Ellis Island Immigration Experience


Tender Brings New Immigrants to Landing at Ellis Island.

Tender Brings New Immigrants to Landing at Ellis Island. Emigrants coming up the board-walk from the barge, which has taken them off the steamship company's docks, and transported them to Ellis Island. The big building in the background is the new hospital just opened. The ferry-boat seen in the middle of the picture, runs from New York to Ellis Island. Quarantine Sketches, The Maltine Company, 1902 [1]. Library of Congress # 97501086. GGA Image ID # 148396ba43


Immigrants on inbound ships that arrived in New York were anchored off the Narrows. Inspectors onboard processed first and second-class passengers, and those who passed inspection went on to dock at the piers in Manhattan. Ferries then took steerage passengers to Ellis Island for processing (along with first and second-class passengers who failed inspection). The average immigrant spent three to five hours on Ellis Island.


Important Dates in Ellis Island History

  • 11 April 1890: Congress appropriates $75,000 to build an immigration station at Ellis Island.
  • 1 January 1892: The immigration station at Ellis Island officially opens.
  • 14-15 June, 1897: Fire destroys Ellis Island Buildings, including records of immigrants dating back to 1840. All personds were safely evacuated.
  • 17 December 1900: The new and currently standing main building opens at a cost of $1.5 million.
  • 1907: Ellis Island has peak number of immigrants arrive (Approximately 1.25 million).
  • 1917-1919: Ellis Island serves as a detention center for enemy aliens, a way station for US Navy personnel, and as a hospital for the US Army.
  • 1919-1954: Serves as a deportation center in addition to it core purpose as an immigration station.
  • 1920: After WWI, Ellis Island Reopened processing 225,206 immigrants.
  • 1924: Mass migration ended. Immigrants are now inspected in their countries of origin.
  • 1939-1949: Portion of Ellis Island was used as a Coast Guard Station.
  • 1941-1954: Portion of Ellis Island served as a detention center for enemy aliens.
  • 29 November 1954: Norwegian Merchant Seaman Arne Peterssen, the last immigrant is processed at Ellis Island.


Ellis Island Archival Collection


Ellis Island Image Library

Ellis Island Image Library

Books, brochures, articles, and other ephemera provided many photographs and Illustrations of the conditions and experiences of immigrants who chose to enter the United States via Ellis Island in New York from the late 1800s through World War I.


A Day In The New Ellis Island: A British Perspective 1895

A Day In The New Ellis Island: A British Perspective 1895

Ellis Island, the modern Castle Garden of New York, is undoubtedly during the height of the emigration season the most cosmopolitan centre in the wide world. First Hand Account, Immigrant Processing, Photographs.


Handling The Immigrant at Ellis Island - 1896

Ellis Island is but a tiny bit of land, but it has a history all its own. It was here that the Dutch, and afterwards the early English governors, stored the town's ammunition. First Hand Account, Immigrant Processing, Immigration Agencies.


The Immigration Question - A Study of Migration (1897)

Among the many problems which the rapid and restless progress of civilized mankind has created in the nineteenth century, the problem of immigration is not the least interesting. Immigration History, Statistics, Migration and Emigration Information.


The Landing of the Emigrants on Ellis Island (1897)

The finest station of this kind in the possession of the government is the national successor to Castle Garden, which is located on Ellis Island, New York harbor. Immigration Process, History of Immigration, Steerage.


The Threshold of America - Ellis Island Immigration Station, 1898

Ellis Island had to consider planning a fire-proof structure which would keep immigrants free from all outside interference until discharged, while affording conveniences to resident relatives or friends to communicate with them at the proper time. Immigration Process, Ellis Island Descriptive Information, Photographs.


The Arrival of the Immigrant at the Barge Office – 1898

Its "steamship day" at the Barge Office, that turreted building of gray stone On the Battery's outer wall. Up the bay a few hours before an ocean liner has been crawling in from some of the cities of far-distant Europe.


1898 - Homeless Immigrants Christmas at the Barge Office

For the great country which welcomes wanderers does not forget to give them cordial greeting when Christmas sees them first upon its shores.


