These immigrants consisted of two groups: The last big waves of the “Old Immigration” from Germany, Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia, and the rising waves of the “New Immigration”, which peaked about 1910. Some men moved back and forth across the Atlantic, but most were permanent settlers. They moved into well-established communities, both urban and rural. The German American communities spoke German, but their younger generation was bilingual.100 The Scandinavian groups generally assimilated quickly; they were noted for their support of reform programs, such as prohibition.101Businessman P.
J. Kennedy of Boston in 1900; his grandson John became president in 1960.In terms of immigration, after 1880 the old immigration of Germans, British, Irish, and Scandinavians slackened off. The United States was producing large numbers of new unskilled jobs every year, and to fill them came number from Italy, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Russia, Greece, and other points in southern and central Europe, as well as French Canada.
The older immigrants by the 1870s had formed highly stable communities, especially the German Americans.102 The British immigrants tended to blend into the general population.103Irish Catholics had arrived in large numbers in the 1840s and 1850s in the wake of the great famine in Ireland when starvation killed millions.
Their first few decades were characterized by extreme poverty, social dislocation, crime and violence in their slums. By the late 19th century, the Irish communities had largely stabilized, with a strong new “lace curtain” middle-class of local businessmen, professionals, and political leaders typified by P. J. Kennedy (1858–1929) in Boston. In economic terms, Irish Catholics were nearly at the bottom in the 1850s.
They reached the national average by 1900, and by the late 20th century they far surpassed the national average.104