Immigration and emigration are the foundation of Iowa’s development. After 1890, factory jobs began to attract immigrants to Iowa. Initial labor demands had been filled by local farmers and transient laborers.
By 1920 the city of Waterloo, Iowa had attracted immigrants from twenty nations, and by 1925, 12% of the city’s population had been born in another country. Tradition and skills drew immigrant groups to different trades: many Italians worked at the railroad shops; many Danes, Germans, and Irish were employed by meat-packing and farm equipment manufacturers; many Greeks and Mexicans worked in construction and paving; many Croatians and Bulgarians went to machine shops and foundries. New arrivals lived in neighborhoods close to factories and streetcar lines. These neighborhoods became a blend of languages, traditions, ethnic dress and customs, and exotic foods. Immigrants’ skills, so important to the success of Waterloo industries, tied these newcomers to each other and to the community. Read and listen to the stories of six immigrants who came to Waterloo. As you listen to their stories and experiences think about the key questions:
- What was their ethnic origin?
- Where did they come from?
- Why did they come to Waterloo?
- Where did they work?
- Where did they live?
- What aspects of their culture did they bring with them?
Then build a graphic organizer
to compare and contrast their experiences.
Click on the voices and pretend that you are hearing these voices on local streets earlier in the century, reflecting the many cultures that have influenced this area.