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This amusing encounter between the Old World and the New has a troubling background. Throughout the nineteenth century, successive waves of immigration, especially from non-English-speaking Europe, alarmed many native-born Americans. In the 1850s ethnic riots broke out in New York and other cities. Virulently nativist politicians won elections in many states and even contended for the presidency. In 1855 when this picture was first exhibited, many people would have viewed both the newly arrived German family and the Black laborer as outsiders.