A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood - Immigration

Unlike the English and Scottish workers who had arrived twenty years earlier, the Irish were generally laborers who would need to find mainly unskilled work in the mills, factories, shops, and public services rather than shop their skills to the highest bidder.

But they did find work.  The sheer numbers of Irish almost assured that the new immigrants would make inroads somehow.  Paramount to their success was the fact that they not only spoke, but could apparently both read and write, English.  Census data from 1855 indicate that all but seven of the 823 males aged twenty-one or older in the Fifth Ward could read and write English—a staggering official literacy rate of 99.2%.  The lack of knowledge of English would indeed be a bar to advancement in the Fifth ward, a fact punctuated by the simple verity that all but 72 of the 2375 residents were born in a country whose official language was English at the time of the census.  The second largest group of mid-nineteenth century immigrants—the Germans—did not settle in the ward in any large numbers.* 

In 1855 only 63 respondents (2.6%) claimed to have been born in the German Empire.  This percentage would never increase.**  Germans were far more likely to settle in Albany, the perennial commercial rival of Troy.  Throughout the nineteenth-century foreign-born Germans would always constitute a higher percentage of the population of Albany than of Troy, while Troy would always have a higher percentage of foreign-born Irish.***

* Census of the State of New York for 1855 (Albany: Charles Van Benthuysen, 1857).

** In 1865 only 54 respondents (1.8%) in the ward claimed to have been born in the German Empire.  In 1875 only 115 (2.6%) claimed the same.  1855 census numbers indicate that there were only 820 foreign-born Germans in the whole of Troy proper, comprising merely 2.4% of the population.  By contrast, Albany had 4,955 foreign-born German residents in 1855, comprising 8.6% of the total population.  Census of the State of New York for 1855.

*** Census of the State of New York for 1845-1895.

 

 

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