Immigrants as Imports

Posted By Richard Barker on 14 May 2014

Posted in The Vintage Machinery Almanac

This article first appeared in Eletrochemical and Metallurgical Industry 1907. The information that is contained within this article is therefore valid as of 1907. The article outlines developments affecting US  Industry at the time.


Approximately a million immigrants entered the United States last year. These were a heterogeneous lot as regards race, color and previous condition of cleanliness. They were largely adult males in the prime of life—mostly young men at the age of maximum productivity. They were distinguished by the boldness and the enterprise of the pioneer. The same outcry which was made by the older immigrants and their descendants, that these new ones are the "scum of Europe," was made by the Americans of English descent seventy years ago against the Irish and German immigrants of that period. We thus will dismiss that indictment.

Economic Value

Let us then consider the economic value to the nation of these as producing units for the industrial machine. It would cost on the average at least three thousand dollars with interest charges to raise each of these human beings in America. That this is a conservative value can be seen by comparing this figure with the price of black slaves and their productivity in ante-bellum days. Consequently, the net increase of the nation's wealth due to this class of imports, totals the immense sum of three billion dollars per annum, or is about equal to our entire foreign trade, both exports and imports.  

This Valuation is probably too low. Very little is paid for this importation, but it is simply taken from the older countries by the will of the immigrants. We hope that such of those million as read this will not be offended by being classified as "duty-free" imports. Whoever is, can console himself that America was colonized by immigrants, who came in duty free.