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Ellis Island Immigration
Transcript of Ellis Island Immigration
What is Ellis Island?
Ellis Island was the former federal immigration processing station that opened in 1892. It processed over 12 million immigrants from its opening year to its final year (1954). The island was named after its final private owner, Samuel Ellis, and was added to the National Park Service in May of 1965 by Presidential Proclamation. However, it took over 25 years for a portion of the island to be restored. The Main Building was opened to the public on September 10, 1990, as the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.
My Visit to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum
Thank you for your attention!
What impact did the Ellis Island immigration process have on society?
The impact that the Ellis Island immigration process had on society was that it made our country strong and diverse, by efficiently processing many immigrants that entered the United States.
Now I'd like to share with you, a clip from the documentary video...
Ellis Island: Island of Hope- Island of Tears
Here are a few interesting facts...
The first immigrant processed at Ellis Island was Annie Moore, a seventeen year old girl from County Cork, Ireland.
It has been estimated that close to 40 percent of all current citizens of the United States can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island.
The Immigration Station processed a record 1.25 million immigrants during its peak year in 1907; 11,747 were processed in a single day.
The Immigration Experience
The majority of the immigrants who came to America through Ellis Island were from eastern and southern Europe. In many situations, they came to escape poverty and intolerance of religion that existed in their countries.
They began their journey to America on foot, horseback, or train. Many people traveled hundreds of miles across Europe to get to a seaport. When they finally reached the coast, they boarded a steamship.
The trip across the Atlantic Ocean usually lasted 1-2 weeks. The ships separated passengers by wealth and class. First and second class passengers stayed in private compartments, such as cabins. However, most people were in third class, called "steerage." Steerage was an open, large space at the bottom of the ship.
As much as 3,000 people crowded the ships. Most of the time, they came from different countries, spoke different languages, and belonged to different religions.
The steamship trip across the Atlantic Ocean was very harsh. The ships were unclean and crammed with people. Therefore, most of the passengers were very weary when they arrived to New York Harbor.
One of the first things immigrants saw was the Statue of Liberty. People would either cheer or weep with joy when they spotted the famous American symbol.
Health officers would go on board of the ship in the harbor and look for any signs of diseases. If the ship passed the officers' inspection, doctors would then check the health of the first and second class passengers on the ship. These lucky people were quickly processed and could leave the ship when it docked at New York City.
Nevertheless, third class passengers would wait for hours, or even days, until a small ferryboat took them to Ellis Island for immigration processing.
The Ellis Island Baggage Room
The Stairs to the Registry Room
The Registry Room
The Medical Exam
The doctors at Ellis Island developed a system to identify immigrants who needed medical attention. The first test was a "six-second physical." A doctor looked for any signs of illness or contagious diseases. The doctor noted whether the immigrants limped or were short of breath, if their eyes were red, if they acted disturbed or seemed otherwise abnormal.
If someone was considered a public health risk, his or her clothes were marked by chalk with an identifying letter. An "X" indicated insanity and a "P" indicated lung problems.
Immigrants that were marked were taken out of line and kept for further examination. Immigrants who passed the six-second exam continued towards the far end of the hall for legal inspection.
The Legal Inspection
The Stairs of Separation
The Kissing Post
Through this experience, I learned a few new things. Something that I learned, and found out by looking at a "Word Tree" sculpture (pictured next), was that many words we might think are English in origin, actually come from other languages. For example, "dunk" comes from the Pennsylvania German word "tunken," meaning dip or plunge.
Officers greeted the ferryboat as it docked at Ellis Island. They shouted and directed the immigrants off the boat, and passed out numbered identity tags. People who did not speak English were unsure of what the officers were saying and the commotion was too overwhelming for them.
The immigrants, wearing their numbered tags, entered the Baggage Room on the building's ground floor. Here, they left their cherished belongings until their inspection was done. They then went up the stairs to the Registry Room where the medical and legal inspections took place.
The process of immigration officially began on the winding stairs that led to the Registry Room. Doctors stood on the second floor and observed everyone. They looked for those who had trouble walking or breathing or showed signs of other health issues.
The Registry Room was nicknamed the Great Hall because it is so big. Many immigrants had never seen such a large indoor place.
Officials in the Great Hall decided whether each person could enter the country right away or whether that person's case required further examination.
From 1903 to 1914, immigrants were checked for a contagious eye disease called trachoma. Doctors used the buttonhook tool to lift a person's eyelid to look for the disease. The buttonhook was a well-known and feared part of the immigration process. Immigrants with trachoma were sent back to their home countries.
Each arriving steamship's crew gave officials at Ellis Island a manifest of passenger names onboard. The list had the name and description of each passenger. The passengers were called forward one by one to speak with an inspector; interpreters helped the immigrants communicate.
Twenty-nine questions were asked of every immigrant. They included: Where were you born? What is your occupation? How much money do you have?
An immigrant could be detained for further inquiry if his or her answers differed from the answers listed on the manifest.
Ellis Island was the "Isle of Hope." But for the unfortunate few who failed the health or legal inspections, it was the "Isle of Tears."
Legal detainees lived in a dormitory room on the third floor. They waited for days, or even up to a month, until their case would be reviewed in the Hearing Room.
People detained for medical reasons were cared for at the island's hospital or kept in quarantine. Some were treated for weeks, or even months. At some later time, a Board of Special Inquiry would review an individual's medical report and decide whether to allow him/her into the United States or to send him/her back.
After all of the medical and legal inspections, the immigrants arrived at the top of another staircase at the other end of the Great Hall. The staircase had three aisles. Detained immigrants were brought down the center aisle. People who were traveling west or south walked down the right side of the staircase. Those going to New York City or to the north walked down the left side.
At the bottom of the stairs was a post office, a ticketing office for the railways, and social workers to help immigrants who needed assistance. There was also an office to exchange money from their home country for U.S. dollars because no matter where they were going, immigrants needed money.
On the first floor of the building, an area became known as "the kissing spot." It got that nickname because it is where family and friends waited for their loved ones. After months or years apart, they kissed and hugged, and shouted with joy and relief. For the immigrants, the long journey was finally over. They were in America.