The Great Gateway to America - 1899

From 16 June 1897, until Ellis Island reopened in December 1900, immigrants landed at the Barge Office in New York. During the rebuilding of Ellis Island after the fire of 1897, immigrants were processed at the Barge Office. A ship, The "Narragansett," was employed to house immigrants that were temporarily detained. This article documents the time immigrants were processed at the Barge Office.


At Ellis Island - A Poem For A Loved One - 1900

SHE'S left ould Ireland, ashtore,
She's sailed across the sea—
This day I'll see her step ashore,
Oh, happy day for me!...


A Morning's Scenes At Ellis Island - 1901

Today the new buildings which are in use, although not entirely 'completed, afford ample accommodation for the throngs of foreigners who enter our country through the Port of New York.


Ellis Island Quarantine Sketches - 1902

Ellis Island Quarantine Sketches - 1902

Engravings showing the care of immigrants at the New York quarantine station on Ellis Island, in all its phases from the arrival on shipboard to the departure by rail for the far west.


Enormous Flood of Immigrants from Europe - 1902

Nearly 150,000 of the peasantries of Europe have already this year landed in America, so that 1902 promises to hold a record for foreign immigration. There seems to be no limit to the capacity of the United States to absorb the European thousands. In January 18,375 immigrants arrived at Ellis Island, New York.


Americans In The Raw - Immigrants At Ellis Island - 1902

The Government assumes jurisdiction over the aliens as soon as their steamer has been passed at quarantine. Inspectors go aboard from the revenue cutters down the bay and obtain the manifests of alien passengers, which the steamship companies must supply.


In The Gateway of Nations - The Mass Immigration to The US - 1903

And the hopelessly bewildered are there, often enough exasperated at the restraint, which they cannot understand. The law of kindness is put to a severe strain here by ignorance and stubbornness.


The Great Migration - As Seen At the Port of New York - 1903

Upon arriving at the landing place, the immigrants are led along the wharf, as seen in the illustration, and carrying their hand baggage they file up to the first floor in the main building.


The Flood From Europe - The Immigration Problem, 1903

The report of the Commissioner General of Immigration has been issued for the year, ending June 30th, 1903, and it shows that all previous records have been broken in the number of aliens that have come to the United States during the twelve months included in the report. Illustrated.


Solving The Immigration Problem (1904)

Assimilation is a mutual process; it depends for success not only on what the foreign body will do to be absorbed into the greater body, but upon what the greater body will do to attract it.


Photographs of Ellis Island Immigrants - 1904 / 1905

Photographs were published in the Norwegian Book, Blandt Udvandrede Nordmænd: Vore Landsmænds Liv og Vilkaar i Den Nye Verden - Det Norske Amerika af Thoralv Klaveness. Immigrants to North America.


How Immigrants Are Inspected at Ellis Island - 1905

The writer has roughly described the immigrant inspection in 1905 at New York, but the same attention to detail and strict enforcement of laws and regulations can be said to exist at all our ports.


How Immigrants Are Handled - A Business Perspective - 1905

The system by which the United States government examines and sends on their way as many as 12,000 immigrants in a single day—as easily, as methodically and smoothly as though they were so many sacks of grain.


Flood Tide of Immigration - 1906

Commissioner Watchorn said he would not pass upon more than approximately 5.000 immigrants in one day. This number of arrivals far exceeds the highest previous number awaiting examination in one day, 11.000, about a month ago.


Gateway to America for European Immigrants (1906)

One of the most noteworthy features of the industrial system in the United States is the question of labor supply. The efficiency of American labor has been the subject of an endless amount of discussion among students of industrial affairs. Immigrant Processing, Statistics, Photographs.


The Child Immigrant At Ellis Island - 1906

The Child Immigrant At Ellis Island - 1906

Stockholm is far away, and little Augusta, holding her doll close to her wonders a great deal at what she secs. Her eyes are deep blue and health glows in her chubby pink cheeks and crimson lips. She is bound for Minnesota to join her father and four stalwart brothers.


