The history of Missouri reflects the United States’ ongoing experience as a nation of immigrants. The State Historical Society of Missouri holds numerous manuscripts, photograph collections, publications, and other materials on Missouri immigrants and immigration. In addition to the links provided here, please see the research guides on the German American Experience in Missouri and the Jewish American Experience in Missouri.
After becoming a state in 1821, Missouri’s first significant wave of immigration consisted of Germans who began arriving in the 1820s and came in larger numbers in the following decades. They joined an existing population of white American settlers, most of whom had come from Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, as well as earlier settlers of French heritage. These earlier groups had brought slavery to Missouri, giving the state an African American presence that would account for 10 percent of the total population by 1860.
The Germans bolstered settlement in areas where Missouri’s population was already concentrated, such as near the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and in St. Louis, the state’s largest city. In the city, and also in smaller towns and rural areas, Germans formed their own communities while they gradually adapted to their new surroundings. They maintained a strong and cohesive ethnic culture throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Suppression of German language and culture during World War I, when their ancestral homeland was at war with the United States, dealt a severe blow to German heritage in Missouri, but appreciation for Missouri Germans has revived in recent decades, with several organizations dedicated to preserving and celebrating their contributions to the state.
As Missouri grew and its economy expanded, numerous other immigrant groups arrived. By the outbreak of the Civil War, a sizable Irish population had developed, especially in St. Louis and in Jackson and Buchanan Counties on the western side of the state. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, immigrants from southern and eastern Europe came in significant numbers. They typically worked in factories, in industries such as mining, or in the construction trades, and often lived in the cities, forming distinctive communities like the Italian American neighborhood in St. Louis known as The Hill. Missouri’s Jewish communities, which had been dominated by German Jews prior to the 1880s, were profoundly changed by the arrival of eastern European Jews.
When the influx of immigrants from Europe was halted during World War I, African Americans filled much of the void left in the workforce. The Great Migration from the South greatly increased the state’s black population. Immigration from outside the United States picked up again after the war, and new populations from places as varied as Mexico, Vietnam, Somalia, and Bosnia came to Missouri over the remainder of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.
- Anderson, Hattie M. "Missouri, 1804-1828: Peopling a Frontier State."
Missouri Historical Review 31 (January 1937): 150-180.
- Andrews, Gregg "Immigrant Cement Workers: The Strike of 1910 in Ilasco, Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 89 (January 1995): 162-183.
- Bek, William G. "Gottfried's Duden's "Report," 1824-1827."
First Article: Missouri Historical Review 12 (October 1917): 1-21.
Second Article: Missouri Historical Review 12 (January 1918): 81-98.
Third Article: Missouri Historical Review 12 (April 1918): 163-179.
Fourth Article: Missouri Historical Review 12 (July 1918): 258-270.
Fifth Article: Missouri Historical Review 13 (October 1918): 46-58.
Sixth Article: Missouri Historical Review 13 (January 1919): 156-180.
Seventh Article: Missouri Historical Review 13 (April 1919): 251-281.
- Blum, Virgil C. "The Political and Military Activities of the German Element in St. Louis, 1859-1861."
Missouri Historical Review 42 (January 1948): 103-129.
- Cleary, Patricia "The Global Village on the Banks of the Mississippi."
Missouri Historical Review 109 (January 2015): 79-92.
- Crockett, Norman L. "A Study of Confusion: Missouri's Immigration Program, 1865-1916."
Missouri Historical Review 57 (April 1963): 248-260.
- Demaree, L. Steven "Post-Civil War Immigration to Southwest Missouri 1865-1873."
Missouri Historical Review 69 (January 1975): 169-190.
- Kantor, Harvey A. "The Barth Family: A Case Study of Pioneer Immigrant Merchants"
Missouri Historical Review 62 (July 1968): 410-430.
- Konnyu, Leslie "Hungarians in Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 46 (April 1952): 257-261.
- Kretzmann, P. E. "The Saxon Immigration to Missouri, 1838-1839."
Missouri Historical Review 33 (January 1939): 157-170.
- Lindquist, Emory "The Swedes of Linn County, Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 45 (January 1951): 138-149.
- Ling, Huping "Sze-Kew Dun: A Chinese-American Woman in Kirksville."
Missouri Historical Review 91 (October 1996): 35-51.
- Marshall, Howard Wight. "Irish Echoes in Outstate Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 100 (October 2005): 41-53.
