THE HISTORY OF ELLISISLAND AND WHY PEOPLE CAME BY JESSICA SCHNEIDER
O People wanted to move to America because of the many job opportunities and the many freedoms available here that were not in the country they came from. People thought many different things about America. But what was America in their eyes, what did they think back then? Over twenty million people came through the doors of Ellis Island. But what’s the background of the island of tears itself?
O In the tiny island in New York Harbor stood Ellis Island; Ellis Island opened its doors in 1892 and closed in 1954. It had a total of 60 years in operation. Ellis Island is named after a tavern owner that once operated on the island itself. A lot of people came from Europe; for example, Jewish people came because they wanted to escape from political and financial issues from Russia. Also a very large amount of Italians and Greeks came to America because of the poverty in their home countries. They either began to America on foot or horseback or by train to get to the boating dock. Just about any race from Europe came. To get to America it took about one to two weeks on boat.
O The ships carried about 2,000 people it divided them into wealth and class the first and second class got staterooms or cabins, and the third class were in Steerage, Steerage was a very big open space at the bottom of the boat. People kind of got a hint at what life was going to be like in America because of the many different cultures and religions just from being on the boat. Also to brighten the spirits of some people they would eat chocolate bars or other different candies.
O Ellis island is also known as the “heartbreak” island because officers or doctors checked everyone who wanted to be in America because they thought it was important to screen all immigrants before allowing them into the country. Those that were sick or had criminal records were either sent back to their native land or were housed until they were well enough to enter the country. So because some families got disqualified from coming it got the nickname of Heartbreak Island.
O When arriving at Ellis Island the first thing people saw was the Statue of Liberty. Then the ferries took the passengers to the island to the registration.
O In June 14, 1897, a fire happened and burned Ellis Island completely to the ground and all the immigration records from all the way back to1855. The fire started because a stove in the finance room caught fire to the walls because the walls contained oily sap from trees. Immediately after the fire the United States Treasury started a new building plan but with one condition; it had to be fireproof. They made the building resemble a train station and the new building cost $1.5 million.
O Ellis Island was originally 3.3 acres; then extended with landfill to make the station. It eventually grew to 27.5 acres. The fill they used was from the NYC subway tunnel excavations.
O In just the first year almost 450,000 immigrants were processed. When the 3rd and steerage passengers arrived they were inspected for visual aliments: AKA the “six second medical exam”. people who passed went on into the great hall and the people who didn’t got marked with chalked and detained until they got a full physical from a doctor. The people who passed went on to the “great hall” to be processed. The great hall was 189 feet by 102feet big and had a 60 foot vaulted ceiling.
O The medical exams began as soon as people enter the building and doctors would stand at the top of the stairs and look for people who had possible problems and then would mark your back with chalk. Every child got their head and nails checkedO • An "X" = possible problemO • "B" = back to home countryO • "E" = disease in your eyesO • "P"= lung problemsO • "Sc"= scalpO • "L" stood for lamenessO • "Ct" stood for trachoma
O The average process time took 3-4 hours to complete. They got asked 29 questions like name, occupation, and how much they had carried. About 2% of the people got denied for disease, criminal background, or insanity. About 1/3 of the people stayed in New York and the rest spread across the country. Ellis Island was known as many different things like “The Island of Hope” or “The Island of Tears”. Ellis Island processed 1,004,756 people during its “peak year” in 1907. Some famous passengers(actors)that came through were Bob Hope, Bela Lugosi, Irving Berlin, and Cary Grant.
O After the fire the new building was pretty amazing it contained a baggage room, a huge dining room, kitchen, and dormitories with 600 beds, a hospital where 350 babies were born, an outdoor recreation center, and a roof garden.
O The “Immigrant Quota Act of 1921 and the National Origins Act of 1924” slowed down the immigration by allowing limited number of people into the country the era of immigration stopped in 1954.
O In WWII it served as a detainment center and training faculty. But then shut down after the war was over in 1954 because the building was too expensive to keep up in shape.O Then later on in 1976 it opened to the public as a museum now visitors can look up family history and millions of records
O It’s been estimated that at least 40% of people can trace back there history to Ellis Island. The offspring of the immigrants make up for over half the American population; for example, my great grandmother came from Greece and my great grandfather came from Italy. They both passed through the island and that’s how they met.
O There are a good amount of reasons a lot of the immigrants came was because of the job opportunities and the freedoms that came just by coming to America, just like the Germans who came to Kansas and brought the red wheat and made farms not owned by any government. They wanted a new a life that wasn’t constricted of rules upon rules. Some of the freedoms they got were freedom of speak and freedom of religion.
O A few words that sum up America is, free, determined, and recognized. All throughout the 1900s and even before that. People came to America because they knew that the skies the limit and that if you work hard you can achieve anything you want and then you could finally say “who says we can’t do anything”. Being in the” Land of the Brave” they wanted that freedom that they didn’t have in their home country. They expected America to lead and be open. Also they got the option of democracy. They knew that America was an immigrant nation and that it was strong. Also they wanted to enjoy the independence that they could have here. America has a lot of determination and efficiency and the people wanted to be a part of that. That’s what has shaped America. Estelle Schwartz Belford came in 1905 and she said that all she could think of was just passing through that gateway into a new life, and all of people.
O were so excited they were screaming and crying and singing to just even see America and the lady with her hand up giving you life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Renee Berkoff said they were singing “In America life is golden, in America the flowers are more beautiful, in America the world is much better, and that’s what I’m loaning to be my dear”. They felt all these feelings just because they knew that if you came to America you could rise up into the land of opportunity and feel that American spirit that came and to be all that you can be. To just have that American dream was priceless.
O Ellis Island was open for over 60 years. During this time it became the beginning point for millions of immigrants who saw America as a place of hope and refuge. It has partly shaped America to what it is today and has become the point of refuge of a lot of American heritage. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty still resemble America’s freedom and bravery even today.