Friday, December 18, 2015

Guide to the United States for the Jewish Immigrant

John Foster Carr - Guide to the United States for the Jewish Immigrant (1916)

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The title pretty much covers it.  Where to find work, how to learn English, becoming a citizen, which societies can provide help, postage charges, passports - it's all a pretty straightforward guidebook.  A century later it's a fascinating look at both the American culture of the time and what was expected (at least by this author) of immigrants.  There's advice on moving away from New York City for lower living costs and better employment opportunities - an entire section is devoted to farm work.

I do wonder why the section on bigamy, divorce and public hygiene is in all capital letters - was this actually a problem or something the author was overly concerned about?  Ok, bigamy sure but "IT IS A CRIME TO BEAT OR SHAKE A MAT, CARPET, RUG, OR GARMENT OUT OF A WINDOW" which goes on for a full, detailed paragraph seems a bit excessive.

I wish there was more details about the book itself.  No price is listed so was it sold or distributed free?  The title page says it's translated from Yiddish so did Carr actually write it and if so in Yiddish?

John Foster Carr (1869-1939) founded the Immigrant Publication Society which produced this book.  He was active in helping immigrants arriving in NYC (the NY Public Library holds his papers) and wrote numerous books and pamphlets on that topic.  In 1911 he had been commissioned by the Daughters of the American Revolution to write a guide for Italian immigrants and either the DAR or the adjustment of largely rural immigrants to city life may have resulted in the focus on hygiene and social expectations.  (See Alan M. Kraut's 1995 Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes and the Immigrant Menace, p120.)   In 1906 he reported on the construction of the Panama Canal for Outlook.