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Beyond “Rags to Riches”: An Economic History of New York’s Irish Immigrants
Irish immigrant women withdraw money from the Emigrant Savings Bank. NEH funding supported the digitization of the bank's records, allowing for a deeper understanding of what helped immigrants succeed in the nineteenth-century United States. Image courtesy of Beyond “Rags to Riches”.

With Moving Beyond “Rags to Riches,” Tyler Anbinder created a new way of looking at immigrant experiences in the nineteenth century. With an NEH grant, the project digitized records for more than 18,000 accounts opened by immigrants at the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank from 1850 to 1858. Using these savings and deposit records, Anbinder considered the degree to which Irish immigrants were able to save money and measured their overall success in pursuing the American dream. Contrary to accounts that imagine Irish immigrants as a perpetually-poor underclass, Anbinder found that many immigrants achieved a degree of prosperity that far exceeds what most scholars have previously imagined. Anbinder also shows that creating and maintaining networks with other immigrants significantly affected immigrants’ ability to achieve a measure of prosperity.

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