Selling America

Immigration Promotion and the Settlement of the American Continent, 1607–1914

by Christina A. Ziegler-McPherson


Between 1845 and 1911, 35 U.S. states passed laws or developed policies to encourage immigration from Northern Europe to their territories. What were the motivations behind these immigration-friendly policies?

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Cover image for Selling America

February 2017


Pages 229
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics American History/Race and Ethnicity
  Race and Ethnicity/General

An in-depth look at the motivating factors behind immigration to America from 1607 to 1914, including what attracted people to America, who was trying to attract them, and why.

Between 1820 and 1920, more than 33 million Europeans immigrated to the United States seeking the "American Dream." They came in response to an image of America as a land of opportunity and upward mobility sold to them by state governments, railroads, religious and philanthropic groups, and other boosters. But as historian Christina A. Ziegler-McPherson shows in Selling America: Immigration Promotion and the Settlement of the American Continent, 1607–1914, the desire to make and keep America a "white man's country" meant that only Northern Europeans would be recruited as settlers and future citizens while Africans, Asians, and other non-whites would be either grudgingly tolerated as slaves or guest workers, or excluded entirely.

The work reframes immigration policy as an extension of American labor policy and connects the removal of American Indians from their lands to the settlement of European immigrants across the North American continent. The author contends that Western and Midwestern states with large American Indian, Asian and/or Mexican populations developed aggressive policies to promote immigration from Europe to help displace those peoples, while Southern states sought to reduce their dependency upon black labor by doing the same. Chapters highlight the promotional policies and migration demographics for each region of the United States.


  • Features a synthesis of 35 state promotional policies regarding immigration
  • Challenges the commonly held view that the 19th century was a period of "laissez faire" immigration policy
  • Examines the question of why immigrants migrate to certain areas
  • Highlights the corporate, for-profit nature of English colonization in the 17th century
  • Includes private corporate, religious, and philanthropic promotional activities
  • Analyzes why policymakers favored certain immigrant groups over others
Author Info

Christina A. Ziegler-McPherson, PhD, is a public historian and museum curator. She has a doctorate in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She held a Fulbright scholar fellowship to Germany in 2014–2015. Her published works include Americanization in the States: Immigrant Social Welfare Policy, Citizenship, and National Identity in the United States, 1908–1929 and Immigrants in Hoboken: One-Way Ticket, 1845–1985. She specializes in migration policy and history, assimilation theory, and community history.



"Overall, by collecting information about the diverse recruitment efforts into a single source, the book will provide a valuable addition to the literature covering U.S. immigration and ethnic history. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic levels/libraries."Choice

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