- Pihlblad, C. Terence "Swedish Immigrant Letters in Dallas County."
Missouri Historical Review 48 (July 1954): 352-364.
- Shoemaker, Floyd C. "Hermann: A Bit of the Old World in the Heart of the New."
Missouri Historical Review 51 (April 1957): 235-244.
"St. Charles, City of Paradoxes."
Missouri Historical Review 36 (January 1942): 184-189.
- Stevens, Linda Walker "The Making of a Superior Immigrant: George Husmann, 1837-1854."
Missouri Historical Review 89 (January 1995): 119-138.
- Squires, Monas N. "Merry-Making in the Old Days."
Missouri Historical Review 28 (January 1934): 91-102.
- Sullivan, Margaret "Fighting for Irish Freedom: St. Louis Irish-Americans, 1918-1922."
Missouri Historical Review 65 (January 1971): 184-206.
- Tyler, Robert Llewellyn. "Occupational Change, Culture Maintenance, and Social Status: The Welsh in a Missouri Coal Town, 1870–1930."
Missouri Historical Review 109 (October 2014): 18-40.
- Webb, Ross A. "Do Right to Me Often."
Missouri Historical Review 54 (October 1959): 18-26.
- Welsh, Donald H. "Martha J. Woods Visits Missouri in 1857."
Missouri Historical Review 92 (July 1998): 380-392.
- Zimmermann, Eduard "Travel in Missouri in October, 1838."
Missouri Historical Review 92 (July 1998): 371-379.
The State Historical Society of Missouri manuscript collections include personal papers, organizational records, and other materials related to immigrants.
Immigrant newspapers played an important role in Missouri’s various immigrant communities. German, Jewish, and Italian newspapers in Missouri’s cities and towns helped Missouri immigrants maintain their cultural identity. The papers reported on issues of local and national interest and provided networking opportunities for cultural clubs and promotion of a variety of immigrant run businesses.
For a list of all digitized newspapers, visit the Missouri Digital Newspaper Project.
For a list of newspapers on microfilm at The State Historical Society of Missouri, visit the newspaper catalog.
|County||Title||Available On||Date Range|
|Buchanan||Das Westliche Volksblatt||Microfilm||September 9, 1876|
|Buchanan||St. Joseph Volksblatt||Microfilm||February 6, 1906; 1920-1932 part of Kansas City Press|
|Cole||Missouri Staats Zeitung||Microfilm||1879-1883|
|Franklin||Deutsche Welt||Microfilm||April 26, 1889|
|Franklin||Die Washingtoner Post||Microfilm||1870-1895|
|Gasconade||Die Gasconade Zeitung||Microfilm||1873-1874|
|Jackson||Guide to Jewish Life||Microfilm||1995-1999|
|Jackson||Jewish World||Microfilm||Sep 15, 1901|
|Jackson||Kansas City Jewish Chronicle||Microfilm||1954-2000|
|Jackson||La Voce dell’emigrante||Microfilm||1909-19??|
|Osage||Osage County Volksblatt||Microfilm||1899-1917|
|St.Charles||Der St. Charles Demokrat||Microfilm||1852-1916|
|St. Charles||St. Charles Republikaner||Microfilm||1884-1901|
|St. Louis||Hlas||Microfilm||1901-1929; Feb 23, 1945|
|St. Louis||Il Pensiero||Microfilm||1945; 1969-2014|
|St. Louis||Jewish Free Press||Microfilm||1885-1887|
|St. Louis||Jewish Tribune||Microfilm||1879-1884|
|St. Louis||Jewish Voice||Microfilm||1888-1926 (missing 1892)|
|St. Louis||La Lega Italiana||Microfilm||1914-1920|
|St. Louis||Revue de L’Ouest||Microfilm||1854|
|St. Louis||St. Louis Es Videke||Microfilm||1958-1969|
|St. Louis||St. Louis Jewish Light||Microfilm||1947-2013 (incomplete)|
|Warren||Die Union||Microfilm||Aug 31, 1876|
Interviews with Missouri immigrant groups, professionals, and other individuals.
Central Agency for Jewish Education (CAJE) Records, 1880-2009, (K0670)
7 cubic feet
Organizational records and other research materials relating to the activities of CAJE and the history of the Jewish Community in Kansas City, particularly in preparation of the book, Mid-America's Promise: A Profile of Kansas City Jewry.
