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19th century: Immigration Galore

The 19th century was a period of time that was characterized by the influx of immigrants and the immigration transformation. The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 was underway, and it had the purpose of expanding the city street grid to encompass all of Manhattan. It also constituted of the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, connecting the Atlantic port and agricultural markets of Midwest US and Canada. NY became the largest city in the US by 1835, and grew exponentially as an economic center.

The Great Irish Famine

Through all of this success, NYC was hit by the Great Irish famine, which occurred from 1845-1850. Irish immigrants decided to settle in NYC, becoming 1/4 of the city’s population. After coming here, the Irish were discriminated against and were forced into harsh living conditions. They were denied the right to worship, vote, speak their language and won land. However, they participated in NYC politics, benefitting from US immigration laws that put white immigrants at an advantage.