The Homestead Act came as a result of small farmers being taken over by large plantations. Therefore, farmers looked west to live out their dream. Immigration occurred from Italy, Ireland, Germany, etc as so many desired to own their own land. Northern factories opposed farmers moving out west, but it was voted to pass in 1862 due to the succession of the South. A Homesteader was classified as someone who was not an enemy of the government (no southerners). They had to be 21 and head of the household. In addition, they must settle the land (dwelling 12x14 ft), attempt to work the land, and work for 5 years before officially owning the land. There were many problems that arose, however. The weather was awful, there was limited fuel, limited water, and it was very dry. In spite of the problems, the transcontinental railroad was finished so travel became much easier, markets out east could be accessed and therefore, there was a rise of catalog business.
Alexander Harcavy was a lexicographer (writes dictionaries). As a member of the Am Olam movement, his incentive to leave Russia was to escape the pogroms. He was smuggled over border to Germany from Russia. He then traveled from Liverpool to America on the British Prince Ship. They felt superior to other immigrants. They were idealists, eager to prove the Jews could work the land. Their destination was Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society in New York. But when they arrived, their hopes of working the land was crushed. They were soon kicked out of Greenpoint, where they were then supported for a month. To support themselves they began working to unload ships. They soon quit as they discovered they were scabs for a strike. Following that he began working on a farm for a landowner: milking cows, field work, etc. When he became unsatisfied there, he returned to New York where he held a number of jobs for not too long. Finally, he began working for Jerucham S. Kantrowitz the bookseller. It was here he found his calling and ultimately worked as a private language teacher.
Am Olam: Ellen Eisenberg
The Am Olam movement was a product of specific circumstances and conditions. It was greatly influenced by the Haskalah and Russian populism, but incorporation of elements of these movements ideology was shaped by the background of members and by objective factors in the region in which the movement emerged. It served the practical purpose of “productivizing” individual Jews, but would also demonstrate to the world the rejuvenation of the jewish people. It was founded in Odessa in spring of 1881. Odessen Jewish leaders placed much emphasis on the tenets of the Haskalah such as the belief that practical, secular, education would enable Jews to gain acceptance in the larger non jewish society. A central tenet of the haskalah “normalization” of Jewish economic life was a key element of the program. Anti semetism was caused by the concentration of Jews in “unproductive” occupations so the movement was more concerned with the establishment of an agricultural colony than with collectivism.Those in the movement were not journeying to America for ordinary reasons: they were idealists who will demonstrate to the nations of the world that the children of Israel are capable of being farmers. They wanted to show that Jews are progressive, advanced, and intelligent humans and live on the communist principles. Between 1881-1884, 24 jewish agricultural colonies were established in the US. The first colony established on Sicily Island Louisiana in the Mississippi River and the leader was Herman Rosenthal. Sicily Island location could not have been less conducive to colonization- it was isolated, surrounded by deserted plantations, which made it hard to obtain provisions. Also, a tremendous mosquito population and swamp led to outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever. The colony was abandoned less than one year after it was founded-but would become a legacy for subsequent colonies. There was also a concerted effort to achieve moral and intellectual goals and colonists gathered in the “big house” at night for debates and discussions. School was organized for children and the colony was governed by a board of governors elected by the colony members. Although the colonists were proud of their nationality, they had abandoned Judaism as a religion. William Fry (Russian Non Jew) presided over New Odessa colony. This colony survived 5 years and was less strict about farming and only farming. They supplied timber for railroalds---forests to fields. This enabled prosperation and brotherhood, communism, vegetarianism. Despite their unity in emphasizing these goals, colonies that were established exhibited much variation, particularly in economic organization. Variations among colonies were directly linked to the degree of heterogeneity within each group of colonists. The cause of dissolution of each colony was influenced by the composition of its population. Experience of these settlements had strong parallels in the NJ colonies. There were many drawbacks as well as advantages. Convenient location provided access to cultural and economic opportunities. They also attracted settlers who greatly altered the character of the colonies and caused them to deviate significantly from the original Am Olam goals. The proximity to the large Jewish communities of NY and Philly provided access to increased financial aid from sponsors as well as ability of the sponsors to oversee the daily life of the colonies. Therefore, there was an interesting dynamic between wealthy philanthropists and workers. Philanthropists lived in cites, were from a generation earlier, were from Germany, looked down on E. European Jews, were 1830s-1860s immigrants, and had intermarried with tsfardic elite. The colonists were uneducated, from E. Europe, spoke Yiddish not German, and were embarrassing for wealthy Jews. These differences resulted in some of the same sponsor-colonist tensions that plagued Beersheba.