Front page of Wossingen, a Norwegian immigrant newspaper, 1858, in Albert O. Barton, The Beginnings
of the Norwegian Press in America, .
Newspapers and other periodicals published by immigrants in their native languages provide one of the best historical primary sources for the study of the history of American immigration. In the era before World War I, approximately 1,300 foreign-language newspapers in the United States were read by millions of immigrants from Europe, Asia, and the Western Hemisphere.
Immigrant newspapers provided immigrants with news from the "old country" that the mainstream American press overlooked. More specialized periodicals that focused on topics such as religion, trades and unions, cultural organizations, fraternal societies, and political associations were directed specifically toward members of particular ethnic groups. Immigrants also produced various annual publications like almanacs, yearbooks, and calendars that highlighted important religious, cultural, and national dates for their ethnic group. In addition, immigrant newspapers and periodicals are a rich source of art, music, and literature produced by immigrants that reflect the challenges and opportunities facing newcomers to America.
Since immigrant newspapers were usually published in the native languages of immigrants, one of their major purposes and functions was language retention. Virtually every major immigrant group to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries published newspapers in its native language. Newspapers in Chinese, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Irish, Japanese, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and many other languages allowed immigrants to read their native language on a regular basis in a country where English was the dominant language.
While many individual immigrant newspapers were short-lived, immigrant newspapers and periodicals have never disappeared from the American scene. They continue to be published as the United States receives substantial numbers of new Hispanic, Asian, and African immigrants.