Thursday, September 17, 2015

25 Facts About Ellis Island, Gateway to the American Dream.

1. From 1892 to 1954 Ellis Island served as the United States’ largest immigration station, processing more than 12 million immigrants in just 62 years.

2. In its peak year of 1907, Ellis Island processed a total of 1,004,756 immigrants.

3. The island is predominantly located in Upper New York Bay in Jersey City, New Jersey. However, a small portion of the island is located in New York, and the island as a whole is sovereign to New York City, New York.

4. Local Indian tribes had first called Ellis Island "Kioshk" or Gull Island. Due to its rich and abundant oyster beds and plentiful and profitable shad runs, it was known as Oyster Island for many generations during the Dutch and English colonial periods.

5. By the time Samuel Ellis became the island's private owner in the 1770s, the island had been called Kioshk, Oyster, Dyre, Bucking and Anderson's Island. Far from its position as the most-traveled immigrant station in the world, Ellis Island developed from a sandy island that barely rose above the high tide mark into a hanging site for pirates, a harbor fort, and an ammunition and ordinance depot named Fort Gibson.

6. In 1808 the War Department established a 20-gun battery, magazine, and barracks and from 1808 until 1814 it was a federal arsenal. At the end of the War of 1812, Fort Gibson was built and the island remained a military post for nearly 80 years before it was selected to be a federal immigration station.

7. Ellis Island was originally just 3.3 acres. In order to house the immigration station, landfill from the NYC subway excavation was used to expand the landmass to 27.5 acres.

8. In its first year as an immigration station in 1892, Ellis Island processed more than 450,000 immigrants

9. On arrival to the immigration station, immigrants were inspected for any visible ailments. This rapid inspection was given the name ‘six second medical exam’. Those who failed the exam were marked with chalk and were sent for a full physical inspection. Those who passed went on to be processed in The Great Hall.

10. The first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island on January 1st 1892 was a 15-year-old girl from Cork, Ireland, named Annie Moore, who arrived on the ship Nevada. The last person to pass through Ellis Island in 1954 was Arne Peterssen, a Norwegian merchant seaman.

11. There were some famous household names that passed through Ellis Island, including: Irving Berlin (1893), Bob Hope (1908), Bela Lugosi (1921), and Cary Grant (1920).

12. On June 15th 1897 a fire ripped through the island, destroying the main building along with the majority of immigration records, dating back to 1855. A new fireproof building, designed by Edward Lippincott Tilton and William Alciphron Boring, was built in its place at a cost of $1.5 Million (roughly $45 million in 2015).

13. More than 3,000 would-be immigrants died while being held in Ellis Island’s hospital facilities.

14. The average processing time was 3-4 hours. The immigrants were asked 29 questions, including: name, occupation, and the amount of money they carried.

15. Only 2% of applicants were denied admission. The reasons were mostly due to disease, insanity, or a criminal background, giving Ellis Island the nicknames- ‘The Island of Tears’ and ‘Heartbreak Island’.

16. One third of the approved applicants remained in New York, while the rest scattered across the country.

17. It’s been estimated than around 40% of all U.S. citizens can trace at least part of their ancestry to Ellis Island.

18. There is a wooden column outside the registry office, called The Kissing Post. The Kissing Post is where relatives and friends greeted new arrivals, typically with tears, hugs, and kisses.

19. Due to new legislation in the 1920’s, mass immigration into New York was effectively ended. Operations at Ellis Island slowed down considerably.

20. During World War II, Ellis Island was used as a detainment center for a total of over 7,000 prisoners. In December 1941, Ellis Island held 279 Japanese, 248 Germans, and 81 Italians who were removed from the East Coast.

21. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared Ellis Island part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. Ellis Island was opened to the public for tours on a limited basis between 1976 and 1984.

22. Starting in 1984, Ellis Island underwent a major restoration, the largest historic restoration in U.S. history.

23. One of the last detainees on Ellis Island, was the Aceh separatist Hasan di Tiro who, while a student in New York in 1953, declared himself the "foreign minister" of the rebellious Darul Islam movement. Due to this action, he was immediately stripped of his Indonesian citizenship, causing him to be imprisoned for a few months on Ellis Island as "an illegal alien."

24. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was the first non-U.S. citizen to be awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which pays homage to the immigrant experience and the contribution made to America by immigrants and their children. Other notable medalists include: Muhammad Ali, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Quincy Jones, and Donald Trump.

25. Ellis Island has a great feature for its modern day visitors, where you can digitally look through millions of arrival records to research family history.

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