Little Bits of History

Coming to America

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 11, 2010

Ellis Island in 1902

April 11, 1890: Ellis Island is named as the new national immigration center. Before this time, each state regulated immigration. For New York state, that site was Castle Garden in the Battery, a.k.a. Castle Clinton. Between 1855 and 1890, about 8 million immigrants were processed through Castle Garden, coming mostly from northern and western Europe.

Ellis Island is located in New York Harbor and served as a military fortification prior to becoming an immigration site. Originally only 3.3 acres in size, it has been increased to 27.5 acres by landfills obtained from ship ballast and earth from the construction of the NYC subway system.

By January 1, 1892, the Main Building was ready for processing those who wished to enter into the American Dream. Annie Moore, a 15-year-old Irish girl was the first to be processed. On June 14, 1897 the building burned completely to the ground, amazingly without loss of life. The Main Building was rebuilt and opened on December 17, 1900 with 2,251 people received on that date.

For the 62 years that Ellis Island was a working immigration center, more than 12 million people were allowed into the country through this port of entry. Although the place was also known as the “Island of Tears,” most people were treated with dignity and respect. The highest number of people entering the US via Ellis Island was in the year 1907 when 1.25 million people entered the US and were processed through. Ellis Island closed – as an immigration point – in 1954. Today it is a tourist stop located in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty with almost 2 million visitors annually. It is part of the National Park Service of the US Department of the Interior.

“Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“It was this society and culture that among other things – including economic opportunities here and repression in Europe – attracted subsequent generations of immigrants to this country.” – Samuel P. Huntington

“No, my family is Russian, Georgian, via Ellis Island.” – Mitch Kapor

“Ellis Island is for the people who came over on ships. My people came in chains.” – David N. Dinkins

Also on this day, in 1968 President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

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