Question: What Constitutes A New Yorker? 1907 Part II

Remarkable study of America’s Metropolis reveals many strange facts in the makeup of its citizenship, from which it appears that the Native born New Yorker is surprisingly scarce in the city.

And yet the New Yorker is not a matter of guesswork. The nationalities and American States that enter into his make-up can be figured out to the fraction of one per cent. He can be analyzed and set out in tabulated form with as much accuracy as a chemist lists the ingredients of a mineral water or the gold quartz and dross in a lump of ore.

This is made possible by figuring at first hand from the last Government census. While the population of New York has increased by nearly a million since the census was taken in 1900, there is no reason to believe that the proportions of native and foreign born, and native born of foreign parents, have changed materially since then. To bring the tables up to date is merely a matter of multiplication. In other words, the census shows that New York had 3,437,202 inhabitants in 1900. The last estimated population, on Jan. 1 of this year, was 4,152,860, an increase of 715,658, or 20.8 percent, in the seven years since 1900. The census figures, increased by that ratio, should show the situation today.

What, then, goes into the composite photograph of that complex individual, the typical New Yorker? Imagine a man more than one-third foreigner, carrying with him all the racial traits and temperaments of his native land one of at least 24 foreign countries. These foreign-born New Yorkers form 37 per cent. of the population. There are more Germans than Irish, nearly twice as many Irish as Italians or Russians among them. The Russians and Italians put together are nearly four times more numerous than either the English or Austrians. And the New Yorkers of these seven nationalities__Germans, Irish, Italians, Russians, Austrians, and English form 81.8 percent., or more than four-fifths of the entire foreign element. All the foreigners now in New York would make an army of at least 1,500,000 people, as many as there were in the entire City of New York in 1890, before the consolidation of the boroughs.

Where New Yorkers Come From

Here are the census figures of the foreign populations brought up to date, the numbers from each of the seven leading countries being set side by side with their approximate percentage in the entire population:

Other Countries

The analysis of these figures and the other explanations in the census reports uncover more curious facts. Miss Eleanor Glyn, the English authoress, for instance, noted in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago, how foreign the people in New York streets seemed to be, and how few Anglo-Saxon types she noted among them. According to the figures just given, two people in every hundred are English, to nine Germans, seven Irishmen, four Russians, and four Italians. When it is remembered that these are the proportions not merely among the foreign born but in the entire population of New York, there is also an inkling of where New Yorkers get some of the sentimental and emotional quality of which foreign visitors say so much.

In the summary, 184, 110 foreign-born New Yorkers are credited to "other countries." The percentages of each are so small that they are hardly worth mentioning while making a composite portrait of 4,000,000 people. Small as they are though, some of the other foreign countries have enough of their sons and daughters here to populate a good-sized city.

The census figures brought up to date show, for example, that there are 17,824 New Yorkers born in France, 5,000 more people than there are in Greenwich, Conn. There are 39,710 Poles and 38,071 Hungarians. Combined, they would populate Trenton, N.J., with 4,000 people to spare. Even such a small country as Scotland has given New York 23,962 of her sons and daughters. The Scotch people in this city would nearly populate their home town of Perth.

Returning to the situation in this city: The sociologist, basing his analysis of the New Yorker on the census figures, would credit each dweller in the city to the State or foreign country in which he or she was born. Then he would add up the number of inhabitants from each State or country and find out the proportion they bore to the total population of the city. His summary would look like this:

Foreign born
Native white persons of foreign parentage
Negroes, Chinese, Japanese, and Indians
Full-fledged Americans

Total: 100.0         4,152,659

To understand how this condition can exist and New York still be an American city requires an inquiry for a moment into the very heart of metropolitan life.

The New Yorker who mixes widely and constantly with the people of his city gradually realizes by force of repetition that certain general rules may be applied to the people of the city taken en masse. The native born New Yorkers of families long established, for instance, still hold the citadel of fashionable society, admitting from time to time "new people" to the circle.

In the same general way the rulers and "motive power" of the city the great executive officers, the financiers, merchants, scientists, teachers, and experts in every line of endeavor are not natives of the city. They are drawn from all parts of the world, subject to one condition each must be superlative in his way.


Website: The History
Article Name: Question: What Constitutes A New Yorker? 1907 Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The New York Times November 17, 1907
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