This Upcoming Week in Immigrant History: June 13-19

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XpatNation’s weekly immigrant history report looks to examine some of the lesser talked about moments in history in the US and around the world. Immigrants and expatriates have been contributing to the US and the world as a whole for centuries, bringing culture, knowledge and expertise as they adapt and thrive in the new worlds they enter.

First V2 Rocket Launched – June 13, 1942

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The Second World War was responsible for a lot of technological innovation. The first computer was built in Britain to break the Germans’ codes. The Americans developed the first atomic bomb. The Germans produced the first combat jet and the first long-range ballistic missiles – the V2.

From September 1944, over 3,000 V2s launched as military rockets against London, Antwerp and Liège, caused an estimated 9.000, mostly civilian, deaths. The very first test launch occurred on June 13, 1942, and the rocket reached an altitude of 1.3 kilometers. Known originally under the technical name Aggregat-4, it shot up more than 90 kilometers into the atmosphere, covering 190 kilometers in range on a later test flight, which made it the first rocket to reach outer space.

The man behind the Nazi rocket program was Werner von Braun, an opportunist more than a Nazi. “In 1945, von Braun—as well as his brother, Magnus, and von Braun’s entire rocketry team—surrendered willingly to American troops. Signing a one-year contract with the U.S. Army, von Braun was flown to America, where he eventually became technical director of the U.S. Army Ordnance Guided Missile Project in Alabama. There, he was chiefly responsible for manufacturing and launching the first American artificial earth satellite,Explorer I, in 1958. At that time, von Braun was living in Alabama (he moved there in 1952), and had become a legal U.S. citizen.

“As director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Marshall Space Flight Center, from 1960 to 1970, von Braun developed the Saturn Ib and Saturn V space vehicles, as well as the Saturn I rocket for the Apollo 8 moon orbit in 1969.”

However, some of the Germans who worked on rockets wound up in Soviet hands. Helmut Grottup for one helped the Soviets build a version of the V2 that was known as the R1. On other words, the Great Space Race of the Cold War might just have been a test to see whose Germans were smarter.

Typhoid Mary Identified – June 15, 1907

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Typhoid is one of those diseases that we don’t think of in America anymore. The Centers for Disease Control say about 300 Americans a year get it, most travel to places where it is endemic. There are 22 million cases a year that kill 200,000 in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The highest risk for typhoid is in South Asia. Immunization against Salmonella typhi was not developed until 1911, and antibiotic treatment was not available until 1948.

In 1907, 3,000 New Yorkers had contracted it just as people still do in other parts of the world. Irish immigrant Mary Mallon was engaged in 1906 as a cook by Charles Henry Warren, a wealthy New York banker, who rented a residence to Oyster Bay on the north coast of Long Island for the summer. From 27 August to 3 September, 6 of the 11 people present in the house were suffering from typhoid fever. The sanitary engineer, committed by the Warren family, George Sober, published the results of his investigation on the 15th of June 1907, in the Journal of the American Medical Association .

Mallon was healthy but a carrier of a very contagious strain of the disease. Her extreme contagiousness (the New York Times called her “a veritable peripatetic breeding ground for the bacilli”) coupled with her refusal to comply with health officials’ orders not to endanger the public — say, by cooking for them — led to her lengthy involuntary isolation and to her moniker: Typhoid Mary.

To protect the city, Mary endured more than a quarter-century of isolation on a “pest island” in the East River that ended with her death on November 11, in 1938.

Treaty Annexing Hawaii — June 16, 1897

Hawaii_State_MapImage Source: Wikiwand

It is common for politicians, patriots and historians to call America a “nation of immigrants.” And it is true for almost all American citizens. Our ancestors came from different countries. Mine came willingly from Norway and Scotland; my wife’s came involuntarily from the west coast of Africa.

But not everyone with an American passport is a new arrival or the descendant of one. There are Americans whose ancestors crossed the Bering Land Bridge during a long off ice age. We don’t consider the Cherokee, Sioux or Apache immigrants – they’ve been here thousands of years.

A similar but unique case is the that of Hawaii. The 50th state was actually an independent nation, a kingdom that signed treaties as an equal with other nations. The Royal House of Kamehameha ruled from its founding in 1782 until it was toppled in 1893 in an American-backed coup. The Hawaiian Republic quickly made a deal with the government in Washington, and the nation was annexed by treaty on this day in 1897. Thus, Hawaii’s citizens became Americans without leaving their houses.

Statue of Liberty Arrives in New York — June 17, 1885

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The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor symbolizes the immigrant experience for a huge number of Americans and would-be Americans. “Frenchman Edouard de Laboulaye first proposed the idea of a monument for the United States in 1865. Ten years later sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a sculpture with 1876 in mind for completion, to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. The Statue was named ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’ and was a joint effort between America and France.”

“It was agreed that the American people were to build the pedestal, and the French people were responsible for the Statue and its assembly here in the United States.”

“However, lack of funds was a problem on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In France, public fees, various forms of entertainment, and a lottery were among the methods used to raise funds. In the United States, benefit theatrical events, art exhibitions, auctions and prize fights assisted in providing needed funds. Poet Emma Lazarus wrote her famous sonnet “The New Colossus” in 1883 for the art and literary auction to raise funds for the Statue’s pedestal. However, the funding happened, and on this day in 1885, the Statue arrived for assembling aboard the ship Isere.”

Philadelphia Founded – June 18, 1682

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Charles II owed William Penn about £16,000, and he didn’t have the cash. So he gave Penn some land instead. “By January 1681, about 40,000 square miles were confirmed to William Penn under the Great Seal. Penn induced people to emigrate by offering a very reasonable price of 40 shillings per hundred acres, and ‘shares’ of 5,000 acres for 100 pounds.” A shilling in those days represented about 2 days; wages for a farm worker.

This was a method American political leaders would use to settle the entire continent in the future. Cheap or even free, land in the interior was quite an attraction to immigrants from countries where there was little or no land to be had for farming.

Shortly after receiving the charter, Penn began planning “a large Towne or City in the most Convenient place upon the Delaware River for health & Navigation.” He envisioned a city without walls, and so he paid the local indigenous inhabitants a rather generous sum. He also decided to set up a grid system for the city. Penn created the name Philadelphia by combining the Greek words philos, “love” or “friendship”, and adelphos, “brother.” In 1682, Philadelphia was born.


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XpatNation is a Social News and Lifestyle magazine, focusing on the insights and experiences of ex-patriots living in The United States.

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