What California's immigrant population looked like in 1900

Written by:
March 26, 2022
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What California's immigrant population looked like in 1900

Since the first successful English colony settled in Jamestown in 1607, flows of immigrants have arrived on American shores seeking a new life. From Irish immigrants fleeing famine to Chinese immigrants settling in California during the Gold Rush, more than 86 million people legally immigrated to the United States between 1783 and 2019.

There have been four major waves of immigration to the U.S., beginning with settlers from northern and western Europe seeking land on the frontier from 1820 to 1880. The immigrants counted in the 1900 Census hailed primarily from southern and eastern Europe, drawn by the call of industrialization in America. At the advent of the era of world wars, there was a dearth of immigration, but after 1965, individuals from Asia and Latin America began to move to the U.S. in droves.

Though the national immigrant population today and in 1900 is comparable by percentage, hovering around 14% of the overall U.S. population, the raw population tells a different story. Today, the U.S. is home to 44.7 million immigrants, whereas that number was just shy of 10.5 million at the time of the 1900 Census. Stacker compiled a list of the largest sources of immigrants in California in 1900 by transcribing a previously untranscribed dataset from the U.S. Census Bureau. Countries are ranked by total residents who were born in that country.

Immigration to the U.S. was handled at the state level prior to 1890, with each state government designating its own processes and checkpoints. New York originally used Castle Garden (now Castle Clinton) as its immigration processing hub, but within a few decades realized that a massive influx of immigrants necessitated a larger venue. Ellis Island opened on Jan. 1, 1892, to the first of more than 12 million individuals who entered the U.S. through its doors.

Keep reading to find out more about the historical immigrant community in your home state or explore the data on your own on our site, GitHub, or data.world.

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#1. Germany

California
- Number of residents: 72,449
- Percent of foreign born residents: 19.73%
- Percent of total state population: 4.88%
National
- Number of residents: 2,669,164
- Percent of foreign born residents: 25.52%
- #1 most common country of origin

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#2. Ireland

California
- Number of residents: 44,476
- Percent of foreign born residents: 12.11%
- Percent of total state population: 2.99%
National
- Number of residents: 1,619,409
- Percent of foreign born residents: 15.48%
- #2 most common country of origin

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#3. China

California
- Number of residents: 40,262
- Percent of foreign born residents: 10.96%
- Percent of total state population: 2.71%
National
- Number of residents: 106,659
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.02%
- #16 most common country of origin

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#4. England

California
- Number of residents: 35,746
- Percent of foreign born residents: 9.73%
- Percent of total state population: 2.41%
National
- Number of residents: 843,491
- Percent of foreign born residents: 8.06%
- #4 most common country of origin

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#5. Canada

California
- Number of residents: 29,818
- Percent of foreign born residents: 8.12%
- Percent of total state population: 2.01%
National
- Number of residents: 1,183,225
- Percent of foreign born residents: 11.31%
- #3 most common country of origin

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#6. Italy

California
- Number of residents: 22,777
- Percent of foreign born residents: 6.20%
- Percent of total state population: 1.53%
National
- Number of residents: 484,703
- Percent of foreign born residents: 4.63%
- #6 most common country of origin

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#7. Sweden

California
- Number of residents: 14,549
- Percent of foreign born residents: 3.96%
- Percent of total state population: 0.98%
National
- Number of residents: 574,625
- Percent of foreign born residents: 5.49%
- #5 most common country of origin

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#8. France

California
- Number of residents: 12,256
- Percent of foreign born residents: 3.34%
- Percent of total state population: 0.83%
National
- Number of residents: 104,534
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.00%
- #18 most common country of origin

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#9. Portugal

California
- Number of residents: 12,068
- Percent of foreign born residents: 3.29%
- Percent of total state population: 0.81%
National
- Number of residents: 37,144
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.36%
- #23 most common country of origin

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#10. Switzerland

California
- Number of residents: 10,974
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.99%
- Percent of total state population: 0.74%
National
- Number of residents: 115,959
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.11%
- #15 most common country of origin

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#11. Japan

California
- Number of residents: 10,264
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.79%
- Percent of total state population: 0.69%
National
- Number of residents: 81,590
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.78%
- #21 most common country of origin

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#12. Scotland

California
- Number of residents: 9,467
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.58%
- Percent of total state population: 0.64%
National
- Number of residents: 234,699
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.24%
- #11 most common country of origin

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#13. Denmark

California
- Number of residents: 9,040
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.46%
- Percent of total state population: 0.61%
National
- Number of residents: 154,616
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.48%
- #13 most common country of origin

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#14. Mexico

California
- Number of residents: 8,086
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.20%
- Percent of total state population: 0.54%
National
- Number of residents: 103,445
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.99%
- #19 most common country of origin

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#15. Austria

California
- Number of residents: 5,356
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.46%
- Percent of total state population: 0.36%
National
- Number of residents: 276,702
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.65%
- #10 most common country of origin

