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The Stamford Historical Society Presents

Immigrants' Stamford

Along Old Pacific Street

The transformation of Stamford from a group of loosely connected Yankee farming villages to today's multicultural urban center began about 150 years ago. This change was initiated by the coming of the railroad in 1848 and driven by 100 years of industrialization. Waves of European and Afro-American immigrants and migrants altered for ever life in the original villages.

Our first wave came from Ireland in the 1850s to 1880s, Our second wave, 1900 to the 1930s, came mostly from Eastern and Southern Europe. Although the nation erected barriers to immigration during the 1920s, these new Stomfordites continued to create communities, institutions, and cultural practices here long after that. In the last 50 years immigration to Stamford has accelerated and diversified.

The displays now in the Society's galleries are a part of the IMMIGRANTS' STAMFORD program, which is concerned with our second wave of immigration. It is an interactive curriculum supplement for third--and fifth-graders. It opens with a slide show of Stamford before mass immigration, an actor's portrayal of Irish immigrant experience, and the story of an early African-American migrant to Stamford. The children then imagine that for the next hour they will be immigrants, no longer US citizens.

In small groups they tour Old Pacific Street, heart of the second-wave immigrant community, now buried under the Mall but very much alive in the museum's long hallway, The small groups also meet an Old Pacific Street resident in his tenement rooms, do family piecework, hear diverse immigrant stories, and manufacture paper padlocks on a simulated factory production line.

Re-assembled in the auditorium, a dozen children reenact for all the others two Stamford stories of becoming a citizen - one a failure and one a too-easy success. Then a child wearing a judge's robe returns all the others to citizenship in an all-rise-and-raise-your-right-hand swearing-in ceremony.

This depiction of immigrant experience 70 to 100 years ago tells part of the story of new people from all over the world building, changing, and enlivening our city.

Immigrant Stories of Stamford