What were immigrants reading as they flocked to the United States in the late nineteenth century and since?
As immigration to the United States greatly expanded, so did the foreign-1 anguage press. By the 1880s, there were nearly eight hundred foreign-1 anguage newspapers; by World War I there were close to 1300 dailies and weeklies. Most of these were small businesses that, like neighborhood restaurants, were quickly begun and often failed just as quickly, but some lasted. There were newspapers in Danish, German, Italian, and Yiddish that lasted more than a century.
The largest foreign-language press was German. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century there were even German-speaking labor unions and German-l anguage labor newspapers to serve them, more than one hundred published between 1870 and 1900. A general circulation German paper, the New York Staats-Zeitung, had a circulation of 90,000 in the 1890s—making it at the time the largest German-language newspaper in the world. But the German-language press was all but wiped out in World War I when the German-American community strongly opposed America's entry into the war on the side of Germany's enemies. When the United States declared war on Germany, the German-l anguage newspapers affirmed their loyalty to America, but they still lost subscribers and advertisers who feared the enmity of their neighbors for everything overtly German. Moreover, the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 required that publishers of foreign- language news articles about the war file translations with their local postmasters before publication. This was costly and forced some of the newspapers out of business. Others lost mailing privileges when they were seen as critics of US government policy. Under wartime legislation, the government charged some editors with disloyalty.
A foreign-language press survived into the 1940s, when there were still 1000 newspapers and magazines in thirty-eight languages, but the foreign-l anguage press did not regain the prominence it had in 1910. Still, with immigration growing again after immigration reform in the 1960s, and notably new immigration from Latin America and from Asia, foreign- language papers serving new immigrant communities revived and expanded. Notable also is the emergence of Spanish- language broadcasting.