Industrial Removal Office

Alternative names

Hide Profile

In 1901, following anti-Semitic decrees by the Romanian government, a large wave of Romanian Jews fled to New York. The Rumanian Committee was quickly formed in New York to distribute the immigrants to other towns where they might find employment. B'nai B'rith lodges in these towns and cities assisted the refugees upon their arrival. The Romanian Committee rapidly evolved into the Industrial Removal Office, which took over the work on a much larger scale and opened its availability to any unemployed Jewish immigrant, regardless of their origin.

The Industrial Removal Office was formally created as part of the Jewish Agricultural Society at the Society's January 24, 1901 Executive Committee meeting. The Society rented a store at 34 Stanton Street in New York and named it "The Industrial Removal Office." The office was later transferred to 174 Second Avenue. The process of procuring work for immigrants was done through traveling agents, who also obtained the cooperation of local Jewish organizations. Local committees, organized primarily by B'nai B'rith, obtained orders for workers and assisted the immigrants on their arrival. The New York bureau noted requests received from the traveling agents and local committees and matched up opportunities from their applicant lists. In the first year of the Industrial Removal Office's existence, nearly 2000 individuals were sent to 250 places throughout the United States.

The philosophy behind the IRO was to assimilate the immigrants into American Society, both economically and culturally. As David Bressler, IRO general manager for sixteen years, noted, the goal was to allow immigrants to find "their own salvation." Local committees were told to regard the arriving immigrant as a newcomer filling a definite place within the community, not as a charity case. The immigrant's work should be carefully chosen to fully use his abilities and closely correspond to his earning powers. Lastly, care should be made to make the immigrant comfortable in his new community. The IRO believed that individuals or families settling in their new lives would serve as magnets for immigrating relatives and friends.

The types of occupations and trades immigrants were placed in varied widely. The records list a total of 390 variations including: carpenters, shoemakers, butchers, blacksmiths, farmers, locksmiths, clerks, machinists, paperhangers, tanners, furriers, harness makers, printers, watchmakers, weavers, and wood carvers. A major success of the IRO was to encourage diverse occupations beyond those in the needletrades.

With the financial panic in 1907 and the ensuing industrial depression, the demand for labor decreased sharply. The IRO counteracted this crisis by sending traveling agents farther away from New York and by increasing its publicity. The result was a broader range of distribution that included the Southern, Rocky Mountain, and Pacific States. This year also marked an administrative autonomy from the auspices of the Jewish Agricultural Society. In 1909, the ongoing industrial depression produced the lowest distribution figures since 1902. Many IRO city offices suspended their operations. David Bressler organized offices in Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Spokane, and other agricultural centers that were not as affected by the depression. Two major distribution centers, Philadelphia and Boston, ceased their operations in 1911 and 1914, respectively.

With the onset of World War I, distributing IRO offices had so shrunk that only 3,500 immigrants were placed out of a total of 12,000 applicants. IRO's income also decreased and to maintain morale a bulletin "Distribution" began to be published in July 1914. The IRO preserved its core organization throughout the war. In 1921, with deepened US immigration restrictions, the IRO attempted to place immigrants in Mexico . The project was soon discontinued. IRO formally dissolved in 1922. From 1901 to 1922, the IRO distributed approximately 79,000 individuals throughout the United States and Canada . From 1901 to 1913, IRO distributions represented close to 6 or 7 per cent of the US total immigration figures.


Glazier, Jack. Dispersing the Ghetto: The Relocation of Jewish Immigrants Across America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

Joseph, Samuel. History of the Baron de Hirsch Fund: the Americanization of the Jewish Immigrant. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1935.

  • 1900: Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society founded by the Baron de Hirsch Fund and the Jewish Colonization Association to encourage migration from NYC into the interior of the US and agricultural interest/education.
  • Romanian Relief Committee (RRC), with help of Jewish philanthropists and B'nai Brith lodges, helps large Romanian influx of immigrants find employment.
  • 1901: Industrial Removal Office created, taking over the duties of the RRC and applying them on a larger scale with more organization; courtesy of de Hirsch Fund, B'nai Brith, United Hebrew Charities, and other Jewish immigrant groups.
  • 1903: United Hebrew Charities and the de Hirsch Fund hire David Bressler as the IRO general manager. Before, Bressler had worked for the Romanian Aid Society and spent the majority of his adult life working with immigrants.
  • 1904: IRO hires and sends forth college educated young men to work as "traveling agents" to promote the IRO around the country, investigate employment opportunities, and establish local liaisons and committees.
  • 1905: IRO moves New York main office from store space at 34 Stanton St. to 174 2nd Avenue.
  • 1906: Congress passes the Galveston Plan, making Galveston, Texas an alternative entry station into the United States, furthering the effort to discourage new Jewish immigrants from settling in the Lower East Side.
  • 1907: Jewish Immigration Information Bureau (JIIB) founded as branch of IRO to receive immigrants through Galveston and send them to other communities in the US.
  • 1914: Relations between the JIIB and other Jewish organizations deteriorate and Jews are no longer sent through Galveston. Over 10,000 Jews were helped and settled through Galveston by the JIIB.
  • 1917: Burnett Immigration Law passed in Congress over President Wilson's 2nd veto; requiring a literacy test for new immigrants. Jewish lobby procures small victory in that literacy test is not applied to those seeking refuge from religious persecution.
  • David Bressler resigns from position of IRO general manager.
  • 78,995 immigrants resettled by the IRO since 1901, by the end of the year.
  • 1921: Congress passes the Quota Act, limiting annual immigration to 3% of given national resident group already living in the United States.
  • 1922: Immigration reaches nearly a standstill and IRO activity ceases.

