’ persistence in their fierce antagonism of their involvement in organizations enabled them to counter the prejudices against them. Their assimilation and accomplishments in America stem mainly from major contributions that they have made that are well known today. With both groups, the common result boils down their success in America. The paper concludes that despite the hardships, the Irish and German immigrants not only achieve a better life here than in their homelands, but their incredible contribution to the American society serves as a success story both to their lives, and the foundation of the United States of America.