Individual's Birthplace

The population density of different U.S. and European immigrant groups that lived within the city of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, throughout the early twentieth century, varied depending on how much a specific group's cultural, linguistic and religious identity differed from that of the native population: Massachusetts born, English speaking and Protestant Christianity.

Why Pittsfield?  

The first reason why I have chosen to focus this study on Pittsfield is because locations in far Western Massachusetts are not usually included within the historiography of any colonial and U.S. history-based fields.  For example, books on the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution of New England, and immigration rarely focus on the lesser populated, western section of the state.  In fact, when rendering a map for this project on Map Warper [1], no previous map of Pittsfield had been uploaded onto the site, and there was only one map of all of Berkshire County.  This leaves a nearly untapped region to be studied, and a geographic location that can be added within the historiography of fields that this project focuses on: 20th century immigration, ethnicity, and cultural constructs.


I have also chosen Pittsfield, because it is nearly equidistant from Boston (128.6 miles) to New York City (159.6 miles).  With a lot having been written on the impact that 19th and 20th century immigration had on Boston and New York, Pittsfield is a lesser populated location that can geographically fit into the historiography.  

Once the railroad between Pittsfield and Albany was completed on May 4, 1840, the city became a popular thoroughfare for travelers and goods throughout the Northeast. [2]  This led to a rise in Pittsfield's industrialization and population.  A future goal of this project is to study newspapers and mill records to discern how industry and print culture had an impact on the population disbursement of different ethnic and racial groups throughout the city.  This information can then also be added to the historiography.  

Why the Early 20th Century?

Throughout the mid-to-late 19th century the United States saw an influx of European immigrants from Northwest Europe.  Starting around 1890, a shift occurred in which the largest populations of European immigrants to the United States were from Eastern and Southern Europe. [3]  I have chosen the early twentieth century as the time period for this study, because it was when the highest number of several different European immigrant communities were living throughout Pittsfield.  For this reason, it is an excellent time period to analyze the population disbursement patterns of different European and U.S. groups.

Also, U.S. census records do not include ward data for Pittsfield prior to 1900.  Studying 19th century population trends would require recording individual locations by using city directories, and cross referencing them to birthplace records from the census data.  Due to time constraints, this was not possible.

Getting Started: Census Data

Let's look at population figures from Pittsfield's 1920 [4] and 1940 [5] census records of people born in the United States.  The data has been partitioned into three birthplace locations: Massachusetts, New York, and the remaining continental United States (including the District of Columbia) combined.  New York has been given its own category, because it was the largest birthplace location within the United States, besides Massachusetts, for people living in Pittsfield in 1920 and 1940. 

In the chart below, the Birthplace (top) and each of Pittsfield's seven wards (bottom) are shown vertically.  Horizontally, the years 1920 and 1940 correlate to the census records that the data has been drawn from.  The total 'Count of Ward' and '% of Total Group' of each population group, within each ward, are also placed horizontally. The 'Count of Ward' is a sum of the population of a single group in a specific ward, and the '% of Total Group' is the percentage of that group's total, city population living within that ward.  Clicking on any of the individual bars will provide all of the graph's information for that specific bar.  

Let's begin the analysis of this graph by focusing on Pittsfield's native population, or people that were born in Massachusetts.  Of all of the population groups discussed throughout this study, Massachusettsers were the only group with a near even population dispersement.  In order for this to occur, a group's population percentage within each of Pittsfield's seven wards would have been roughly 14.29%.  In 1920, the range of population percentage of Massachusetts-born within each ward varied from a low of 11.95% in Ward 7 to a high of 15.73% in Ward 3.  By 1940, the high and low changed to 11.15% in Ward 4 and 16.22% in Ward 6.  This indicates that the highest deviation from 14.29% for the Massachusetts-born total population percentage within any ward in 1920 and 1940 is 3.14%.  It is also important to note that the wards containing the highest and lowest population percentages in 1920 changed by 1940.  Thus, Massachusetts-born individuals were not grouping into a single ward throughout the early twentieth century. 


Now that we have established that the native population of Pittsfield was nearly evenly dispersed throughout the city, let's focus on the two groups in the chart that were born outside of Massachusetts, but within the United States.  Here, we start to see that a birthplace outside of Massachusetts had an impact on a group's population disbursement throughout the city.  In 1920, 23.51% of all individuals born in New York lived in Ward 2, while only 9.18% of New Yorkers lived in Ward 1.  Ward 2 contained nearly one-fourth of the entire New York born population, which was roughly ten percent higher than the percentage needed for an even disbursement.  


