An Historical Geography of German Immigrant Labor in Baltimore, 1840-1860

Authors: James Smith*, Towson University
Topics: Historical Geography, Ethnic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Baltimore, immigrant labor, German immigration, industrial revolution
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Plaza Court 4, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper focuses upon German immigrant labor in Baltimore from 1840-1860. The Germans formed the largest European immigration stream to Baltimore in the nineteenth century. I rethink German immigration through the context and structural forces of the emerging world capitalist system. Germans migrated in the midst of wars, political unrest, crop failure and the rapid social changes of the industrial revolution. Key questions center upon the push factors in central Europe crucial for German immigrants to Baltimore and the pull factors in the urban region, particularly labor market opportunities that made Baltimore an important destination city. How did the skills of German immigrant labor match with craft industries and commerce in the urban capitalist economy of Baltimore? To address these issues, I analyze data from the 1860 census for two Baltimore wards, and combine this information with broader data from the Historical Statistics of the United States, thus gaining deeper insights into immigrant life and work in Baltimore on the eve of the Civil War.

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