Numerous Ohioans are descended from Austrian ancestors. Today, Austrian Ohioans continue to enhance Ohio's cultural and social landscape.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, millions of immigrants migrated to the United States of America, hoping to live the American Dream. Before the American Civil War, most immigrants arrived in the United States from Great Britain, Germany, and Ireland. By the 1880s, the home countries of immigrants began to change. Many of the new immigrants to arrive in the United States came from Eastern European countries, like Austria, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, rather than from Western European countries.
In 1860, 328,249 immigrants lived in Ohio. These people accounted for fourteen percent of the state's population. By 1900, the number of immigrants in Ohio rose to 458,734, but the percentage of the population that was foreign-born declined to eleven percent. Most of these immigrants in 1900 came from Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland, yet a growing number of Eastern Europeans were also migrating to the state.
In 1900, fewer than twenty thousand Austrian immigrants resided in Ohio. By 1920, their numbers had soared to almost 100,000 people. Most of these Austrians settled along Lake Erie, especially in Cleveland, where they found low-paying jobs in factories or as day laborers. In 1920, almost sixty thousand Austrians resided in Cleveland alone. Immigrants who were more successful established businesses that supplied their fellow migrants with traditional Austrian products. In Cleveland, the Austrian immigrants tended to settle in their own communities, preferring to live among people who shared similar cultural beliefs and spoke the same language as they did.
While most Austrian immigrants arrived in the United States prior to World War I, two additional large waves of Austrian migrants eventually reached this country. They occurred in the years immediately following World War I and World War II. The World Wars destroyed numerous homes and businesses in Austria, and many residents of this country sought a better life in the United States. Thousands of these immigrants made their way to Ohio. Ohio's Austrian residents actively assisted these new arrivals in beginning new lives. The new immigrants tended to settle in the already established Austrian communities in the state.
Following World War II, Ohio's traditional Austrian communities began to lose their cohesiveness and many Austrian communities began to disintegrate. Many Austrians moved into other communities, while non-Austrians began to infiltrate the traditionally Austrian neighborhoods. Ohio's Austrian population maintains its traditional cultural beliefs. Austrian Ohioans continue to participate in various social and cultural groups that serve to promote Austrian beliefs and customs.
- Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.