Ward population numbers for other individuals born outside Massachusetts and New York, but within the United States, also had a less even disbursement that the Massachusetts-born population.  In 1920, Ward 4 contained the highest percentage of this group's population, with 18.85%, and Ward 7 contained the lowest with 11.44%.


What is also interesting, is that, by 1940, both New York-born and non-MA/NY U.S. born populations moved in a direction towards a more even disbursement throughout the city.  The ward with the highest New York-born population shifted to Ward 5, and was 16.3%.  The ward with the lowest population became Ward 7, with 9.09% of the total group.  Non-MA/NY U.S. born percentages grew closer to the 14.29% mark as well, with 17.89% as the highest, in Ward 4, and the lowest at 10.37% in Ward 7.  As time progressed further into the twentieth century, because both of these groups were culturally similar to the native population, there population disbursement trend shifted to more closely match that of the Massachusetts-born.   

Let's shift focus to observing population demographics of immigrant groups that were born outside of the United States, but shared the same language with the natives.  The three largest immigrant groups living within Pittsfield during the early twentieth century, in which their country of origin was also English speaking include the English, Scottish, and Irish.  

The population disbursement of immigrants from England and Ireland were very similar to that of New York-born and non-MA/NY U.S. born populations.  In 1920, with 21.02% of the total group population, Ward 4 contained the largest number of English-born immigrants.  Ward 3 contained the lowest number, with 9.72% of the total population.  Concerning Irish-born immigrants, in 1920, the high and low for ward population percentage were 19.15% in Ward 1 and 9.23% in Ward 7.  By 1940, like the non-MA U.S. born groups, both the English and Irish born populations trended towards a more even disbursement throughout the city.  By this point, deviation from a 14.29% even disbursement among English-born immigrants had lowered to a high of 16.95% in Ward 5 and 12.69% in Ward 3.  For the Irish, the high was 17.22% in Ward 2 and 12.08% in Ward 7.  As time progressed, and these communities continued to live in Pittsfield, there similarity to the native population led to greater integration.  

Of all of these groups, the one that highlights the connection between linguistic similarity to the native population and having an even disbursement throughout all seven wards is the Irish.  Both English and Scottish immigrants to Pittsfield were born in predominately Protestant countries.  Even though the Irish population of the city would have been majority Catholic, not a single ward contained above one fifth of the total population for both 1920 and 1940.  Another aspect that factors into the disbursement of immigrant populations into a city is the amount of time that they have been present within a geographic area.  Throughout the 19th century, Irish-born was the largest non-U.S. immigrant group in Pittsfield.  In 1880, 1,709 Irish-born immigrants were living within the city, compared to the second largest non-U.S. immigrant group of 445 Germans.  (Use '1880-1940 Population Records' found in the scroll down menu as a reference.)  The fact that the Irish were nearly evenly dispersed throughout Pittsfield by the early twentieth century, even though they were predominantly  Catholic, highlights that many variables factor into a certain group's population trends.  Culture, language, religion, time and population numbers are all contributing factors.

The population trend for Scottish-born immigrants of Pittsfield, in 1920, was similar to that of other foreign born immigrant groups from English-speaking countries.  The high and low ward population percentages are 19.46% in Ward 1 and 6.61% in Ward 7.  By 1940, a shift occurs in the opposite direction seen within English and Irish born populations.  The Scottish began clustering more in Ward 1, with 27.75% moving into this geographic location.  Thus, over one fourth of the Scottish born population was living in a single ward.  Contrary to this, only 3.52% of the total Scottish population were living in Ward 6 and 6.61% in Ward 7.  This opposite trend may be due to the overall number of the Scottish-born population.  By 1940, 227 Scottish-born immigrants lived in Pittsfield, compared to 449 English and 662 Irish.  A smaller total number caused the Scottish to cluster within a single ward. Also, we will see that by 1940, many non-English, Catholic communities had moved into Wards 6 and 7.  Different immigrant groups not only clusetered together the further they deviated from the cultural norms of the native population, but they also influenced one another.  The drop in Ward 6's Scottish population correlated to the rise of other immigrant groups' populations within the same ward.        

