What Des Moines' immigrant population looked like in 1900

Written by:
June 27, 2022
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What Des Moines' immigrant population looked like in 1900

Though every city in the U.S. has a distinctly American flavor, so many metropolitan areas display distinct signs of the immigrant populations that melded together to make the cities we know and love today. From Miami’s Little Havana to New York City’s Chinatown and Los Angeles’ Little Italy, cultural enclaves continue to thrive in modern metropolitan areas and help build colorful and diverse communities.

Many cultural and ethnic enclaves have become destinations for locals and tourists alike, but these visitors bring with them a mixed bag of consequences. On one hand, increased foot traffic allows small businesses and restaurants more opportunities for business, ushering in much-appreciated cash flow. On the other hand, rising demand for goods and services can cause prices to rise, hiking up the cost of living and potentially pushing poorer individuals and families out of the community.

The gentrification of ethnic enclaves is not new. The term “gentrification” was coined by Ruth Glass in the 1960s to describe the displacement of working class folks in London, but the first examples of gentrification can be traced back to the 18th century when wealthy landowners, or the “gentry,” began buying out small farmers who were struggling to accumulate the capital necessary to operate in England.

Today, ethnic enclaves continue to thrive despite the looming threats of gentrification and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. As one step towards understanding the history of these enclaves, ​​Stacker compiled a list of the largest sources of immigrants in Des Moines in 1900 by transcribing a previously untranscribed dataset from the U.S. Census Bureau. Table 35 of the Twelfth Census details the immigrant population of every city in the U.S. with at least 25,000 inhabitants as of the turn of the last century.

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

You may also like: Cities with the most expensive homes in Des Moines metro area

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Minnesota Historical Society // Getty Images

#1. Sweden

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 1,907
- Percent of foreign born residents: 24.00%
National
- Number of residents: 574,625
- Percent of foreign born residents: 5.49%
- #5 most common country of origin
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Lewis W. Hine // Getty Images

#2. Germany

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 1,482
- Percent of foreign born residents: 18.65%
National
- Number of residents: 2,669,164
- Percent of foreign born residents: 25.52%
- #1 most common country of origin
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#3. England

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 909
- Percent of foreign born residents: 11.44%
National
- Number of residents: 843,491
- Percent of foreign born residents: 8.06%
- #4 most common country of origin
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FPG // Getty Images

#4. Ireland

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 902
- Percent of foreign born residents: 11.35%
National
- Number of residents: 1,619,409
- Percent of foreign born residents: 15.48%
- #2 most common country of origin
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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

#5. Canada

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 533
- Percent of foreign born residents: 6.71%
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. Russia

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 380
- Percent of foreign born residents: 4.78%
National
- Number of residents: 424,372
- Percent of foreign born residents: 4.06%
- #7 most common country of origin
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Minnesota Historical Society // Getty Images

#7. Poland

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 323
- Percent of foreign born residents: 4.06%
National
- Number of residents: 383,595
- Percent of foreign born residents: 3.67%
- #8 most common country of origin
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Buyenlarge // Getty Images

#8. Norway

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 296
- Percent of foreign born residents: 3.73%
National
- Number of residents: 338,426
- Percent of foreign born residents: 3.24%
- #9 most common country of origin
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#9. Denmark

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 240
- Percent of foreign born residents: 3.02%
National
- Number of residents: 154,616
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.48%
- #13 most common country of origin
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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

#10. Scotland

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 234
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.94%
National
- Number of residents: 234,699
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.24%
- #11 most common country of origin
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#11. Italy

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 195
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.45%
National
- Number of residents: 484,703
- Percent of foreign born residents: 4.63%
- #6 most common country of origin
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#12. Wales

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 133
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.67%
National
- Number of residents: 93,744
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.90%
- #20 most common country of origin
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FPG // Getty Images

#13. Bohemia

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 80
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.01%
National
- Number of residents: 156,999
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.50%
- #12 most common country of origin
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#14. Switzerland

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 70
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.88%
National
- Number of residents: 115,959
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.11%
- #15 most common country of origin
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#15. Austria

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 68
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.86%
National
- Number of residents: 276,702
- Percent of foreign born residents: 2.65%
- #10 most common country of origin
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Universal History Archive // Getty Images

#16. Holland

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 66
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.83%
National
- Number of residents: 105,098
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.00%
- #17 most common country of origin
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#17. Roumania

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 47
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.59%
National
- Number of residents: 15,043
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.14%
- #25 most common country of origin
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Print Collector // Getty Images

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

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 44
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.55%
National
- Number of residents: 11,928
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.11%
- #27 most common country of origin
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Universal History Archive // Getty Images

#19. France

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 36
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.45%
National
- Number of residents: 104,534
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.00%
- #18 most common country of origin
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#20. Turkey

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 16
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.20%
National
- Number of residents: 9,949
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.10%
- #30 most common country of origin
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Universal History Archive // Getty Images

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

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 14
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.18%
National
- Number of residents: 14,468
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.14%
- #26 most common country of origin
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Universal History Archive // Getty Images

#22. Australia

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 10
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.13%
National
- Number of residents: 7,041
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.07%
- #34 most common country of origin
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Keystone-France // Getty Images

#23. Finland

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 9
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.11%
National
- Number of residents: 63,440
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.61%
- #22 most common country of origin
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Lewis W. Hine // Getty Images

#24. Born at sea

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 8
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.10%
National
- Number of residents: 8,310
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.08%
- #32 most common country of origin
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#25. Hungary

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 7
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.09%
National
- Number of residents: 145,815
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.39%
- #14 most common country of origin
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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

#26. India

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 6
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.08%
National
- Number of residents: 2,069
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.02%
- #42 most common country of origin
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FPG // Getty Images

#27. Belgium

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 6
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.08%
National
- Number of residents: 29,848
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.29%
- #24 most common country of origin
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#28. Pacific Islands (except Phillipine Islands)

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 5
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.06%
National
- Number of residents: 2,659
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.03%
- #38 most common country of origin
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Interim Archives // Getty Images

#29. Greece

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 4
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.05%
National
- Number of residents: 8,655
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.08%
- #31 most common country of origin
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Historical // Getty Images

#30. Japan

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 3
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.04%
National
- Number of residents: 81,590
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.78%
- #21 most common country of origin
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FPG // Getty Images

#31. China

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 3
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.04%
National
- Number of residents: 106,659
- Percent of foreign born residents: 1.02%
- #16 most common country of origin
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Smith Collection/Gado // Getty Images

#32. Luxemburg

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 2
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.03%
National
- Number of residents: 3,049
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.03%
- #37 most common country of origin
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#33. Africa

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 2
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.03%
National
- Number of residents: 2,577
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.02%
- #40 most common country of origin
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#34. Other countries

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 1
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.01%
National
- Number of residents: 2,587
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.02%
- #39 most common country of origin
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#35. Spain

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 1
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.01%
National
- Number of residents: 7,284
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.07%
- #33 most common country of origin
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ullstein bild Dtl. // Getty Images

#36. South America

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 1
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.01%
National
- Number of residents: 4,814
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.05%
- #35 most common country of origin
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Alexander Alland, Jr. // Getty Images

#37. Mexico

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 1
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.01%
National
- Number of residents: 103,445
- Percent of foreign born residents: 0.99%
- #19 most common country of origin
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Hulton Deutsch // Getty Images

#38. Cuba

Des Moines, Iowa
- Number of residents: 1
- Percent of foreign born residents: 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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