Ellis Island

Ellis Island You might wonder why someone would go through all the trouble to write an essay on immigration. (besides the fact this is an assignment in history) Much of what we say, eat, and even do is connected to something that an immigrant brought to this country years ago. Many of the dishes that we as Americans enjoy, such as pastas, burritos, or even some types of sausages were brought here by Italians, Mexicans, and Germans. Also much of our everyday language comes from other languages. This is why immigration is so interesting to me.

My main interest in immigration takes place at a place called Ellis Island. Ellis Island is a small island in Upper New York Bay, although in New Jersey waters. It is under the political jurisdiction of New York. From 1892 to 1954 Ellis Island was the Headquarters of an immigration and naturalization district of the United States. The early Dutch colonists called the island Oyster Island originally; it was later known as Gibbet Island, after a private was hanged there in 1765.

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Samuel Ellis bought the island in the 18th century and gave it his name. From Ellis Island it passed to New York State; it was bought from the state by the federal government in 1808. In 1892, when Castle Garden, the immigration station at the Battery in lower Manhattan, could no longer handle the flow of immigrants, the reception headquarters was transferred to Ellis Island. At Ellis Island immigrants were examined and either admitted or deported. At the height of its activity from 1900 to 1914 Ellis Island station could process 1 million people a year. Around 1890to 1920 mostly Europeans arrived in Ellis Island. Whereas at Angel Island in San Francisco Asians were arriving on boats.

The ever-growing numbers taxed the faculty with long lines and overcrowding. Ships dropped anchors outside the Narrows, where Quarantine officers would come aboard to check for signs of epidemic diseases. If a ship was free of disease, doctors would then examine the first and second class passengers, most of whom were given permission to land as soon as the ship docked. Steerage-class passengers were ferried to Ellis Island for inspection. “We were put on a barge, jammed in so tight that I couldnt turn around, there were so many of us, you see, and the stench was terrible. And when we got to Ellis Island, they put the gangplank down, and there was a man at the foot, and her was shouting, at the top of his lungs, “Put your luggage here.

Men this way. Women and children this way.” Dad looked at us and said, “well meet you back here at this mound of luggage and hope we find it again and see you later.” This quote was by a European immigrant in 1920 by the name of Eleanor Kenderdine Lenhart. Sometimes new arrivals had to wait aboard their ships for days before being transferred to Ellis Island. Once there, they were often confined to the overcrowded barges for hours without food or water, waiting for their turn to disembark for inspection. The barges chartered by the steamship lines lacked adequate toilets and lifesaving equipment, they were freezing cold in winter and unbearably hot in the summer.

When disembarking at Ellis Island, some immigrants were so encumbered with large bundles that they kept their health certificates handy by clenching then between their teeth. Their assortment of baggage contained what must have been their most prized but portable belongings: clothing, feather beds, dinnerware, as well as photographs, family prayer books and other mementoes of the homeland. The immigrants were all inspected as they arrived to Ellis Island in different ways. They inspected there mentally and medically. The medical inspection began as soon as the immigrants ascended the stairs to the Registry Room.

Doctors stationed at the top of the stairs watched carefully for shortness of breath or signs of heart trouble as the immigrants climbed up the steps hefting their baggage. U.S. Public Health Service Doctors sometimes only had six seconds to scan each immigrant during the line inspection. If a doctor found any indication of diseases, he marked the shoulder or lapel of the immigrants clothing with chalk: “L” for lameness, “E” for eyes, for example. Marked immigrants, some of them whom had received several of these mystifying letters, were removed from the inspection line and led to special examination rooms.

There a doctor would check them for the ailment indicated by the chalk mark and give them a quick overall physical. Many had to be sent to the hospital for observation and care. Patients who recovered were usually aloud to land. Others, whose ailments were incurable or disabling, were sent back to their ports of origin. As far as the mental inspection, nine out of one hundred immigrants were marked with an “X” by the U.S. Public Health Service during the line inspection and were sent to mental examination rooms for further questioning.

During the primary examination, doctors first asked the immigrants to answer a few questions about themselves, and then to solve simple arithmetic problem, or count backward from 20 to 1, or complete a puzzle. Out of the nine immigrants held for this session, perhaps one or two would be detained for a secondary session of more extensive testing. Bibliography An immigrant from 1917 says, ” They asked us questions like “How much is two and one? How much is two and two?” They even asked one girl how she washed stairs, from the top to the bottom?” She said, ” I dont go to America to wash stairs.” Coming to America, published by Dell Publishing Co. Inc. New York, New York Author, Gladys Nadler Rips, Copyright, 1981 The Westward Journey, Mankota MN, Creative Education Inc. Kristain Hvidt, Copyright, 1976 Immigration: New Americas, Old Question, Facts on File, New York, New York Edited by Melinda Maidens, Copyright, 1981.