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Defining Moments

The Dream of America: Immigration 1870-1920

  • Author/Editor: Kevin Hillstrom
  • Binding: Library binding
  • Trim Size: 7 1/4 x 9 1/4
  • Page Count: 209
  • Book Level:
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • ISBN: 978-0-7808-1070-9
  • List Price: $60.00
  • Sample Pages
  • Printable Information Sheet

Web Price: $54.00

The period of 1870 to 1920 was one of dramatic political, social, and cultural change in the United States. One major reason was the massive influx of European immigrants, many entering through Ellis Island in New York City under the steady gaze of the Statue of Liberty. These immigrants aspired to one singular objective: the American Dream of a better life for one’s family. A hardscrabble existence awaited the immigrants, whose only certainties included arduous ocean journeys, dangerous working conditions, and religious and ethnic discrimination—a legacy that continues today with the contemporary immigration debate.

Defining Moments: The Dream of America: Immigration 1870-1920 presents an authoritative account of the origins and progression of immigration to America between 1870 and 1920. It also explores the era’s lasting impact on America’s political and cultural landscape. The volume is organized into three distinct sections—Narrative Overview, Biographies, and Primary Sources—which offer a one-stop resource for student research.

  • The Narrative Overview section provides a detailed, factual account of what led up to American immigration between 1870 and 1920, the events and issues during the era, and its legacy in American society
  • The Biographies section presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the era
  • The Primary Sources section collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era, including official documents, song lyrics, memoirs, editorials, and other important works

Other notable features include a glossary of important people, places, and terms; a detailed chronology featuring page references to relevant sections of the narrative; an annotated listing of selected sources for further study; an extensive general bibliography; and a subject index.

Standard Features

  • Library binding, 7 1/4 x 9 1/4
  • 240 pages
  • 30-40 photographs and other illustrations
  • Narrative Overview section: Provides a detailed, factual account of the “defining moment”
  • Biographies section: Presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the event
  • Primary Sources section: Collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era
  • Research Topics: Proposes a list of topics suitable for conducting historical research and writing reports, a valuable starting point for student research
  • Source Attribution: Contains references for primary sources and other quoted material that guide users to other historical research resources
  • Glossary of Important People, Places, and Terms: Gives brief definitions for the many terms used in the book
  • Chronology: Highlights the related events in chronological order, along with “see” references that direct the reader to pages in the narrative with additional information
  • Sources for Further Study: Provides annotated citations for selected sources that are most useful to students
  • Bibliography: Lists books, periodicals, web sites, and videos consulted in preparing the volume
  • Subject Index: Includes people, places, organizations, events, and other topics

Research Topics

Each volume in the Defining Moments series covers a wide range of topics that students can use as starting points for further research. Potential research topics for Defining Moments: The Dream of America: Immigration 1870-1920 are below:

  • Explore the economic and political factors that drove immigrants out of Europe
  • Explain how U.S. industrialization and geographic expansion boosted immigration levels
  • Write a historically accurate fictional story based on the perils and pitfalls of the transatlantic journey
  • Describe the experiences of immigrants at Ellis Island
  • Discuss how immigrants dealt with societal discrimination and how they reached acceptance
  • Defend the “Melting Pot” quality of urban life in turn-of-the-century America
  • Discuss the factors driving efforts of native-born Americans to reduce or end immigration
  • Research the 21st century debate over the causes of and cures for illegal immigration, then present the arguments of one side of the debate
  • Explicate the idea that immigration is the fulfillment of the American promise


“Written for middle and high school students, this series is also suitable for college libraries serving students of U.S. history with a rudimentary knowledge of the English language. Simple language and the judicious use of white space make this book easy to read, while notes and references indicate a high level of scholarship throughout.”

—Library Journal, June ’09

The Dream of America: Immigration 1870-1920 is an outstanding resource for teaching and learning about this fundamental aspect of American history. It is designed and organized right from the start to be useful and informative. The research and documentation are outstanding, and it manages to provide good, detailed information at a level accessible to a wide level of readers. The illustrations are useful, and the index is well constructed. This reference resource is highly recommended for middle and high school media centers as well as public libraries. Academic libraries supporting remedial students will also find it very useful.”

—American Reference Books Annual, 2010

“Adding to the Defining Moments series on American History is The Dream of America: Immigration 1870-1920, a powerful guide providing users with an overview of immigration events, policies, and history of the times. From the economic and social forces driving immigration policies to descriptions of various immigrant experiences, this provides a key acquisition for any collection strong in social issues, especially at the high school level.”

—California Bookwatch, Oct ’09

“This book thoughtfully explains the complex issue of immigration. This intensive resource focuses primarily on the time period when immigration was at its height, but there is also a brief discussion of present-day issues.”

—VOYA, Aug ’10; VOYA Nonfiction Honor List, 2009