Heart of America Jewish Historical Society Records, 1990-2005 (K0958)
0.27 cubic feet
The records contain organizational records and audio cassette tape recordings of meetings and oral histories.
History Speaks Oral History Project Records, 2000-2002, (K0400)
10 linear feet, 295 VHS video cassettes, 142 folders
The records of the History Speaks Oral History Project contain videotaped interviews, participant files, and project administrative files relating to this early 21st century project. The project focused on capturing stories of prominent Kansas Citians from the business, nonprofit, arts, political, and civic communities. Participants were selected whose experiences highlighted events that shaped Kansas City's history and development. The concept for the project originated out of celebrations surrounding Kansas City's 150th anniversary.
Italian Immigrant Oral History Project, 1973-1984, (S0511)
Mormino conducted interviews with Italian immigrants residing in the "Hill" neighborhood in south St. Louis as part of the research for his book, Immigrants On The Hill, Italian Americans in St. Louis 1882-1982.
Jewish Community Archives Oral History Project, (K0440)
Video and audio oral history interviews with member of the Jewish community in the Kansas City area.
Jewish Community Center Centennial Oral History Project, 2013, (K1286)
0.3 cubic foot
Oral histories of long standing members of the Jewish Community in Greater Kansas City, particularly relating to the Community Center.
Lance, Donald M. (1931-2002), Papers, 1938-2002, (C3992)
11.3 linear feet, 144 audio cassettes
The papers of a University of Missouri English professor, well-known for his lectures on the pronunciation of "Missouri" and other dialect research, contain extensive professional correspondence, research data, articles, presentations, teaching materials, and materials related to his work with professional organizations. Audio cassettes include interviews with Germans in Missouri and with decorated U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Byrl D. Taylor, Missouri folk musicians, and examples of English language dialects.
11 Boxes, 800+ Audio Recordings
The Oral History collection consists of reels, cassettes and transcripts of oral histories of influential St. Louis citizens. These interviews fall into general categories such as Immigrants, Black Community Leaders, and Labor Leaders.
Puchta, Randolph E. (1928-2006), Interview, 1998, (C2521)
1 Folder and 3 audio cassettes
An interview with Puchta, a resident of Hermann, Missouri. In the interview Puchta discusses his early life, German ancestry, wine making, local customs and leisure activities, and transportation. Of note are his descriptions of photographs from the Edward Kemper Collection.
Schroeder, Adolf E., Papers, (CA5349)
Additions to professional papers of a University of Missouri-Columbia Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies chairman. Contains correspondence, teaching materials, departmental papers, oral histories of German-Americans in Missouri, and student materials.
Shopmaker, Sylvia Minkin (1912-1996) Oral History Transcription, 1985, (K1213)
Transcription of oral history of Shopmaker, daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, lifelong resident of the Greater Kansas City area, and active in the Jewish community.
Steinkuehler, Leland, German Dialect Collection, 2005-2008, (CA6096)
1 folder, 8 audio cassettes, 10 CDs
Recordings and accompanying paperwork of interviews done with Missourians of German heritage from Concordia, Loose Creek, Westphalia, and St. Elizabeth, Missouri, as well as visitors from Meerbusch, Germany. Includes a comparison of dialects between three interviewees. The interviews were conducted by Leland Steinkuehler. Addition of recordings of a Lutheran Church service conducted in Low German and a narration with English translations by Reverend Alfred W. Rodewald, 2009.
Stornello, Joseph A. (1951- ) Oral History Collection, 1995, (K0426)
Oral history interviews of four Kansas City area Italian-Americans talking about the nature of Italian-American assimilation, acculturation and education. Includes indexes for each interview.
Below is a list of collections with images of immigrants throughout Missouri. Search the entire digital photograph collection online here.
Bek, William G., Photograph Collection, (P0586)
Photos of and relating to German immigrants in Missouri, including the Frederick Steines home and family, St. Albans, MO, the Muench family, the Goebel family, Bethel Colony, Charles Wulfing, and assorted followers of Duden.
German American National Alliance Convention, Photographs, 1913, 1916, (P0864)
Panoramic group photos from German American National Alliance Conventions, 1913 and 1916.
Historic Hermann, Postcards, (P0613)
Postcards of German School and Hermann Museum in Hermann, MO.
Nahm-Mueller Family, Photographs, 1880s-1920s, (C1798)
Photocopies and 35mm negatives of fifteen photographs of a Hermann, Missouri, family. These photographs are part of the German Heritage Archives.