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Presentation Immigration and Relocation in U.S. History

Filling the Nation's Breadbasket

Threshing Grain. Beach, North Dakota

For more than a century, hundreds of thousands of the newest German immigrants made their way to America's farm country, where they helped form the backbone of the nation's agriculture. As previous generations of Germans had before them, these immigrants made their homes on the outskirts of European settlement, where land was affordable. Germans poured into the available lands in the center of the North American continent--the valleys of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri Rivers--and began farming the fertile land around the Great Lakes. By the mid-19th century, over half of the German-born people in North America lived in this region.

The Chaff of the Summer Threshing Floors

Later in the century, many Germans would head even farther west to the open spaces of Texas and the Dakotas--often traveling in the Conestoga wagons that Pennsylvania German farmers had invented to carry their crops to market. In the late 1800s, Germans joined the early settlers in the Pacific Northwest and California, where they were among the first to cultivate oranges, now one of the trademark crops of the American West.