A Wave of Immigration
The vast majority of the Czechs who immigrated to the United States between 1850 and 1890 came to escape hunger, not political oppression.. Although Europe´s population boomed during the early decades of the 19th century, the amount of arable land remained the same or even diminished, and the existing technology did not enable food production to keep pace with the growth in population. In the 1840s a blight devastated Bohemia´s potato crop. Becouse many peasant families relied on the potato as a dietary staple, widespread hunger and even starvation followed. Still, many Czechs expressed great reluctance to leave their homeland in the early 1840s. Immigration oversees seemed a drastic solution to the famine, and mamny preferred to starve in their native land rather than abandon the soil their family had tilled for generations.
The revolutions of 1840 changed the Czechs´ attitude about leaving home. The turmoil reinforced many intellectuals´ determination to leave, and dome peasants decided to follow their lead. By that time, reports from the approximately 500 political refuges who had already resettled iin the United States had reached European Czechs, presenting a glowing picture of a country bursting with opportunity and laden with gold. By 1849 word of the gold strike at Sutter´s Mill, California, aroused even greater interest in immigration to the United States...
Some news of America came from the advertisements of shipping companies, which reaped enormous profits from the transportation of immigrants to North America...
By Stephanie Saxon-Ford from publication The Czech Americans
A cartoon depicts life before and aafter immigration. Similar illustrations of prosperity in America filled Bohemian journals during the late 1800s and encouraged the exodus of Czechs from their native land.
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