In Search of the American Dream

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The idea existed in the mind of the new immigrant that, if only they worked hard enough, they could become successful. Such success was most often measured in financial terms, though not everyone defined "success" in exactly the same way.

The term "American Dream" was first coined by historian and writer Jame Truslow Adams in his 1931 book  "The Epic of America," though the "dream" itself was alive for many, well before the term was actually coined. Adams wrote:

The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."
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The term "The Golden Land," when talked about among townspeople in Europe and elsewhere about what life was like in the United States, who talked about immigrating there, implied that the streets were "paved with gold."

Of course, it is unlikely that many people actually believed this, but this imagery did create and build upon the idea that there was a great deal of opportunity in the States for financial success and prosperity....

--photo courtesy of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.





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