• First Steps in Americanization; A Handbook for Teachers, 1918. Courtesy of HathiTrust.

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    First steps in Americanization; a handbook for teachers
    • Date
    • [c1918]
    • Creator
    • Mahoney, John Joseph, 1880-.
    • Description
    • This book ... attempts only to discuss the first steps in the Americanization process, namely, the tasks of teaching the immigrant how to talk, to write, and to read."-Pref.
    • Rights
    • Public domain only when viewed in the US. Learn more at http://www.hathitrust.org/access_use
    • Partner
    • HathiTrust
    • Contributing Institution
    • Harvard University.

  • A memo describing and praising the resident children at the Brownson Settlement House Library, their choices of reading material, and "the influence of the library and librarian on shaping the dreams of Mexican immigrant children," 1919. Courtesy of Loyola Marymount University via California Digital Library.

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    Memo praising the reading habits of children at Brownson Settlement House, November 29, 1919
    • Date
    • 1919 November 29
    • Creator
    • Unknown.
    • Rights
    • Materials in the Department of Archives and Special Collections may be subject to copyright. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, Loyola Marymount University does not claim ownership of the copyright of any materials in its collections. Please refer t... more
      Materials in the Department of Archives and Special Collections may be subject to copyright. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, Loyola Marymount University does not claim ownership of the copyright of any materials in its collections. Please refer to: http://library.lmu.edu/generalinformation/departments/digitallibraryprogram/copyrightandreproductionpolicy/. less
    • Partner
    • California Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Loyola Marymount University, Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library

  • "Readers in the Ellis Island Hospital Library," 1875. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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    Readers in the Ellis Island Hospital Library
    • Description
    • Album 2; Ellis Island; Album, 8" x 6 1/2", consisting of covers of embossed paper and manila paper pages, each punch with two holes for binding. Photographs are each approximately 3 14" x 5 1/4" and are glued onto manila pages, which have typed capti... more
      Album 2; Ellis Island; Album, 8" x 6 1/2", consisting of covers of embossed paper and manila paper pages, each punch with two holes for binding. Photographs are each approximately 3 14" x 5 1/4" and are glued onto manila pages, which have typed captions. "*Percy Sperr" in ink on inside of front cover. Photographer. Man standing with book, child sitting and reading. less
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/UND/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library

As a patriotic duty, the task of "Americanizing the immigrant" engaged a network of libraries, schools, churches, and other organizations. The Americanization movement, which began in response to both European immigration and World War I, reached its height around 1921, when more than thirty states and hundreds of cities adopted Americanization measures. Some of this legislation provided for positive support measures like night classes in English and civics at schools and libraries. Other legislation was more punitive, including prohibiting immigrants who had not been naturalized from holding particular jobs or the banning of foreign languages in public settings.

Public libraries were key partners in the Americanization movement. The Immigration Act of 1917, a response to increasing native-born anxiety about immigration, banned illiterate immigrants over the age of sixteen as well as most Asian immigrant entry into the US and would not be formally altered until 1952. Because of this legislation, public library Americanization activities included adult education trainings to prepare immigrants for citizenship and related literacy tests.

The American Library Association’s Committee on Work with the Foreign Born encouraged public libraries to incorporate programming that supported immigrant assimilation into American culture. In addition to helping immigrants with speaking, reading, and writing skills in English, programs helped them understand America’s history, participate in patriotic activities, and learn middle- and upper-class American cultural norms like rules for hosting guests and table manners. Some libraries that gave etiquette training to immigrant women also lent them place settings so that they might host dinner guests in the proper way even when they could not afford the equipment.