Ellis Island Resources
Between 1892 and 1954, America experienced a great surge in migration, particularly from Europe. Many of these immigrants, as many as 12 million of them, were brought into the country through the New York port located at Ellis Island in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Today, Ellis Island stands as a national park and monument to what these brave souls were willing to endure to enter the land of opportunity.
The island began as a small, 3.3 acre piece of land that housed Fort Gibson and was used in the War of 1812. It was eventually expanded using landfill dirt to 27.5 acres. The first immigration processing station on the island opened on January 1, 1892. A 15-year-old girl from Ireland, Annie Moore, was the first immigrant to be processed through the station. In June of 1897 the building burned to the ground. It was not occupied during the nighttime fire, but all of the records were lost. The United States Treasury ordered the rebuilding of the property, but only if it was fire safe. The new facility opened in 1900.
Ellis Island was the gateway to the United States for many immigrants. When they reached Ellis Island, they were inspected for health conditions and legal problems that could prohibit them from entering the country. Sometimes this ended badly, as families were forced to decide whether or not to return home as a group, or leave one family member aboard ship while the rest stayed in America. This gave the island the nickname of the "Island of Tears." However, in most situations, immigrants were treated respectfully and were able to enter the country after the inspection. Wait times were long and grueling, however, especially for families with small children. Stories of immigrants who came through Ellis Island can be found on these links:
The island began to lose traffic in the early 1920s, due mostly to Quota Laws and the National Origins Act, which limited immigration from some European countries. After the First World War, the U.S. began establishing embassies in major countries across the world, and immigrants were able to apply for immigration in their home countries, which made the necessity of Ellis Island practically nonexistent.
In World War II, the facility became a holding place for enemy merchant seaman and a training facility for military personnel. After the war ended, the facility closed. It was declared part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965 by President Johnson, and it was opened to the public in 1976, with a renovation in 1984 to restore it to its former condition and to build a museum inside.
For more information about Ellis Island, consider these links: