Eras of Migration

Click on one of the boxes to below to explore different time periods of Boston’s immigration history. Or see the timeline below to learn about specific events related to immigrants.

Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion  Emigrant Arrival At Constitution Wharf, Boston

First Wave, 1820-1880

The Irish predominated in this first mass wave of immigration, as Boston evolved from a bustling port town to a thriving industrial city.

S.S. Canopic Lands In Boston, 1920. Photo By Leslie Jones, Courtesy Of The Boston Public Library.

Second Wave, 1880-1921

Booming industrial growth in this period attracted thousands of new workers and their families from Russia, Italy, China, and other locales.

EB Immigration Station Globe

Restriction Era, 1921-1965

Following the restrictive and discriminatory legislation of the 1920s, this era saw the lowest levels of immigration since the early nineteenth century.

Nearly 400 People From Dozens Of Countries Take The Oath Of Citizenship At A Naturalization Ceremony At Faneuil Hall, 2015

Global Era, 1965-present

Changing refugee policies and the 1965 Immigration Act ushered in a new global era of migration, giving greater Boston a strikingly diverse population.