‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 8.’ by a Correspondent in New York (8 April, 1882)

The following is part of a series of articles on the condition of the United States of America for working class Scottish immigrants. One of the core tenants of The People’s Journal was to encourage self-improvement for the working classes. For these reason the paper would regularly promote emigration and provide news  and publish correspondence from the major destination of Scots in the period (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Here the discussion focuses on employment.

Employment Agencies—How to Purchase Land—Best States to Settle In.

Before referring to the principal States which are most recommended to those who follow agricultural industry, allow me to warn all intending emigrants, of what ever class or sex, not to be led away be advertisements, whether in newspapers or otherwise, inviting there to patronise what are called “intelligence offices” or “employment agencies.” The advertisement generally reads something like this—“All unemployed help gladly assisted in obtaining employment. Call from 10 to 2. Merchants Mutual, 42 Fourth Avenue.” There are a great many such offices in large cities here. I have no doubt some of them are honest enough, but the difficulty is in knowing which is which.

Again there is another form of getting employment when emigrants (or greenhorns as they are called) land here; it is termed “The Castle Garden Labour Bureau.” I believe this Bureau is an honest affair. But I think it is far better for the emigrants, both male and female, to bring, if they can, a little money with them, so that they can go to any place where they may have relations or acquaintances, or where they have some knowledge that some particular State or place has more inducements than others for them. The following is a summary of the number of emigrants who were provided with work by the Labour Bureau last year, with the wages paid to farm hands and female servants:—

Males. Females.
Irish, 11,131 8,863
German, 23,812 1,125
Scandinavians, 812 273
Russians and Poles, 912 21
Swiss, 1,070 166
Hungarians and Bohemians, 585 147
English, Scotch, and Welsh, 522 302
French, 106 28
Hollanders, 58 9
Italians, 32 5
Arabs, 3
Turks, 3 1
Canadians, 10
Armenians, 2

The average monthly wages paid to farm labourers and female servants for whom work was procured, according to the statistics of the Labour Bureau, was as follows:—

Farm Hands. Female Servants.
January, $6.50 $8.00
February, 8.00 8.00
March, 11.50 8.00
April, 14.00 10.00
May, 14.50 10.50
June, 15.00 10.50
July, 15.50 10.50
August, 12.00 10.00
September, 11.00 10.00
October, 9.00 9.00
November, 8.00 8.00
December, 8.00 8.00

For those thoroughly acquainted with agricultural labour there is plenty of scope to write on this subject, as so many hundreds of millions of acres of rich soil are not yet under cultivations. That which is cultivated yields enormous crops of all kinds. This refers to both the States and Canada. It is said that when some Americans go to Great Britain they will not go out after dark for fear of falling off the island; but there is little fear of any pedestrian falling off our island.

There is one State of the Union attracting much attention in the meantime. It is the State of Texas. It is by far the largest State in the Union. It lies to the far south-west, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on the south and Indian territory on the north. It has an area of 274,356 square miles. It is much more than twice the size of Great Britain, and much larger than all Germany. With as many inhabitants as Great Britain has to the square mile, 50 million people could be comfortably sustained. There is land enough in this State to give four acres to every man, woman, and child in all the United States of America. Its products are many, and its resources are infinite. It is called the Rising Glory of the South by virtue of its resources, as vast as its area, and as varied as they are vast. In the south-west Texas leads the Union in the march of enterprise and development. Corn, wheat, barley, oats, rye, sugar, fruits, &c., grow in abundance. The sugar cane grows to the height of 12 or 14 feet, and of the circumference of a man’s leg. Wheat yields 35 bushels to the acre, 67 pounds to the bushel; barley 80 bushels to the acre; cotton will average 500 pounds to the acre. Some of the fruit grows to a great size. Some pears shown at an exhibition lately were grown in this State, one of which weighed 32 ounces and another 26 ounces. Marble, granite, and other building stones are quarried all over the State. Satin wood, which takes on a high polish, and is used for making furniture; bois d’arc, a remarkably tough wood for spars and axles, and all the varieties of oak, gum, and other woods grow all over the State. It is also rich in minerals—iron, silver, and lead predominating. Wild grapes grow in profusion, of superior size. Some of the smaller varieties have borne fruit within six months after transplanting. Government grants so much money and so much land to the State for educational purposes. This land is sold by the School Board for the benefit of the schools. The minimum price of public school land is one dollar an acre. Other public lands are subject to homestead location, or are for sale at 20 cents an acre. County school lands are controlled by the respective counties. Ex-Governor Hubbard, of the State, says the immigration at present is equal to that of 1877-8, when it amounted to half a million of people. At the present time four thousand men are at work in the State on new railroads. A gentleman who recently visited Texas says:—“It is easier to obtain a clear title does not come either from the U.S. Government or from the railways to which the Government has made grants.” This same traveller adds:—“Texas with her imperial domain of fertile soil produces nearly all the fruits of the earth in perfection. She has an immense aggregate of unfailing water power, and an area sufficient to contain a population.”

The State of New York has much desirable land for settlers. The eastern part of Long Island has a light friable soil inclined to be sandy, but yielding very large crops when properly manured. The railroad with its speedy access to New York and Brooklyn makes the markets the best on the Continent. Much of this land is purchasable at from three to ten dollars an acre, and for market gardening from ten to twenty acres is sufficient. The northern part of the State of New York has a vast tract of land, known as the John Brown tract, covering the greater part of several large counties of excellent farming lands, with numerous lakes and streams—valuable land for grain crops, especially wheat, barley, oats, rye, and buckwheat. There are some bears, badgers, catamounts, lynxes, and many foxes, woodchucks, rabbits, squirrels, and feathered game of all sorts, and delicious fish in great abundance. Land can be purchased in this part of the State at from 50 cents to 5 dollars per acre. Pennsylvania has near the centre of the State a similar tract of desirable though mountainous land.

But perhaps in some respects the most desirable region for some classes of immigrants and settlers is to be found in West Virginia. The region is hilly, but wherever it can be cultivated the soil is rich and productive. The whole region abounds in valuable timber—black walnut, oak, ash, beech, hickory, chestnut, and other hard woods, with a fair proportion of hemlock and pine. These command high prices at markets readily accessible. Its mineral wealth of coal of the best quality, petroleum, salt, lime, &c., is inexhaustible. The markets of Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Norfolk, and Baltimore are easily accessible from nearly all points of the State. These railroads cross the State one at its northern border, one at its southern, and one nearly through its centre. The Ohio river also skirts the border of the State on the north-west, and in navigable for large steamers. The climate is excellent. Land can be purchased in this State at from three to ten dollars per acre, and tracts not so desirable at lower prices.


(To be continued.)


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