The Men Who Are To Vote - Our New Immigrants - 1906

Ellis Island on a sparkling April afternoon. A fresh salt breeze is sweeping in from the ocean. In the harbor, life is throbbing! Bustling tugs and huge steamers, scows laden with freight-cars, ferry-boats crowded with people, tall, clumsy two-decked barges packed with immigrants from ocean liners.


Helping Irish Girls At Ellis Island - 1906

The great landing station for steerage passengers is Ellis Island, New York harbor. Here, almost daily, may be seen thousands from every land, gathered like anxious children at a mother's hem.


The Inspection And Registration Of Immigrants (1906)

When a ship arrives in New York harbor, telegraphic notice of its entrance is sent ahead, and the vessel is boarded by the State quarantine inspectors, and by the immigration inspectors and surgeons.


An Interview with The Commissioner of Immigration - 1906

We cannot have too much of the right kind of immigration; we cannot have too little of the wrong kind. We are seeing to It that we get the right kind -- and we are getting the right kind, of that I am certain. Includes tables of facts of Admitted, Rejected and Debarred immigrants.


Ellis Island: The Island Of Disenchantment - 1907

Loquacity is relief in time of trouble. The foreigner shut in to herself by the strangeness of her tongue, suffers more than do those of English speech who can more readily relate their sufferings to sympathetic ears and hearts.


Some Of Our Immigrants - A Look At The People Coming Through Ellis Island - 1907

The immigrants were photographed immediately after disembarking, and are here shown just as they landed, most of them being still clad in their native costume, which will be discarded, however, within a few hours.


Curbing A Human Flood of Immigration - A New Law Takes Effect - 1907

In spite of the clamor for immigrants which has been coming with increasing appeal from the thinly populated regions of the country, over seven-tenths of the aliens who passed through the immigrant stations last year said they were going to settle in already thickly populated centers.


Duchess Samples Ellis Island Pie - 1907

Duchess Samples Ellis Island Pie - 1907

The Duchess showed great Interest In the operation of finding out the qualifications of the Immigrants to be admitted into the country, and she went before an Inspector and answered, smilingly, a number of questions, Just to "see how it was."


Face To Face - Students Observe The Immigration Process At Ellis Island - 1908

They had gone down from the Battery to Ellis Island—these thirty-five girls from an eastern college—on the little vessel that carries into the United States more aliens than any other afloat.


The New Ellis Island - Improvements for the Arriving Immigrants - 1908

There are few places where the social viewpoint is more concretely and widely expressed than at Ellis Island. Changes in process will affect the comfort of a new million of people each year. Commissioner Watchorn is an official who is adequate to an immense situation.


New Immigrants Spend Christmas At Ellis Island - 1908

Christmas Eve found sixteen hundred immigrants detained at Ellis Island. Some were waiting for friends who had not appeared, some were penniless, some were ill, families had been separated because of the measles, which, like an evil spirit, had taken possession on shipboard.


Ellis Island As Seen By The Camera Man - 1908

At Ellis Island the subject is viewed from the standpoint of physical inability to work, and the certainty that, too often, the doors of honest labor will be closed in the face of the applicant. The husband must be able to provide for his wife and child; the lover must be made to go through the marriage ceremony and to be able to care for the family, or the department of deportation is put in charge of the case.


The Immigrant Processing At Ellis Island - 1908

The Immigrant Processing At Ellis Island - 1908

You may think you can gain some idea about the arrivals at Ellis Island and of the Immigrant, but you never can. You must get a permit, as we did, from the authorities and see for yourself the "human stream that pours from the steerage of every steamship that docks there, into that huge reservoir, Ellis Island."


Christmas at Ellis Island - 1908

IT SEEMS to me we all feel a little puckery and as if we had bitten a green persimmon when we think of Ellis Island. There came over last year one million one hundred thousand, and one million the year before—always increasing.


Government To Find Work For All - The Rush To Ellis Island - 1908

THE greatest employment agency in the world has been newly established at Washington. It is conducted by the government, and its business will be to find work for everybody. Jobs for over a million immigrants from foreign lands have to be obtained somehow every year, and Uncle Sam proposes to take general charge of this enormous task.


