Building the Relationship: Immigration

In 1734 fifty families of exiled Lutherans from Salzburg undertook a two-month trip across the Atlantic Ocean and established a community in Ebenezer, Georgia. These Salzburgers and their descendants have played an important role in the history of the state of Georgia and the U.S. They were among the first settlers in America to oppose slavery and they distinguished themselves through their service and contributions to the economic, social, religious and political life in America. Immigration from Austro-Hungary continued through the 19th century, peaking during the first decade of the 20th century.

Because of Austria’s status as a multi-ethnic empire, it is difficult to determine the actual number of Austrian immigrants to the United States prior to 1918. Records show, however, that more than 2.1 million immigrants from the lands of the Austro-Hungarian empire came to the U.S., the largest group of all immigrants during that time. From the first Austrian settlers in Georgia to the big immigration waves in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the dominant method of transportation was the ocean-going ship. At the beginning of the 20th century, an Austrian shipping company, Austro-Americana , joined the bee-line from Europe to America and back

With the onset of the First World War, Austrian immigration practically came to a standstill. During the postwar period of 1919 to 1924, fewer than 20,000 Austrians came to the United States; and of those, an estimated 60% came from Burgenland. According to the U.S. Census, 735,128 Americans claim Austrian heritage. They live mostly in New York, California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey. Like their ancestors, they continue to enrich the relationship between the United States and Austria.