World War I had significantly reduced U.S. immigration. But by 1920, “they are pouring in as they have not done since 1914,” an article that year wrote. “For America is not merely the land of freedom now. It is the land of peace.”
“As it is, nearly thirty thousand immigrants are being handled at Ellis Island every week. More are coming through the gates in one month now than during the entire war period… And it is only the beginning. Were it not for the lack of shipping accommodations, ten million foreigners would be battering at our doors.”
As it always does, price correlated with demand, as U.S. Commissioner of Immigration Frederick A. Wallis was quoted explaining.
“Before the war a steerage passage could be had for $25. During the war it was possible to cross for $10. Now the rate from Hamburg to New York ranges from $120 to $160, and, in addition, there is a head tax of $18. This is a considerable sum for the European peasant.”
Immigration numbers might have been up for the year 1920 specifically. But over the course of the entire 1920s decade, immigration actually declined relative to the 1910s, though the numbers were still the highest they would be until the 1980s.
The Rising Tide of Immigration
Published: Sunday, December 19, 1920