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#16. Norway

California
- Number of residents: 5,060
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.38%
- Percent of total state population: 0.34%
National
- Number of residents: 338,426
- Percent of foreign born residents: 3.24%
- #9 most common country of origin

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#17. Atlantic Islands

California
- Number of residents: 3,515
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.96%
- Percent of total state population: 0.24%
National
- Number of residents: 10,955
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.10%
- #29 most common country of origin

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#18. Russia

California
- Number of residents: 3,421
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.93%
- Percent of total state population: 0.23%
National
- Number of residents: 424,372
- Percent of foreign born residents: 4.06%
- #7 most common country of origin

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#19. Finland

California
- Number of residents: 2,768
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.75%
- Percent of total state population: 0.19%
National
- Number of residents: 63,440
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.61%
- #22 most common country of origin

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#20. Australia

California
- Number of residents: 2,269
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.62%
- Percent of total state population: 0.15%
National
- Number of residents: 7,041
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.07%
- #34 most common country of origin

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#21. Wales

California
- Number of residents: 1,949
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.53%
- Percent of total state population: 0.13%
National
- Number of residents: 93,744
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.90%
- #20 most common country of origin

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#22. Poland

California
- Number of residents: 1,320
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.36%
- Percent of total state population: 0.09%
National
- Number of residents: 383,595
- Percent of foreign born residents: 3.67%
- #8 most common country of origin

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#23. South America

California
- Number of residents: 1,137
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.31%
- Percent of total state population: 0.08%
National
- Number of residents: 4,814
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.05%
- #35 most common country of origin

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#24. Holland

California
- Number of residents: 1,015
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.28%
- Percent of total state population: 0.07%
National
- Number of residents: 105,098
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.00%
- #17 most common country of origin

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#25. Spain

California
- Number of residents: 896
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.24%
- Percent of total state population: 0.06%
National
- Number of residents: 7,284
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.07%
- #33 most common country of origin

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#26. Hungary

California
- Number of residents: 799
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.22%
- Percent of total state population: 0.05%
National
- Number of residents: 145,815
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.39%
- #14 most common country of origin

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#27. Pacific Islands (except Phillipine Islands)

California
- Number of residents: 794
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.22%
- Percent of total state population: 0.05%
National
- Number of residents: 2,659
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.03%
- #38 most common country of origin

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#28. Belgium

California
- Number of residents: 785
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.21%
- Percent of total state population: 0.05%
National
- Number of residents: 29,848
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.29%
- #24 most common country of origin

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#29. Turkey

California
- Number of residents: 619
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.17%
- Percent of total state population: 0.04%
National
- Number of residents: 9,949
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.10%
- #30 most common country of origin

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#30. Bohemia

California
- Number of residents: 504
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.14%
- Percent of total state population: 0.03%
National
- Number of residents: 156,999
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.50%
- #12 most common country of origin

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#31. Central America

California
- Number of residents: 481
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.13%
- Percent of total state population: 0.03%
National
- Number of residents: 3,911
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.04%
- #36 most common country of origin

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#32. West Indies (except Cuba and Puerto Rico)

California
- Number of residents: 372
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.10%
- Percent of total state population: 0.03%
National
- Number of residents: 14,468
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.14%
- #26 most common country of origin

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#33. Greece

California
- Number of residents: 372
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.10%
- Percent of total state population: 0.03%
National
- Number of residents: 8,655
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.08%
- #31 most common country of origin

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#34. Born at Sea

California
- Number of residents: 358
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.10%
- Percent of total state population: 0.02%
National
- Number of residents: 8,310
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.08%
- #32 most common country of origin

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#35. India

California
- Number of residents: 263
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.07%
- Percent of total state population: 0.02%
National
- Number of residents: 2,069
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.02%
- #42 most common country of origin

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#36. Other Countries

California
- Number of residents: 260
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.07%
- Percent of total state population: 0.02%
National
- Number of residents: 2,587
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.02%
- #39 most common country of origin

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#37. Asia (except China, Japan, and India)

California
- Number of residents: 235
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.06%
- Percent of total state population: 0.02%
National
- Number of residents: 11,928
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.11%
- #27 most common country of origin

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#38. Africa

California
- Number of residents: 168
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.05%
- Percent of total state population: 0.01%
National
- Number of residents: 2,577
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.02%
- #40 most common country of origin

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#39. Cuba

California
- Number of residents: 93
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.03%
- Percent of total state population: 0.01%
National
- Number of residents: 11,159
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.11%
- #28 most common country of origin

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#40. Roumania

California
- Number of residents: 73
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.02%
- Percent of total state population: 0.00%
National
- Number of residents: 15,043
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.14%
- #25 most common country of origin

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#41. Europe (not otherwise specified)

California
- Number of residents: 59
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.02%
- Percent of total state population: 0.00%
National
- Number of residents: 2,272
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.02%
- #41 most common country of origin

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#42. Luxemburg

California
- Number of residents: 42
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.01%
- Percent of total state population: 0.00%
National
- Number of residents: 3,049
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.03%
- #37 most common country of origin

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