Posts Tagged ‘Ellis Island’

Who passed through Ellis Island a century ago

January 2, 2017

ellisislanddutchwomenOn January 1, 1892, seven hundred immigrants from three ships waited in New York Harbor to board barges that would take them to Ellis Island.

These newcomers were the first to be processed at the brand-new, federal government-run facility, where a total of 12 million immigrants over 62 years were registered and then given medical and legal checks before being allowed onto the mainland.

(This was only for third-class passengers, of course—those in first and second class were given a quick inspection on the ship, then allowed to proceed to New York City.)

ellisislandgreeksoliderAfter arriving at Ellis Island, immigrants spent an average of two to five hours before getting the go-ahead to embark on a new life in the United States.

Two percent, however, were turned back across the pond for a variety of reasons: bad health, mental issues, anti-American sentiment.

Capturing the faces of many of these new arrivals in their native dress was chief registry clerk Augustus Sherman, who was also an amateur photographer.

Sherman took about 250 photos of people he encountered between 1905 and the 1920s.

ellisislandromanianshepherd“The people in the photographs were most likely detainees who were waiting for money, travel tickets or someone to come and collect them from the island,” stated The Public Domain Review.

Sherman took the photos for his own enjoyment. “Augustus Sherman was fascinated by where the immigrants were coming from and their traditional clothing,” states the National Park Service.

“He usually photographed immigrants that were detained briefly and used mostly dull backgrounds so the immigrants themselves were the main focus.”

ellisislanditalianwoman“Though originally taken for his own personal study, Sherman’s work appeared in the public eye as illustrations for publications with titles such as ‘Alien or American,’ and hung on the walls of the custom offices as cautionary or exemplary models of the new American species,” explained a summary of a book that collected Sherman’s Ellis Islands photos.

Regardless of how they were used a century ago, these photos are incredible portraits of what some of the people who made it to Ellis Island looked like.

ellisislandhinduboy

Dressed in folk outfits from their native countries, they have unsmiling yet hopeful faces.

TheGildedAgeinNewYorkcoverFor more about what it was like to arrive in New York City as an immigrant in the 19th and early 20th centuries—first at Castle Garden, then at Ellis Island—check out The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910.

[Countries of origin: 1. The Netherlands; 2. Greece; 3. Romania; 4. Italy; 5. “Hindu” is how the boy is described]

“Emigrant Landing” at Ellis Island

December 23, 2010

Is the E on emigrant a typo, or is this really the last stop for Americans seeking to relocate to other countries?

Sometimes the manufacturers of these vintage postcards shaved off details, but the building looks significantly smaller and less ornate than the main immigrant landing station on Ellis Island.

The graves of New York City’s founding families

April 15, 2010

The city’s oldest cemeteries are home to the tombstones of early bigwig early New Yorkers.

The first Riker (of Rikers Island fame, of course) arrived in New Amsterdam from Holland in 1638.

His descendent, John Lafayette Riker, was a Civil War colonel in a Union Army volunteer regiment called the Anderson Zouaves.

Riker was killed at the Battle of Fair Oaks in 1862 and buried in Green-Wood Cemetery.

William Drayton Blackwell was a member of the Blackwell family, New Yorkers since 1776.

The Blackwells originally owned their namesake island in the East River, which eventually became Roosevelt Island in 1973.

This Blackwell, a slovenly “rich eccentric” according to a Brooklyn genealogy website, now lies in The New York City Marble Cemetery, at Second Street between Second and and First Avenues.

St. Marks in the Bouwerie Church, on Second Avenue and Tenth Street in the East Village, also contains the tombs of prominent 18th and 19th century families. 

The Samuel C. Ellis, MD buried here is probably the same Samuel Ellis who lived at One Greenwich Street and sold Little Oyster Island—eventually Ellis Island—to the federal government around 1800.

Ellis Island’s joyful “kissing post”

March 31, 2010

Getting through Ellis Island after arriving in America took some time.

After disembarking and taking a ferry to the main building, every immigrant went through the same process.

They would leave their belongings in a baggage room, undergo a medical exam, and be interviewed by agents to make sure they were legally able to come to the U.S.

The routine took hours, days, or weeks, and not everyone was given the go-ahead to enter New York City.

But if they did, America’s newest arrivals were free to move on.

They went to a money-exchange area, collected their bags, and waited at the foot of the stairs of the Great Hall to reunite with family already in New York.

One pillar in the room was the location of so many emotional family reunions, it became known as the kissing post. It’s marked with a plaque today.