Each April, Scottish-American Heritage Month highlights Scottish heritage and remembers the Scottish-Americans who have had an impact on U.S. society. With an impressive list of contributions to American culture, Scottish-Americans have a lot to celebrate.
Did you know some of the most famous Americans — including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Uncle Sam himself — have Scottish heritage? As early immigrants to the American colonies, the Scottish have made an indelible mark on American culture as inventors, artists, politicians, and more. What better reason to raise a glass of scotch? Slàinte!
History of Scottish-American Heritage Month
Scotland: the home of golf, peaty whiskey, and bagpipe music. As one of the oldest immigrant groups to the Americas, the Scottish have played an important role in American development since the beginning.
The first known Scottish immigrant, Robert Sproat, sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620. Scots started coming to the United States in significant numbers in the late 1700s, when political upheavals and social changes at home displaced many Scots and sent them searching for a better home. Presbyterian Scots sought religious freedom in the colonies, and families who lost their land when the clan system collapsed hoped to start over somewhere new.
Since the cost of the voyage was high, many emigrants became indentured servants to gain passage to America and pay off their debt there. They signed contracts lasting five to seven years, after which they could pursue their own interests.
Scottish immigration accelerated after the 1717 Transportation Act established service in the colonies as a punishment for criminals, who were sent to spend 7 to 14 years in America in lieu of imprisonment or execution at home.
Lured by promises of money, land, and freedom, many Scots joined the American revolutionary army to fight against the British. This so alarmed the British that they outlawed emigration to North America during the Revolution. After the U.S. won its independence, Scottish immigrants continued to make up a significant portion of immigration in North America.
Scottish immigrants and their descendants have made some vital contributions to American society and culture. Today, about 8% of Americans claim Scottish heritage, including celebrities like Hillary Clinton, Jennifer Aniston, and Barack Obama.