The origins of the term comes from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and used as a metaphor it describes the fusion of different nationalities, ethnicities and cultures. It was used together with concepts of the United States as an ideal republic or new promised land. It was a metaphor for the idealized process of immigration and colonization by which different nationalities, cultures and “races” were to blend into a new, virtuous community.
The exact term “The Melting Pot” came into general usage in 1908, after the premiere of the play “The Melting Pot” by Israel Zangwill. The melting pot is a theory used to describe the American society in its first years. In the very beginning, the settlers in the “New World” had to create a totally new nation from many different origins and the proximate result of this situation was the birth of the melting pot theory.
The idea behind it is that every immigrant arriving to the coast of the new world has to give up his or her national identity, culture and language in order to be accepted as part of the American society. The process of cultural assimilation can be seen as some sort of melting process, in which all immigrants from different origins melt together in a bit pot: as they step out of it, their old identity is gone. With the Immigration Act from 1965, large number of Latin-Americans and Asians followed the wave of European immigrants, but they assimilated harder than Europeans did.
Non-white groups especially began to emphasize their culture and heritage, so that the American society could no longer be as an homogeneous structure. By that time, the society of United States was described as a “salad bowl”, the metaphor explaining that the variety of different ethnic groups in the modern American society symbolize the “ingredients” which reserve their own flavor and texture, while contributing to the aggregate “salad”.
As the US populations was always been a mixture of different races and nations, there also have been made many attempts to describe its shape in a single way – using a metaphor. At first, there was the idea of that particular “melting pot” in which immigrants blended their cultural heritage into a new and single identity. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, European immigration to the US became increasingly diverse and increased substantially in numbers.
Beginning in the 1890s, large numbers of Southern and Eastern European immigrant groups such as the Italians, Jews, and Poles arrived. Many returned to Europe but those who remained merged into the cultural melting pot, adopting American lifestyles. By contrast, Chinese arrivals met intense hostility and new laws in the 1880s tried to exclude them, but many arrived illegally. Hostility forced them into “Chinatowns” or ethnic enclaves in the larger cities, where they lived a culture apart and seldom assimilated.
The acquisition of Hawaii in 1898, with full citizenship for the residents of all races, greatly increased the Asian American population. Nativists wanted to severely restrict access to the melting pot. They felt that far too many inferior immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe had already arrived. The compromises that were reached that the number of new arrivals should be small, apart from family reunification, the inflow of new immigrants should match the ethnic profile of the nations as it existed at that time.
National quotas were established that discouraged immigration from Polan, Italy and Russia, and encouraged immigration from Britain, Ireland and Germany. America accepted more immigrants than any other country of the world in the past. Therefore it’s called “a nation of immigrants” which assimilated 50 million people during more than three centuries. So, the current population in America is made up of immigrants or their descendants from nearly every country in the world.