This dissertation offers a close examination of the East European Jewish and Italian immigrant populations of three Texas cities—Dallas, Galveston, and Houston—at the turn of the century. Using statistical data derived from the 1900 and 1920 United States federal manuscript censuses, as well as information gathered from a variety of sources including newspapers, census directories, and religious organization records, it weaves together a narrative of the immigrant experience of two populations that receive little scholarly attention in studies of Texas history.
Much of the history of southern and eastern European immigrants has been placed in the large immigrant centers of the north and northeastern United States. Despite the relatively small size of the East European Jewish and Italian immigrant populations in Texas’ cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these two groups helped shape the economic and cultural landscape of three of the state’s largest urban areas.
Through a comparison with East European Jewish and Italian immigrants in other major U.S. cities, it is apparent that the immigrants who settled in Texas cities were not particularly unique in terms of gender distribution, marital status, literacy, or ability to speak English. They were, however, far more likely to be involved in low status white-collar occupations, notably as small business owners. Immigrants in these positions, unlike those working as wage laborers in the employ of another, achieved some level of independence.
Far removed from the immigrant centers of the North and Northeast, East European Jewish and Italian immigrants created a variety of institutions to facilitate their transition into their new homes in Texas, defining themselves by their ethnicity and retaining many homeland traditions. Rather than creating tension between the immigrant and native-born population, this practice of ethnic identification was in some cases encouraged by the native-born, even during a period of heightened anti-immigrant sentiment. The immigrants who settled in Texas’ urban areas were not, however, rejecting assimilation. In many ways, the ethnic identities they constructed incorporated their new status as Americans and Texans.
|Advisor:||Anbinder, Tyler G.|
|Commitee:||Guglielmo, Thomas A., Ribuffo, Leo, Stott, Richard, Weissman Joselit, Jenna|
|School:||The George Washington University|
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||DAI-A 73/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||American history, Ethnic studies, Judaic studies|
|Keywords:||Eastern European Jews, Immigration, Italian, Jews, Texas, Urban, Urban immigrants|
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