Is the ‘hydraulic metaphor’ of torrents, floods, and waves of immigration true in the case of Gilded Age migrations?  

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The Gilded Age, a coin termed by Mark Twain, was from approximately 1875 to 1900, although various sources do not always agree on that precise range.  There was an incredible surge in immigration over those years, which can be seen in the graph I have provided a link for below. These were, in fact, the peak years for immigration to America.

This worked out well for America and for immigrants in many ways, although there was then, as now, prejudice against various ethnic and national groups.  The United States was expanding rapidly, into territories and then states, with a coast-to-coast railroad having been completed, and the country firmly planted in the industrial age.  There was a great need for manpower, and womanpower, too, I'm sure.  While the streets of America were hardly paved with gold, they represented a much better opportunity for most immigrants than they had in the lands they came from.  We had at least a theoretically classless society, and people who worked hard, saved their money, and educated their children had a good chance of leading better lives than they had, along with a reasonable hope that their children would do even better.  The Statue of Liberty, which was meant to represent these opportunities, was dedicated in 1886, in the middle of this surge in immigration.

The hydraulic metaphor certainly holds up, a veritable flood of immigrants coming here to help build and expand this country, as much of a flood as Europe is experiencing right now.  This torrent worked out very well for the United States, and it is a shame to see how immigration here is now being characterized as some sort of evil force. 

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