The Immigrant Experience:
The Czechs Move to Nebraska
Many immigrant groups found ways to get used to the cultural shock, and none in more numbers, proportionally, than the Czechoslovakians. Why did the Czechs (or Bohemians, a state in Czechoslovak from which most immigrants to Nebraska came) leave their homeland and come to the United States and why particularly to Nebraska? Neither political nor religious reasons primarily accounted for Czech immigration to the United States. What pushed the Czechs out was worsening economic conditions and overpopulation in rural Bohemia and Moravia. Specific crises like crop failures of the 1870s, and agricultural depression beginning in the 1880s resulted in greater numbers of people leaving. Some also left to acquire greater political freedom and escape the control of the Habsburg Monarchy and constant conflict with Germans.
What pulled Czechs to Nebraska was a steady stream of advertisements and glowing reports in Czech-language newspapers and magazines published here and sent back home. Railroads, like the Burlington & Missouri Railroad, advertised large tracks of Nebraska land for sale in Czech. Magazines like the Hospodar (husbandman or farmer), an Omaha agricultural journal, helped promote settlement. Many families emigrated on the basis of information in such magazines, as well as letters from friends and relatives.
Most of the Czechs who came to Nebraska tended to be farmers, but many tradesmen and professional people came, too. Consequently, the population of many early towns was predominately Czechs. Between 1856 and WWI, over 50,000 Czechs chose Nebraska as their new home. Nebraska ranked number one in per capita Czech immigration.
The experiences of groups like the Czechs resulted in more than two-million Europeans immigrants settling on the Great Plains between 1870 and 1900. And in 1870, fully a quarter — 25 percent — of the population of Nebraska was born in a foreign country.
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