The workersThe Dutch immigrants came regularly to Grand Rapids, but there was a regular problem. Most were only unskilled workers, with little schoolings.
"The city needs teachers, but for the most of the people it would be better when they will search work in factories or as skilled worker."Van Raalte said that to Abraham Kuyper in 1872.
The workJ. Verweg, an immigrant, came to Holland, Michigan, with a letter of recommendation from A. Kuyper, but Van Raalte answered:
"I'm sorry that I have to disappoint you, but your recommendations don't help us very well here and my recommendations are also nothing worth. Only trying hard is the thing that counts."Verweg hoped to get office work, and he expected good pay and responsible work, but he got disappointed. Van Raalte said something else about the possibilities in Grand Rapids:
"Many Dutch are living in a fastgrowing factory-city. In the factory people are using manual workers for making furniture, doors and windows... the skilled jobs are being paid the best of all and give the best future for those, who want to learn."The message of Van Raalte wasn't very different than of the normal workers, who sent letters to their friends and family. The things they wrote contained enough motivation to get the average man to come to the US. Agnes Nestor for example, wrote about the new immigrants when they came in to Michigan.
"We liked it to live next to the trainstation. We could see when a train arrived and when a train full with Dutch emigrants arrived, we went immediately to the station. The new emigrants weared the national costumes and wooden shoes. They were going to work in the furniturefactory in Grand Rapids and took their families with them."
The emigrants versus the AmericansThe Americans who lived already in Michigan saw the immigrants as strange, but valuable and hardworking replenishment to the American population. The immigrants were also a bit puzzled by their American neighbors and neighborhood. W.H. de Lange, who was a teacher Dutch for the children of the immigrants, described, among other things, the city Grand Rapids and the immigrants:
"Grand Rapids is a half mountain- and a half valleycity and bigger than Amsterdam in circumference, but not built as closely together. Here are 30,000 people from different countries. Here aree 42 churches, and some of them cost 150,000 dollars. Americans put great stock in faith. Here are many factories, big stores and rich buildings. Many wooden houses, which are fit up very well. I live in an upper part of a house and pay 2 dollars a week rent. It contains 2 rooms and 2 dark bedrooms and much closets. It is right in front of my school. The English are very wasteful and throw one's weight much about, like we can see at their posters which cover over the whole front. The Dutch are here diligent and scraping. The German are unfair with traid, the Irish are lazy and good to set stuff on fire. Only the black have nont enough, the black who were slaves. They are very active and if you say hello to them, they are very honored. The idol of the Americans is the woman, but it's in such a way, that even the richest man wouldn't let a woman polish his shoes. American women are lazy, haughty, lacking in cleanliness and spendthrift. Even with a dowry of $50,000 they come too dear..."
Three months later, he wrote again about Grand Rapids:
"We have had three winters, sometimes so cold that you have to pack your head. In December we had hard snowstorms with some kind of earthquake. In the night I shaked in bed like I was on a boat at the ocean. My wife jumped out of bed, but came fast back to bed because of the cold. (..) You asked me if everybody can become a teacher without qualifications. My answer is: America is a free country and everybody may do what he or she wants to do. If I want to be a doctor tomorrow, nobody will stop me. But those who can prove themselves best, have most credit."While De Lange streched some truth, his writing does give a good look to the time period. Grand Rapids had great economic chances for progress, and developments which can now been seen at the modern-day immigrant's community are proof of this.
The Dutch had successThe city of Grand Rapids became the center of printing of religious and theological publications. In 1910, the William B. Eerdmans Company was founded, which was the first of three big publishers, and now also own the Zondervan and Baker publishers. In 1893 the Hekman Biscuit Company was founded amd is now one of the three biggest bakeries in the US. The children of the 19th century immigrants have distinguished themselves in many suitable occupations.
Grand Rapids became also the administratieve center of the Christian Reformed Church, who founded schools of higher education everywhere in the US. Calvin College is one of them in Grand Rapids.
De Lange's 'diligent, but scraping' Dutch have had a big edifying influence at Grand Rapids.
FactSeventy percent of the people in Grand Rapids have Dutch ancestry.