Last updated on: 1/30/2017 | Author:

Oct. 5, 1909 – The Melting Pot Play Opens on Broadway; Its Title Becomes a Metaphor for the United States

“Israel Zangwill’s play [The Melting Pot] about immigrants in America becomes one of the most successful
productions in the history of Broadway. Zangwill updates the story of
Romeo and Juliet. This time, instead of feuding families in a medieval
Italian city, the lovers were from Russian Jewish and Russian Cossack
families. Zangwill’s play emphatically claimed that America was a new
country where the old hatreds had no place. For the new immigrants in
America to try to keep alive their old hatreds and prejudices was
pointless, evil, and probably impossible. God, Zangwill claimed, was
using America as ‘a crucible’ to melt the ‘fifty’ barbarian tribes of
Europe into a metal from which He can cast Americans… Zangwill was
telling his audience that they were being molded in the fires of the
Almighty into a new thing: the American. And they loved it… [He] had
found exactly the right metaphor to translate the urban immigrant
experience into American Exceptionalism. If they would but suffer to be
melted in the pot, then they would become just as American as anyone