The first official immigration station and long the busiest in the United States, Ellis Island was the entry point for more than 12 million newcomers. By the early twenty-first century, more than 40 percent of the people living in the United States could trace their ancestry to immigrants who were processed through Ellis Island.
Ellis Island was once the site of the nation’s busiest immigrant processing center. Called Kioshk, or Gull Island, by the Indians, the island was renamed Oyster Island when the Dutch acquired the property in the 1630’s. During the British colonial period, it went by the names Dyre’s Island, Bucking Island, Anderson’s Island, and Gibbet Island. Manhattan merchant Samuel Ellis held title to the land during the American Revolution, and his heirs sold what became known as Ellis Island to New York State in 1808. Later that same year, the property was acquired by the federal government. Originally 3.3 acres, the island was expanded to 27.5 acres mostly by landfill from ballast removed from ships. Though the federal government maintains control over the island, a long-standing dispute between
Before 1890, when the federal government assumed responsibility for immigration control and designated Ellis Island as the first federal immigrant processing station, individual states were responsible for processing immigrants. Until that year,
On January 1, 1892, Annie Moore, a fifteen-year-old from Ireland, became the first immigrant registered at Ellis Island, which was larger and more isolated than the cramped Castle Garden. By the time the facility ceased operations, on November 12, 1954, it had processed more than 12 million immigrants from a wide range of origins, including southern and eastern Europe. During 1907, its peak year, 1,004,756 immigrants passed through the island. The highest volume recorded for any single day was 11,747, on April 17, 1907.
Although the United States also maintained immigration stations in
Inspectors were particularly vigilant about preventing the spread of
View of Ellis Island reception center seen by arriving immigrants during the first decade of the twentieth century.
Agents of the United States Public Health Service and the
During World War I, the volume of immigration to the United States decreased, and Ellis Island was used to intern suspected enemy aliens. The restrictive
Brownstone, David M., Irene M. Franck, and Douglass L. Brownstone. Island of Hope, Island of Tears: The Story of Those Who Entered the New World Through Ellis Island–In Their Own Words. New York: Rawson, Wade, 1979. The authors assemble and comment on testimony by dozens of immigrants from a variety of backgrounds. Conway, Lorie. Forgotten Ellis Island: The Extraordinary Story of America’s Immigrant Hospital. New York: Smithsonian Books, 2007. A study of the medical facilities, policies, and history of the immigration station. Moreno, Barry. Encyclopedia of Ellis Island. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. More than four hundred alphabetically arranged entries as well as a chronology and a bibliography provide a thorough source of information about Ellis Island. Novotny, Ann. Strangers at the Door: Ellis Island, Castle Garden, and the Great Migration to America. Riverside, Conn.: Chatham Press, 1971. An illustrated history of Ellis Island and its changing role in immigration to the United States. One chapter is devoted to celebrity immigrants. Pitkin, Thomas M. Keepers of the Gate: A History of Ellis Island. New York: New York University Press, 1975. Originally prepared as a report for the National Park Service, a study of the island’s history and its prospects, as of 1975, as a museum site. Yans-McLaughlin, Virginia, and Marjorie Lightman. Ellis Island and the Peopling of America: The Official Guide. New York: New Press, 1997. Designed for high school students, this book, enriched by documents and charts, surveys the evolution of official policy and popular reactions toward immigration.
Angel Island Immigration Station
Bureau of Immigration, U.S.
History of immigration after 1891
New York City
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