Ellis Island – January 1, 1892

Ellis Island, circa 1893 - Public Domain

Ellis Island, circa 1893 – Public Domain

The New Colossus
Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This sonnet by Emma Lazarus is on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. As the immigrants approached Ellis Island Lady Liberty was one of the first things they would see.

January 1, 1892 the main Immigration Station at Ellis opened. Prior to that immigrants had been processed across the bay at  Castle Garden Immigration Depot in Lower Manhattan.  Over 700 immigrants arrived on three large ships that first day of operation at Ellis Island. 15 year old Irish born Annie Moore was the first immigrant to be processed. During the first year of operation, approximately 450,000 immigrants passed through Ellis Island.

Tragically on  June 15, 1897 a fire destroyed the buildings of the Immigration Station. Lost in the fire were most of the immigration records dating back to 1855. The first 5 years of this station saw approximately 1.5 million immigrants pass through the doors. Their records were among those lost in the fire. It was rebuilt and Ellis Island’s Immigration Station operated for more that 60 years, closing in November of 1954. It is estimated that today more than 40% of all Americans can trace an ancestor to the over 17 million immigrants who came through Ellis Island.

Pinterest allows you to collect pictures of those things you love. Those who know me well know I am dedicated to preserving the story of my Ancestors and am an avid Genealogist. One picture of Ellis Island led me on a 3 hour visit to the past one evening. I collected over 100 pics on my board “1892-1954 Ellis Island“. It is filled with images of the immigrants who passed through Ellis Island and the site itself. All of them intrigued me and like any good genealogist, I sat there studying each one, wondering who these people were, how did they fair in their new home, why did they leave their country of birth, etc.

This is one of my favorite pictures from Augustus F.Sherman’s amazing photo collection. She is so beautiful and her eyes just draw you in. It is simply identified as “Ruthenian Woman – ca. 1906. How I would love to know her story.

10-18-13 EllisIslandPost