Thanksgiving, the most American holiday, is, at its root, a celebration of immigrants making it in the new world. The story of the first Thanksgiving is a romanticized history of a past that so many people would love to hold as true: a group of immigrants come to a new world seeking a better life; they are helped by the established residents; and a feast is thrown to celebrate survival and the promise of future prosperity.
So, for this Thanksgiving, we turn to more promises: some of which turned out well, and some that did not. In the mid-nineteenth century, hundreds of books and flyers were produced to lure new immigrants to America. Areas in the Plains and the West wanted to boost population, and the industrial Midwest was hungry for cheap labor. In our collection are three guides to help the immigrant settle in America, all offering the enticement of economic prosperity. The 1848 Emigrant's Hand-Book for the United States opens with the U.S. Constitution, then systematically outlines all of the regions of the United States. Iowa as it is in 1856 is a "gazetteer for citizens, and a hand-book for emigrants." It contains extended descriptions of each town in Iowa, the qualities of the soils throughout the state, and is dedicated to those abolitionists committed to keeping Iowa free soil.
To see Iowa from 1860, ask for McGregor 175. The Emigrant's Hand-Book is Rare E161.E5 1848, and Iowa as it is in 1856 is Rare F621.P23 1856.