Monday, October 26, 2009

Globeville: the Melting Pot

The arrival of so many immigrants to Globeville was the product of perfect timing. The rapid growth of industry in Colorado during the 1870s and 80s motivated employers to recruit people who would work for less than American-born workers even as economic, religious and political unrest in eastern Europe and Russia led hundreds of thousands to emigrate. Agents from the railroads and the Gilpin County Cheap Labor Bureau distributed fliers that promised lucrative jobs on the railroads and in the mines; smelters welcomed those who would endure the gritty, dangerous work near furnaces. These factors led to an explosion in the number of immigrants arriving during the 1880s, and by the mid 1890s, one in four people in Denver was foreign-born.* Then the bottom fell out.
The nation’s economy collapsed in 1893, which hit Colorado’s mining-based economy particularly hard. Late arrivals found themselves competing with American-born workers, as well as with earlier groups, for fewer jobs. The newcomers were resented because they would work for lower wages, had large families, and didn't speak English. Settling near their countrymen, they created ethnic enclaves within a larger neighborhood, and did not assimilate as easily as the earlier immigrants had done. Although Globeville was called a “melting pot,” the term is not an accurate description since each group tried to maintain its own language, religion and cultural traditions. These groups include:
  • The German-speaking group, who came not from Germany, but from a region of Russia along the Volga River.
  • The Poles, who began to migrate to the United States following partitions of Poland among Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary that began in 1772. More political unrest in the 1870s and 1880s brought large numbers to Globeville.
  • Southern Slavs, including Slovenians, Croatians, Macedonians, and Serbs, who came from an area that had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • There were also Russian, Slovak, Czech and “Carpatho-Russian” families, whose countries had been annexed by Austria-Hungary or Russia.
  • Hispanic settlers, some who can trace their family's presence in America to the 16th century, began to settle in Globeville after World War II.
*Leonard, Stephen J. “Denver’s Foreign Born Immigrants, 1859-1900,” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Claremont Graduate School, 1971
A printed advertisement from the turn of the century announces, “The Slovenian Singing Club will sing Slovenian folk songs in the City’s Fourth of July program.” The women are left, Carrie Grugan, and right, Mollie Zalar. Photo courtesy of Betty Zalar Paprocki

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