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GENERAL PROGRESS AND ASSIMILATION.
Investments-Americanization-Libraries-Street trades Progress of immigrants
Immigrants in business-Immigrants in the professions—Citizenship—Text Tables 60 to 66).
It is difficult to make a comparison of the different races in respect to the tendency to save. The bankers in Community A report large immigrant deposits, real estate men tell of investments in houses and farms, and the post-office authorities and dealers in foreign exchange report large annual remittances abroad. All of the recent immigrant races in Community A save and send money abroad.
An attempt was made to secure information from the three local banks as to the distribution of their deposits among the various races. One institution, which employs a Lithuanian clerk of considerable abil
a ity and which has given the most attention to the immigrant patronage, was able to give definite proportions for the various races. The cashier of one of the national banks had recently made a computation that 31 per cent of their deposits were from non-English-speaking
He estimated that of that proportion only 3 or 4 per cent belonged to races other than the Lithuanian and Polish, and that of these two the Lithuanians were the heavier depositors. The other national bank could give no very definite information. The president of the institution estimated that 50 per cent of the deposits were immigrant, while the cashier thought 75 was nearer the true figure. In banking circles this concern is considered a Polish stronghold, although its employees thought that their Lithuanian deposits equaled those of the Poles. As their directorate includes the strongest Polish merchant in Community A, but no Lithuanians, the bank no doubt favors the Poles.
In the following statement an attempt has been made to merge these various estimates into a definite proportionment of the aggregate deposits of the three banks:
Bank deposits in Community A, by races.
The cashier of the youngest of the three banks stated that their business had been largely built up by converting the hoarding foreigners into depositors. They have two Lithuanians and one Ruthenian on their board of directors. According to their experience, the Poles have been slowest to give up the hoarding habit. The officials 48296°—VOL 16-11-44
of one of the national banks claimed that the Polish people were still in the habit of using one of their own countrymen as the custodian of their savings.
The Ruthenian and Slovak deposits, as well as those of the other races, given in the above statement include amounts from immigrant families living outside of Community A in the neighboring colonies.
A newly established branch of an Italian banking house in Philadelphia reported scarcely any deposits from their people. The Italians and Ruthenians put relatively less money into the furnishing of their houses than any of the other races. The Italians also live on very little, spend little, and remit large sums of money to Europe.
Å foreman in a washery, which employs mostly Ruthenians, said that after saving from $500 to $700 the Ruthenians returned to Austria-Hungary. Banking officials claim, however, that the Ruthenians, as well as some of the other races, frequently returned to Community A after they had squandered their savings in Europe.
The following statement shows the relative ownership of homes in Community A among the recent immigrants:
The consensus of opinion among bankers, lawyers, and real estate dealers in the community is that the immigrant races are all alike in their preference for real estate as an investment to any other kind of security. They want something tangible in exchange for their money. The financial agents report practically no sales of stocks or bonds to the masses of any of the local foreign races. There are a few leading men in all of the races, however, who own stock in the breweries, banks, electric lighting company, and traction companies, but they form exceptions to the general rule.
Within the last five years a slight tendency has been noted among the Lithuanians and Poles to buy farms in the Ringtown Valley district, from which place comes most of Community A's supply of farm produce.
In sending money abroad the immigrants use chiefly the steamship agents and agents of New York banks among their own people. For smaller orders they use the international postal money orders. Most of the forwarders of immigrant money carry their accounts with a local trust company. An estimate made by the cashier of the company regarding the total remittances of the immigrants, through the various agents, for the year 1908 was nearly $200,000. An effort was made to get the information from the agents themselves, but they showed an unwillingness to give it, by pretending ignorance.
The post-office officials in Community A went over their moneyorder applications for the period from August, 1907, to July, 1908, and submitted the following amounts as sent to the countries enumerated in the statement following.
While it is impossible to draw any comparison between the races from the data set forth in the above statement as to the tendency to send money abroad, it is evident that they are all very much given to the practice. The objects for which money is sent abroad are principally for the support of relatives, payments on encumbered estates, and for the payment of passages for members of family or friends to this community.
The extent to which the foreign races have become identified with American life in Community A through industry, business, electorate, government, trade unions, schools, and churches is discussed elsewhere under the heads of the several topics mentioned. Data bearing upon two other phases of Americanization, namely, ownership of homes and progress in the English language, may also be presented.
The following table, showing the ownership of homes in the community, was compiled by estimates made by the assessors of the five borough wards. The table is presented by race, numbers of families, and numbers of homes owned by each race:
Table 61.- Number and per cent of families owning home, by race of head of family.
Weighing all of the indications toward Americanization exhibited by the several races the conclusions may be summarized as follows:
(1) None of the six prominent races from southeastern Europe has as yet been wholly assimilated.
