French immigrants came to America first as individuals seeking the freedom of the new United States, then following the Gold Rush, and later fleeing late 19th-century hardships in France. There was never a mass migration of French immigrants, but rather influxes of small groups and individuals.
Early French immigrants came to the United States in the late 1700s because of its atmosphere of freedom and its potential prosperity. Roughly 10,000 French immigrants from the same time period moved to the Unites States to flee the French Revolution.
The lure of the California Gold Rush drew another 30,000 French settlers between 1849 and 1851. Later, French immigrants came to the United States to avoid the political turmoil and war that marred France during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the decade after the failure of the 1870 Paris Commune, tens of thousands of French arrived, many fleeing Alsace-Lorraine after the German takeover. In total, between 1820 and 1900 about 353,000 French immigrants came to the United States.
In the first decade of the 20th century, more French citizens came to America looking for work in its booming economy. During and shortly after the two World Wars, groups of French immigrants arrived as refugees.