American Immigration Ellis Island’s Story Power point created by Robert Martinez Primary source information: Ellis Island by Pamela Reeves
Ellis IslandNew York City, NY Four out of ten Americans trace their heritage via Ellis Island. Like the Statue of Liberty, it has been a powerfully evocative symbol to generations of immigrants.
Mr. Martinez’s Grandmother:Genevieve Menager Garza My grandmother, third from the left, immigrated to the United States from France. My grandmother like many others passed through Ellis Island. The Menager Siblings from France
Class System Ellis Island showcased some of the best aspects of the United States, but also some of the worst. Its very existence was testimony to a class system.
1st Class Ticket Immigrants who could afford a first- or second-class ticket aboard the big ocean liners from Europe were briefly inspected aboard ship and allowed, to pass directly into the United States.
Describing the lower decks, “Some…had sold their clothes to raise the passage-money, and had hardly rags to cover them; others had no food and lived upon the charity of the rest; and one man…had had no sustenance but the bones and scraps of fat he took from the plates used in the after-cabin dinner, when they were put out to be washed.” – Charles Dickens, 1842.
Steerage Passengers Only the poor were required to undergo an inspection at Ellis Island, and the poor comprised, by far, the majority of immigrants. These steerage passengers-so called because they traveled in the lowest levels of the ship – did not always receive a warm welcome.
Treatment of the immigrants on Ellis Island varied over the years from tolerant to scandalous, and even the most honest and well-meaning administrators had trouble getting rid of the men of prey who tried to cheat the newcomers out their few possessions or their often meager life savings.
Indeed, the immigrants were easy marks, having just completed an uncomfortable or even wretched journey across the ocean, stepping onto shore in a country where they knew neither the language nor the money exchange-rates.
The island also drew legions of kindhearted missionaries and ethnic-aid societies, whose members guided their countrymen through the entry process, past the lurking pitfalls, and safely into the new land. The volunteers helped immigrants locate friends and get jobs.
Some immigrants were forced to leave their homes because of war, famine, political , economic or religious persecution. Some left unhappy family situations and struck out on their own. Most were drawn by the promise of a better life, and a country where plentiful and hard work led to prosperity.
In 1845, Ireland was hit with a famine stemming from crop failures of the main peasant food- potatoes. Over the next decade, 1.5 million Irish citizens set out for the United States. Irish Laundry Girls
These Russian orphans lost their mothers due to political persecution in their homeland.
Ireland was not alone in suffering from lack of food- in 1847, a shortage of bread and potatoes caused rioting in Germany.
Xenophobia: the fear of strangers or foreigners. Between 1880 and 1900, nine million immigrants entered the country, the largest number of new arrivals in any 20 year period. This alarmed many Americans, in part because of a shift in the nationality of the immigrants.
The earliest settlers in the U.S. were from northern and western Europe, primarily England, Ireland, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. When people from southern and eastern Europe began to predominate (Italy, Russia, Poland, Spain, Greece, Eastern Europe, and Austria-Hungary), Americans began to protest.In 1924, a stiff immigration-restriction law was imposed. A Jewish peddler on the streets of New York City.
On the West Coast, there had been race riots against the Chinese, who had comprised 17 % of the population and worked for low wages for railroad builders. Feelings ran so strong that Congress banned Chinese immigrants from entering the United States (Chinese Exclusion Act). The immigration station in San Francisco is located on Angel Island.
Industrialization:Major Motive Ellis island opened in 1892 in the midst of an industrialization in the United States that drew eager workers from dozens of foreign nations; at its height in 1907, more than one million people came through its doors.
At the turn of the 20th century, America was undergoing a major transformation from a rural to an urban society. This change was accompanied by huge growth in iron, steel, mining, and lumber industries and such major developments as the telephone, the automobile, electric light, and the phonograph. Thomas Edison and his phonograph. Henry Ford and his Model T automobile. Alexander Graham Bell and his telephone.
The offshoots of industries required millions of laborers and provided the economic draw for those in less prosperous European nations.
Despite some early mutual distrust, many of the immigrants joined the newly developed American labor unions, eventually becoming a major force in the movement.
Their struggle for such rights for the 8 hour day led to bloody strikes and violent confrontations. In 1886 alone, there were nearly 1,600 strikes involving 600,000 workers, one them culminating in Chicago’s infamous Haymarket Riot, in which 8 policemen were killed and more than sixty people wounded. Many Americans would blame the unions and their immigrant members for causing the troubles.
At the same time as the labor classes, there was an outcry against the abuses at New York City’s Castle Garden, which had opened in 1855 as the nation’s first receiving-station for immigrants. During its 35 years of operation, Castle Garden handled 9 million immigrants, including labor champion Samuel Gompers, the 1st president of the AFL-CIO. SamuelGompers, the 1st president of the American Federation of Labor.
Ellis Island opens it doors to immigrants on New Year’s Day, 1882. The federal government opens the new station because of disrepair and corruption of the Castle Garden Immigration center. Prior to the federal government, immigration in New York City was handled by state officials. Ellis Island ferry
The wharves were large enough to receive immigrants from 2 ships simultaneously. Once ashore, they went straight into a giant hall and a maze of aisles where they waited their turn to talk with a registry clerk, and a medical inspection.
After passing the medical examination, immigrants waited anxiously in the Registry room to be summoned to an inspector’s desk for the legal inspection.
Primary Evidence: Inspection Card The inspection card, dating from 1911, gives the name of the ship which the immigrant traveled to America, plus the immigrant’s name, point of departure, and last residence.
Medical Inspections A mother and her children wait for medical examination. At the far left of the photograph, a doctor can be seen checking a child’s eyes for signs of trachoma. A doctor examines a woman who bears a chalk mark on her dress, courtesy of a sharp-eyed inspector.
Those who failed to pass the initial inspection were “placed in a wire-screened enclosure,” due to improper papers, or failed health screenings. Sometimes paperwork could be corrected. Sometimes immigrants were placed in quarantine. Many times, these immigrants were just sent back home. Sometimes family members would be separated. The Ellis Island hospital and contagious Wards contained beds for 700 patients.
Deportation:Expulsion of someone from a country. Immigrants who failed inspection were often sent home. Pictured are immigrants who are awaiting deportation in an outdoor area of Ellis Island.
Having passed all inspections, immigrants were permitted to send telegrams notifying relatives of their safe arrival to America.
The rest were separated into groups, depending on whether they planned to stay in New York or were taken to another destination. Immigrants who were to travel to their final destinations by railroad had their railway tickets pinned to their lapels.
At the Railroad ticket office, newcomers happy to have passed inspections bought tickets to travel on from Ellis Island.
Restrictions on Immigration As ever growing numbers of immigrants looked hopefully toward America and the promise of a new life, Americans themselves were reluctant to allow immigration to continue unrestricted. Congress would implement numerous restrictions and quotas on future immigration.
After World War I, immigration in the United States dwindles due to Congressional Quotas. During World War II, Ellis Island will be used as a detention center for enemy aliens (Germans, Italians, Japanese, Hungarians, Romanians, and Bulgarians.)
1951 The once packed Registry room was quiet, its vast spaces empty save for a few immigrant families.
Nativism:opposition to immigration. Its decline began shortly after World War I, when Congress imposed severe restrictions on immigration, reflecting the attitudes of a society grown weary of foreigners. After 1924, immigration slowed to a trickle and Ellis Island fell into disuse. It was closed in 1954.
Ellis Island is now a restored National Park and Museum Approximately 17 million immigrants passed through the gates of Ellis Island.
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