(2) Considering the size of the various race bodies only the Lithuanians and Poles are sufficiently well represented to permit a comparison of the races.
(3) The Lithuanians are abler and further advanced in Americanization than the Poles.
(4) The evidence tends to show that the Slovaks and Ruthenians rank with the Poles, the Slovaks having possibly a slight advantage.
(5) The Syrians and South Italians show the least tendency toward Americanization, with a slight advantage in favor of the former.
Among the elements of the community life which may be regarded as favoring the social digestion of the immigrants are to be enumerated the following:
(1) The public-school system, through which the children of the foreigners become the medium of communication for American ideas, customs, and habits of thought. At the schools the immigrant children make acquaintances among the native children, have opportunities to visit native homes, and thus learn American ways of living. Some of the adult immigrants learn English at the night schools. The parochial schools, in so far as they live up to the requirement of giving English instruction, are also helpful in the work of assimilation.
(2) The churches, through the encouragement they give the immigrants to become permanent residents of the United States. Some of the churches, as the Greek Catholic, help to instill the principles of our Government.
(3) The public press, through its propagation of American ideas among the immigrants and indirectly its stimulation to the acquisition of the English language. About 10 per cent of the Lithuanians, Poles, Slovaks, and Ruthenians read American newspapers.
(4) The contract system of wages in vogue in the mines, in so far as it promotes a rapid advance in economic position, thus inducing a higher standard of living and comfort. The division of the miners into small gangs facilitates the learning of the miner's trade and quickens the rise in the wage scale of the raw laborer. The fact that the contract miner, the boss of these gangs, is frequently of the same tongue makes it easier for the ignorant immigrant to pick up the trade. This condition, however, has disadvantages which will be discussed in the succeeding section.
(5) Trades unionism, by the opportunity it gives for practice on a small scale in a democratic and representative form of government, through the subordination it encourages of selfish interests to the general good, and by the incitement it affords to acquiring the English language.
Among other agencies which would greatly further Americanization but which are absent in this community may be mentioned such nonsectarian institutions as would encourage and provide for wholesome sports, public baths, reading rooms, and lecture halls for giving free, simple, fully illustrated talks on sanitation and hygiene, together with pictures of healthy American family life.
The chief agencies which retard the assimilation of the immigrants in the community are as follows:
(1) Colonization, to the extent that it prevents contact with American life and lessens the absorption of American ideas and manners of living. The restricted ground in the area of this community makes it impossible for the immigrants to move from among their own kind where they naturally first settle. The gradual withdrawal of the English-speaking first settlers is slowly making a foreign colony of the community.
(2) The contract-miner system, in so far as it results in making the foreigner's working-day environment linguistically the same as his home life.
(3) Trades unionism, in so far as it creates class jealousy and enmity.
(4) The parochial school system, to the extent only that it deprives the immigrant's children from the larger contact with American life and ideas afforded by the public schools.
The only educational facility other than the school system existing in the community is the Free Public School Library, which is an adjunct to the rooms of the board of education and whose secretary is also the librarian in charge. The library contains about 6,500 volumes, selected, so far as any principle is discernible, according to the growing needs of the high-school students and the demands of their courses, supplemented by a generous supply of safe standard juvenile fiction and rows of government reports. The library is growing at the rate of about 150 volumes annually, and has no card index.It derives a certain amount of support from the sale of printed catalogues at 10 cents a copy to all the subscribers to the circulating department. There are about 750 persons who have obtained the privilege of withdrawing books, and during the year ending June, 1904, 9,824 books were taken out for home use. There is hardly any reading on the premises, and the majority of the readers which patronize the library are pupils of the public schools. The library is open for issuing books on Thursdays from 4 to 5 in the afternoon, and on Saturdays from 6.30 to 8 o'clock in the evening:
No special effort has ever been made to interest the immigrants in the use of the library facilities, either by way of providing books in their own languages or aggressively encouraging their use of the English books. As a matter of fact, no demand for literature of any sort has been received from the adult portion of the foreign colony.
The librarian is of the opinion that the children of immigrant parentage who are fairly well along in their classes, especially the Lithuanians and Poles, exhibit more interest in reading than the English-speaking children. Few of the children from the other immigrant races have advanced sufficiently in school to have much use for reading matter, and consequently such use as they may have of the library has not attracted notice.
The librarian has not noticed any distinction between the races in the matter of the character of the books taken out. The same kinds of books are asked for as would be in a community composed entirely of native Americans. The younger children read fairy tales and the older ones juvenile fiction. Classical works of fiction are in little demand. Some of the older pupils have shown an interest in European, and especially Russian, history.
The races engaged in street trades in Community A are as follows:
(a) Italians: 2 ice cream venders (1 push cart, 1 horse and wagon); 1 peanut and fruit stand.
(6) Welsh: 1 peanut and fruit stand.