Now let's take a look at immigrant groups that came from non-English speaking, protestant countries.  Two prominent immigrant groups in Pittsfield that matched these parameters were people from Germany and Sweden. 

Census records show that the German immigrant population followed a trend towards more even disbursement over time.  In 1920, the high and low included 25% of the total German-born population in Ward 6 and 7.54% in Ward 4.  By 1940, these figures shift to 18.77% in Ward 1 and 10.53% in Ward 3. 

With Swedish born immigrants, there was a continuation of clustering from 1920 to 1940.  The high and low are 24.69% in Ward 5 and 24.07% in Ward 4, with only 4.94% of the total Swedish population in Ward 7.  By 1940, this trend continued with 24.43% in Ward 5, 23.66% in Ward 3, 18.32% in Ward 4, and only 5.34% each in Wards 2, 6, and 7. 


The major difference between these two groups was the amount of time that they had already spent living in Pittsfield.  In 1880, 445 German immigrants lived in Pittsfield, while there were no Swedish immigrants.  It was not until 1910 that census records indicate there were over one hundred Swedish-born immigrants living within the city.  (Use '1880-1940 Population Records' found in the scroll down menu as a reference.)  Due to the greater period of time that the German immigrants had a presence within Pittsfield, by the early twentieth century their population had dispersed throughout the seven wards more that the Swedes.  

Recap: Before moving on to our final section of 'Part 2' let's do a quick recap of what we have seen thus far.  Massachusetts-born natives living in Pittsfield during the 1920 and 1940 census had a near even population disbursement throughout the city.  Compared to the native population, individuals born in NY or non-MA/NY U.S. clustered together in 1920, but became more evenly dispersed by 1940.  Foreign-born immigrants who were from English-speaking countries, or non-English Protestant countries either clustered or evened out more, depending on how long the group had a presence  within the city, and how large their overall population was  at the time.  None of these groups had over 27.75% of their total population within any single ward in 1920 or 1940.   

Our final group, for this study, derived from European countries where both the predominant language and religion differed from those of Pittsfield's native-born population.  The largest immigrant groups from non-English speaking, Catholic countries living in the city in 1920 and 1940 were composed of individuals born in Austria, France, Italy, and Poland.

Here we can see that the foreign-born populations who deviated the most from the English-speaking, Protestant norms of the native population clustered together at a much higher percentage within a single ward than other immigrant groups.  Among the largest immigrant populations that fit within this category, every one had a single ward population in 1920 that exceeded forty percent of that group's total population.  42.71% of the Italians lived in Ward 3, and 42.47% of the Austrians, 46.44% of the French and 52.5% of the Polish lived in Ward 1. These trends continued into 1940, with 43.79% of the Italians living in Ward 3, 46.44% of the French, 58.91% of the Polish and 61.01% of the Austrians all living in Ward 7.


This calls into question, why did the Austrians, French and Polish move from Ward 1 to Ward 7?  In order to understand this move, it is necessary to analyze the population disbursement of all the groups discussed throughout this study.  In 1920, the only English speaking group in which Ward 1 contained the lowest percentage of their total population were New Yorkers.  Ward 7 contained the lowest percentage of Massachusettsers, non-MA/NY U.S. born individuals, Irish, Scottish, and Swedes.  It also contained the second lowest population percentage of English and Germans.  By 1940, Ward 7 had the lowest population percentage of New Yorkers, non-MA/NY U.S. born, Swedes, Irish, and the second lowest English ward population.  Thus, even though they were not the largest groups within Ward 7, the Austrians, French, and Polish moved into a ward where other groups were least dense. 


The number of Italian immigrants in early twentieth century Pittsfield far exceeded that of the Polish, Austrian and French  populations combined.  With a much greater total population, the Italians had the ability to form a community within a ward outside of Ward 7, and maintain a level of influence within that ward.


1.) Map Warper. [Accessed April, 2019].

2.) John S Dickson. Images of America: Berkshire County’s Industrial Heritage (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2017), 14.

3.) Timothy J Hutton. and Jeffrey G. Williamson. What Drove the Mass Migrations from Europe in the Late Nineteenth Century? in Population and Development Review, 20, no. 3, (September, 1994), 1-27.

4.) United States Census, 1920 [Accessed April-May, 2019].

5.) United States Census, 1940 [Accessed April-May, 2019].


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