The Loves of Ellis Island - 1909

In the Loves of Ellis Island you may find a theme to answer the eternal question of existence. You shall see the immigrants laugh and cry. Nothing more matters much.


The Mission Work At Ellis Island - 1909

A translation of a clipping from a newspaper printed in the Netherlands. It shows that the work of Mr. Sydney Zandstra, our missionary at Ellis Island, is known and appreciated.


A Mother's Story Of Ellis Island - 1911

The two women went out into the new land with their burdens, but side by side, and seldom letting out of eye-shot a venturing, wayward boy, who trudged on a little ahead, alive with the immortal hunger of youth.


What Jewish Women Are Doing For The Jews At Ellis Island - 1912

What Jewish Women Are Doing For The Jews At Ellis Island - 1912

For the Jewesses, coming from the many lands where they have been victims of persecution and inhumanity, the hopelessness is still more deepened by the torments of memory. For them the sum of possible human misery seems, indeed, complete.


The Battery - A Place To While Away An Hour - New York's Battery Park - 1912

The best place in town to observe the activities of the Immigrants at Ellis Island. The Battery: A Place To While Away An Hour. One of New York's Interesting Places. Well Worth a Trip of Exploration.


The Protection of Immigrants at Ellis Island and Port of New York - 1912

Located in these centers are steamship ticket agents, who sell not only the rail ticket to New York, but wherever possible, the steamship ticket which is good for passage when stamped at the general office or dock of the line over which it is sold. Some of these agents also sell, or lead the alien to believe he has paid for, his lodging, baggage transfer and guide service to the hotel and dock in New York City.


Immigrants Going Through Ellis Island in 1913

It is a busy island. Yet in all the rushing hurry and seeming confusion of a full day, in all the babel of language, the excitement and fright and wonder of the thousands of newly-landed, and in all the manifold and endless details that make up the immigration plant, there is system, silent, watchful, swift, efficient.


Landing at Ellis Island - Processing the Steerage Passenger - 1913

Passing quarantine and the customs officials as the ship comes up the bay, it is warped into its dock, and when the last cabin passenger has gone ashore the steerage people are put into barges and towed away to Ellis Island, where final judgment awaits them.


Edison Sheds Light On The Immigrant - 1914

Edison Sheds Light On The Immigrant - 1914

The immigrant and the scenes incidental to his admission are said to be picturesque—picturesque, that is, to the onlooker. The immigrant himself, overcome by doubt and uncertainty, finds little to admire in his surroundings, while to those associated with the work the kaleidoscopic scene has long since lost its powers of fascination.


Immigrant Safety And The Barge Office At Ellis Island - 1914

Whether arriving in or leaving the country, it is usually necessary to stop here, often for a day or more. While making arrangements for transportation, or while locating friends in the city, if his home is to be in New York, the new arrival is in great need of advice and assistance. Alone and in a strange land, ignorant of the language, he is indeed helpless.


A Performance By The Thimble Theatre On Ellis Island - 1916

THE Thimble Theatre went a traveling last week. The entire ensemble of last Saturday night followed an invitation of chief clerk, Augustus Sherman, of Ellis Island, and repeated the performance for the benefit of the immigrants detained at present on Ellis Island.


Improvements At Ellis Island Inaugurated By Frederic C. Howe - 1916

Mr. Howe's recommendations were that the contract, involving the expenditure of one-half million dollars a year, in time of normal immigration, and being very profitable, should not be renewed, and that, instead. the authorities at Ellis Island should purchase the food and prepare and supply it to the immigrants at cost.


Our Foreign-Born Citizens - 1917

Never in the history of the American people has Congress passed a measure as often and vetoed by the President as many times as the immigration bill recently enacted into law.


Immigrants to the United States: Inspection, Social and Economic Conditions - 1918 (Ellis Island)

The immigrant first comes under the official control of the United States government when he arrives at the port of destination. There are a number of seaports on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts designated by the Bureau as ports of entry for immigrants. Entry at any other ports is illegal.


