Between 1860 and 1924 approximately 60.000 Muslim Turks, immigrated to the United States of America, along with dozens of other ethnic groups. They migrated from Asian and European territories of the Ottoman Empire. Their main motive was economical. Most of them arrived in New York; Providence, Rhode Island; Portland, Maine and then continued to America’s industrial heartland- Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut- seeking employment in the centers of iron-steel/ automobile/ leather industries, textile, tire and battery factories, refineries, tanneries and railroad work. Others found jobs in the forests, fields and orchards in states like New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Michigan. Later, those who stayed opened restaurants, coffee houses, bakeries, shops, hotels, travel agencies and some even started their own factories.
The significance of the Turkish migration is that early Turkish migrants constituted the first and largest group of Muslims to come to America before the restriction of immigration.These immigrants moved from place to place in the United States and established their communities; many of them, on the other hand, came only for several years’ work, to return to their homelands in order to build a new life with their savings. The Reed-Johnson Immigration Act, passed in 1924, caused the movement of the Turkish immigration to America slow to a trickle. On the other hand, many immigrants had to return during the Great Depression.
This paper will focus on the very little known story of the early Turkish immigrants in the US by analyzing the only book length study on the subject, Turks in America, written by Frank Ahmed whose father, Yakup Ahmed, was among the thousands immigrated from Turkey at that early time.