From the guide to the Records of the Industrial Removal Office, undated, 1899-1922, (American Jewish Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Records of the Industrial Removal Office, undated, 1899-1922 American Jewish Historical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Addams, Jane, 1860-1935 person
associatedWith Adler, Cyrus, 1863-1940 person
correspondedWith A. J. Hoyt person
associatedWith American Immigration and Distribution League corporateBody
associatedWith American Jewish Committee corporateBody
associatedWith American Palestine Company corporateBody
associatedWith Arkush, Reuben person
associatedWith Baron de Hirsch Fund corporateBody
associatedWith Barondess, Joseph, 1867-1928 person
associatedWith Benderly, Samson, b. 1876 person
associatedWith Benjamin, Eugene S., 1862- person
associatedWith Bero, Stanley person
associatedWith Bijur, Nathan, 1862-1930 person
associatedWith Brandeis, Louis Dembitz, 1856-1941 person
associatedWith Bressler, David M. person
associatedWith Cahan, Abraham, 1860-1951 person
associatedWith Central Committee for the Relief of Jewish Sufferers in Russia corporateBody
correspondedWith Cyrus Adler person
associatedWith David Blaustein person
associatedWith De Haas, Jacob, 1872-1937 person
associatedWith Delaware Valley Agricultural College corporateBody
associatedWith Denver National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives corporateBody
associatedWith Federation of American Zionists corporateBody
associatedWith Federation of Oriental Jews of America corporateBody
associatedWith Galveston Plan corporateBody
associatedWith Goldstein, Henry P. person
associatedWith Hallgarten, Charles L., 1838-1908 person
associatedWith Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society corporateBody
associatedWith Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society of America corporateBody
associatedWith Herbert Friedenwald person
associatedWith HIAS (Agency) corporateBody
correspondedWith Industrial Removal Office to Jewish Colonization Association corporateBody
associatedWith Industrial Removal Office (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union corporateBody
associatedWith International Workers of the World corporateBody
correspondedWith Jane Addams person
associatedWith Jenks, Jeremiah Whipple, 1856-1929 person
associatedWith Jeretzki, Alfred, 1861-1925 person
associatedWith Jewish Agricultural Society corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Colonization Association corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish-Socialist-Territorialist-Labor-Party of America corporateBody
associatedWith Journeymen Tailors of America corporateBody
associatedWith Kohler, Max J. (Max James), 1871-1934 person
associatedWith Lipsitch, Irving person
associatedWith Loeb, Morris, 1863-1912 person
correspondedWith Louis Brandeis person
associatedWith Louis Marshall person
associatedWith Magnes, Judah Leon, 1877-1948 person
associatedWith Marshall, Louis, 1856-1929 person
correspondedWith Max J. Kohler person
associatedWith Mendes, H. Pereira (Henry Pereira), 1852-1937 person
associatedWith Montreal Baron de Hirsch Institute and Hebrew Benevolent Society corporateBody
associatedWith National Committee for Relief of Sufferers of Russian Massacres corporateBody
associatedWith National Conference of Jewish Charities corporateBody
associatedWith National Council of Jewish Women corporateBody
associatedWith National Desertion Bureau corporateBody
associatedWith National Desertion Bureau, New York corporateBody
associatedWith National Liberal Immigration League corporateBody
associatedWith National Liberal Immigration League (New York) corporateBody
associatedWith North American Civic League for Immigrants corporateBody
associatedWith Omaha Tailors Union corporateBody
associatedWith Paley, Y. [John], 1871-1907 person
associatedWith Pool, David de Sola, 1885-1970 person
associatedWith Root, Elihu, 1845-1880 person
associatedWith Roumanian Relief Committee corporateBody
associatedWith Sadie American person
associatedWith Sanders, Leon, 1867- person
associatedWith Schechter, S. (Solomon), 1847-1915 person
associatedWith Schiff, Jacob H. (Jacob Henry), 1847-1920 person
associatedWith Seman, Philip L. (Philip Louis), 1881-1957 person
associatedWith Solomons, Adolphus person
associatedWith Sulzberger, Cyrus L. (Cyrus Lindauer), 1858-1932 person
associatedWith Sulzer, William, 1863-1941 person
associatedWith Szold, Henrietta, 1860-1945 person
associatedWith Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930 person
associatedWith United Cloth Hat and Cap Makers of North America corporateBody
associatedWith United Hebrew Charities of the City of New York corporateBody
associatedWith Waldman, Morris D. (Morris David), b. 1879 person
associatedWith Weil, Leo person
correspondedWith William Howard Taft person
associatedWith Wise, Stephen Samuel, 1874-1949 person
correspondedWith Woodrow Wilson person
associatedWith Zionist Organization of America corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
St. John's (N.L.)
Ellis Island Immigration Station (N.Y. and N.J.)
Galveston (Tex.)
Denver (Colo.)
New York (N.Y.)
Saint Louis (Mo.)
Boston (Mass.)
Milwaukee (Wis.)
Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
Chicago (Ill.)
Montréal (Québec)
Omaha (Neb.)
Philadelphia (Pa.)
Building trades

Corporate Body



Ark ID: w6q67qs2

SNAC ID: 31265282