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Birds of Passage Previous Next
Digital History ID 3290


Many of the millions of immigrants who arrived into the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did so with the intention of returning to their villages in the Old World. Known as "birds of passage," many of these eastern and southern European migrants were peasants who had lost their property as a result of the commercialization of agriculture. They came to America to earn enough money to allow them to return home and purchase a piece of land. As one Slavic steelworker put it: "A good job, save money, work all time, go home, sleep, no spend."

Many of these immigrants came to America alone, expecting to rejoin their families in Europe within a few years. From 1907 to 1911, of every hundred Italians who arrived in the United States, 73 returned to the Old Country. For Southern and Eastern Europe as a whole, approximately 44 of every 100 who arrived returned back home.

Some immigrants, however, did not come as "sojourners." In particular, Jewish immigrants from Russia, fleeing religious persecution, came in family groups and intended to stay in the United States from the beginning.

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