We’re all sons and daughters of immigrants in America, if not immigrants ourselves. If your people emigrated to the United States between 1892 and 1954, odds are they passed through the hallowed place we celebrate on
NATIONAL ELLIS ISLAND DAY!
Starting with 15 year-old Annie Moore from Cork, Ireland, who got a ten dollar gold piece for being first, and ending with Norwegian merchant seaman Arne Peterssen, Ellis Island processed an astounding 12 million immigrants as they entered the Land That Dreams Are Made Of.
While none of them found streets paved with gold or the Land of Milk and Honey, they found a nation they could call their own and where they could build a better life for themselves and their children.
The view from this small island in Lower New York Harbor is breathtaking, with the gleaming towers of New York City on one side and the Statue of Liberty on the other. After a long ocean voyage from troubled homelands, immigrants went through a 2 to 5 hour process of having their names recorded, being examined by doctors and pledging to obey the Constitution and the laws of the land.
They were then ferried to Manhattan to begin their transformations from one of the huddled masses to individual farmers, tradesmen, shopkeepers, miners, factory workers, clerks, teamsters, seamstresses, teachers and a hundred other occupations.
These were our parents, our grandparents, our great-grandparents, those who built and ran this place before we took over from them. Now when we visit Ellis Island it is to the Immigration Museum, the same Great Hall that was our ancestors’ first glimpse of America, their names on display for all to see, their spirits enshrined in the country they loved.
•Suggested Activities: Welcoming an immigrant.