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Our Plural History | Springfield, MA
Immigrants coming to the "Land of Promise"
Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division,(cph 3a09957/ LC-USZ62-7307)

Table of Contents

Industrialization & Immigration

Industrialization in the United States increased the demand for workers. Millions of people from abroad began to pour into the country. They came for a variety of reasons - to seek better lives, new opportunities, as well as to escape from oppression. In addition, this period also witnessed massive migrations of people from the Deep South and the hinterlands of America into the cities. Many African-Americans, during the Great Migration, fled the segregationist Jim Crow system in the South to join a thriving, long-established black community in Springfield. >More

Industry and Innovation in the Connecticut River Valley
From motorcycles to firearms, automobiles to hand tools, Springfield has been a center of technological and industrial innovations since the nineteenth century.

The Springfield Armory
Founded during the American Revolution by George Washington, the Springfield Armory provided valuable jobs for the area, developed technologies and produced skilled laborers for the area's other industries, and sparked a booming firearms industry which continues today in the Connecticut River Valley.

Polish Immigrants in the Valley
During the late nineteenth century, Polish immigrants were arriving in the Connecticut River Valley to begin new lives as small farmers and factory workers in towns like Chicopee and Sunderland, MA.

Irish Immigrants in Holyoke
The Connecticut River Valley experienced an influx of Irish immigrants in the wake of the potato famine that ravaged Ireland in 1845. The fast growing industrial city of Holyoke, MA, upriver from Springfield, emerged as a major destination for Irish immigrants.

French-Canadian Immigrants in Holyoke
Beginning in the 1840s, famine and overpopulation prompted many French-Canadians to immigrate to the United States. Their close proximity and willingness to work for low wages made French-Canadian laborers attractive to Massachusetts manufacturers, and French-Canadians were the single largest source for new immigration to Holyoke from the 1860s until after the turn of the century, reaching a peak population of 16,000 in 1910.

The World of Basketball
Though versions of the game have been played throughout history, the sport of basketball today reflects the multiethnic, multiracial society of the United States. James Naismith, a Canadian born to Scottish immigrant parents, invented the modern form of the game in Springfield in 1891.

Greek Immigrants in Springfield
Greeks first arrived in Springfield during the mid-1880s, but it was not until the Ottoman Empire began to disintegrate in the early twentieth century that Greeks started to immigrate in significant numbers. Greek-speaking immigrants arrived from Eastern Thrace, Asia Minor, Crete, Northern Epirus, and the Aegean Islands.

Italian Immigrants in Springfield
Large numbers of Italian immigrants came to the United States in successive waves from the 1860’s to World War and many of these people came to call Springfield their home.

German Immigrants in Springfield
Never more than a fraction of Springfield's population, the German-American community has had a social and cultural influence disproportionate to its size.

Jewish Immigrants in Springfield
Several waves of immigrants from central and eastern Europe increased the Jewish population in North America to around twenty thousand in 1848 and several hundred thousand by 1880.

Armenian Communities in the Valley
Fleeing the brutality of the Armenian Genocide of the mid 1890s-1915, many Armenians came in search of safety and a new life in the Valley.

The Great Migration
Springfield, with its connections to the abolitionist movement and industrial economy, seemed a natural place for many African-Americans to settle. Between 1900 and 1940, Springfield's African-American community grew from 1,021 to 3,212.