New Hampshire Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Because it borders Canada’s Quebec province, New Hampshire has long attracted French Canadian immigrants but relatively few immigrants from other countries. During the late twentieth century, increasing numbers of Asians began coming to New Hampshire.

The earliest New Hampshire immigrants were chiefly French Canadian immigrants;New HampshireFrench Canadians who had farmed in Quebec. Many of these people took up farming in New Hampshire, but others worked as lumberjacks in the state’s timber industry. During the late nineteenth century, many of them worked in the state’s expanding textile mills, which often employed entire families. They characteristically tended to retain their language and culture.New HampshireNew Hampshire[cat]STATES;New Hampshire[03820]

The history of Manchester, New Hampshire’s, Amoskeag textile mill, at one time the largest fabric plant in the world, provides a window into immigrant life in the state. Its labor force was at first dominated by young descendants of early English settlers. During the 1850’s and 1860’s these workers were gradually replaced by the incoming Irish immigrants;New HampshireIrish immigrants. By 1860, the city of Manchester’s population was 27 percent foreign born, more than 70 percent of whom were Irish. Other immigrants included much smaller numbers of German immigrants;New HampshireGermans and Swedish immigrants;New HampshireSwedes, many of whom were skilled craftspeople.

During the 1870’s, land scarcity in Quebec impelled more French Canadians to go to New Hampshire, where many of them worked in the Amoskeag textile mill. These people were found to make docile, industrious, and stable workers. Moreover, French Canadians generally had large families and were willing to let their children work in the mill, so the company solicited more emigration from Quebec. By the turn of the twentieth century, Greek immigrants;New HampshireGreek and Polish immigrants;New HampshirePolish immigrants were being absorbed into the mill’s workforce, which by then numbered 17,000.

Until 1922, Amoskeag had avoided the labor strikes that had begun to disrupt production in other New England textile mills. However, during that year, the company’s simultaneous increase of hours and reduction of wages provoked a strike. After the strike was settled, worker confidence in both their company and their union declined. During the Great Depression of the next decade, the century-old company went out of business. However, despite the hard times they faced, relatively few of the displaced workers left Manchester.

Twenty-first Century Trends

New Hampshire has attracted fewer immigrants than the majority of states. During the early years of the twenty-first century, only about 5 percent of its citizens were foreign-born immigrants–a percentage less than half of the national average. However, between 2000 and 2005, new immigration saw an increase of 36 percent in the state’s Hispanic population and 40 percent in the Asian population. Both groups are quite diverse in New Hampshire. The Hispanics include Puerto Rican immigrants;New HampshirePuerto Ricans, Mexicans, and immigrants from several Central American countries. The Asians include Indians, Chinese, and Koreans. The majority of the Asian immigrants are already well educated when they arrive and generally find high-paying jobs without difficulty. Many of the immigrants have been attracted by the high quality of life in New Hampshire, as well as its good schools and low crime rates.

New immigration has brought new concerns to New Hampshire. While many residents of the state welcome the immigrants’ contributions to the workforce, others are worried about the numbers of Illegal immigration;New Hampshireundocumented immigrants entering the state. The state legislature has enacted laws providing penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants. Related to this issue is concern that illegal immigration is tied to rising crime rates. A 2007 report presented on public radio found that New Hampshire’s residents were becoming less welcoming to immigrants than the residents of many other states.New Hampshire

Further Reading
  • Armstrong, John Borden. Factory Under the Elms: A History of Harrisville, New Hampshire, 1774-1969. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1969.
  • Brault, Gerard J. The French-Canadian Heritage in New England. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1986.
  • Hareven, Tamara K., and Randolph Langenbach. Amoskeag: Life and Work in an American Factory-City. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.
  • Heffernan, Nancy Coffey, and Ann Page Stecker. New Hampshire: Crosscurrents in Its Development. 3d ed. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2004.

British immigrants

Canada vs. United States as immigrant destinations

Canadian immigrants

French immigrants

Great Depression

Illegal immigration

Labor unions


Categories: History