February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924 | Touch and Go

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New immigrantsThe promise of the today’s Internet and software is the ability to mine some of the best available resources—wherever they may be. That promise has seen fruition in New York City’s Department of Education partnership with four cultural institutions—the National Archives at New York City, the Museum of the City of New York, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Together they have gathered and curated an extraordinary collection of 100-plus primary and secondary sources and images related to the second wave of wave of U.S. immigration in The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924. (Vangard Direct, iOS; Free; Gr 4 Up). The app was designed for teachers to use with students, but will be appreciated by anyone interested in early 20th-century American history.

Combining contemporary and historical essays, oral histories, archival photos, video clips, documents, and more, this superb production touches on the economic, religious, and political reasons people left their homes at the turn of the century and made the grueling trip to the United States. Tenement life and assimilation into New York City’s Lower East Side receives in-depth treatment. A section titled “Nativism” explores the backlash initiated by established U.S. residents that led to damaging, “prejudicial public policies and stereotypes” toward and about the new immigrants.

Interior screen from "The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924" (Vanguard)

Interior screen from “The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924” (Vanguard)

Six distinct sections cover these topics, each one accessed from the main screen. An archival photo provides the backdrop to an introductory line or two of text for each section, while a series of smaller, circular images open to additional resources. (Swiping left, more resources become visible.) For each image or document, icons provide source information; suggestions of questions and prompts (developed by a team of educators and assigned a grade level—elementary, middle or high school); links to other resources; and tools to create a collection within the collection (think: to project onto a screen, or deliver as a defined lesson). In all there are 100-plus resources, some of which can be accessed under more than one section. For example, a 1921 news article on “The Foreigner” can be found under “Nativism” and “Assimilation and Cultural Preservation,” underscoring how one aspect of life at the time impacted others.

Among the many images of artifacts are a pouch for carrying documents, a basket used as a suitcase, a naturalization certification, a child’s report card, a union card, ships’ manifests, and a handwritten copy of Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus”—all incredibly poignant in this context. The numerous black-and-white photos of daily life include telling scenes from inside homes, schools, factories, and on the street; a number bear the name of Jacob Riis (1849-1914).

Context is provided in essays such as Edward T. O’Donnell’s 21st-century look at “Immigrant Life” and contemporary commentary by Robert Alston Stevenson in “The Poor in Summer,” published in Scribner’s Magazine in 1901, and William Dean Howells’s “An East Side Ramble,” about a 1896 visit he made to various ethnic quarters. Of particular interest are the oral histories including those by a sweatshop girl from Poland, an Irish cook, a bootblack from Italy, and a man from China who worked as a servant before opening a laundry. They describe life in their homeland, their employment in the United States, and daily living, including such incidentals as weekly expenditures on food.

The app offers step-by-step instructions on using the tools, and outlines teaching strategies, activities, and methods in detail under a section titled “Teaching Immigration.” Also found there are examples of lessons in “Document Based Performance Tasks,” aligned with the New York City Social Studies Scope and Sequence in grades 4, 8, and 11 and the Common Core State Standards.

A search bar, frequent additional links, and fluid navigation make the information in The New Immigrants easy to access. In the range and depth of its resources and support material, the app will help students understand the value of primary and secondary sources, develop insights into the immigrant experience of the millions of new arrivals to our nation in the early 20th century, and explore historical thinking. It’s not to be missed. Download it now.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated Touch and Go webpage.


A 1915 membership certificate to the Immigrant Aid Society of America from “The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924” (Vanguard)

Esther Pearlman's card from the Ladies Waist & Dressmakers Union. "The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1923" (Vanguard)t

Esther Pearlman’s “Ladies Waist & Dressmakers” union card. “The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924” (Vanguard)

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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