Ellis Island From Three Points of View (1918)

Ellis Island From Three Points of View (1918)

The quota of nurses from Base Hospital 33 celebrated Washington's Birthday by entraining at different points for mobilization at Ellis Island, New York. About twenty came from Albany, others from Schenectady, Troy, and some from cantonments where they had been in Army service, while waiting for mobilization. Those of on from Albany were given a very pleasant ovation at the depot by the Red Cross and by our many friends who gathered there to wish us the best of luck. We were generously supplied with bon bons, fruit and flowers and everything our friends could think of to cheer us on our way.


The American Library Association's Work At Ellis Island - 1920

The American Library Association's Work At Ellis Island - 1920

The library was moved about a month ago from a little room about twelve feet square to a ward at the extreme end of Third Island. This is a bit remote for some of the patients to reach, but they are cared for in other ways, and the room itself is such a nice one that we are only too grateful to the hospital authorities for moving us.


New Regime At Ellis Island - 1920

By showing them the best brand of United States courtesy and recognizing their need for individual consideration Commissioner Wallace hopes to make the incoming "foreigners" feel an interest and responsibility in America at the very start.


Ellis Island Filled to Limit with Immigrants - 1920

The rising wave of immigration swamped Ellis Island completely today. Although every available inch of space at the immigration station is utilized and for night after night this week aliens have been sleeping on the branches in the concourse.


Where Bad Citizens Are Made - 1921

Read this story of what women and children endure at Ellis Island, where many immigrants gel their first taste of America. Then, while you are still boiling with the sense of injustice and outraged decency, write your congressman that conditions must be changed.


America's International Clearinghouse - 1921

As approximately 70 percent of the Nation's immigration is handled on Ellis Island, it is clear that the above title may fittingly be applied to this entrance to the New World.


Need for Reforms at Ellis Island Called Urgent (1921)

The general report of this Committee on the subject of immigration adopted by your Board on November 19, 1920, contained a recommendation concerning the improvement and enlargement of facilities for handling immigrants at Ellis Island and the necessity for Congressional appropriations for this purpose.


At the Portals of America - Post War Ellis Island - 1921

This is the sort of work that is being done every day by the recently organized Association Immigrant Guide Service that is helping Commissioner of Immigration Frederick A. Wallis to solve some of the complex problems that have followed the daily inundation of Ellis Island by thousands of immigrants.


Welfare Work at Ellis Island: Conditions for Receiving Immigrants Revolutionized - 1922

The United States Bureau of Immigration Volunteer Advisory Committee on Immigrant Welfare, in cooperation with Commissioner Robert E. Tod, has practically completed a thorough survey of Ellis Island with the result that conditions under which immigrants are received and detained at that station, will be largely revolutionized.


First-Hand Impressions of Ellis Island - 1923

First-Hand Impressions of Ellis Island - 1923

The only way to get the real atmosphere and “feeling” of Ellis Island, the great gateway to the United States, is to imagine yourself an immigrant, entering that gate for the first-time. As you come across in the ferryboat and view the dignified, imposing red administration building, you can well imagine, especially if it is your first visit, as it was mine, the impresson the Island makes on the thousands of newcomers each year.


Ellis Island Hope and Tears

In the decade after Ellis Island opened, 3,047,130 immigrants arrived at the port of New York. At the same time, only 640,434 came through all other ports of entry. Immigration reached its peak during the first decade of the 20th century when 8,795,386 arrived nationwide. 6,853,756 (78%) in New York.


Facts About Ellis Island

Facts About Ellis Island

Thirteen Facts About the Ellis Island Immigrant Station in New York from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). How many of these facts were you aware of?


How Many Immigrants Came Through Ellis Island?

Some of the alien cabin passengers were visitors, some were in transit to Canada, but most of them, at least until well into the 1920s, were immigrants, just as were the steerage aliens who were automatically sent to Ellis Island, and were counted in the statistics of immigrants received.


End Notes

Note 1: In 1902, The Maltine Company issued an album of photographs, called Quarantine Sketches. It contains between thirty and forty engravings showing the care of immigrants at the New York quarantine station on Ellis Island, in all its phases from the arrival on shipboard to the departure by rail for the far west. It is altogether one of the most instructive booklets that has been published by the Maltine Company; and this is according it great praise, for the company is noted for the dissemination of useful material.


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