Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Etc. But First, They Have to Stand in Line: Background information when reading You Should Pity Us Instead

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You Should Pity Us Instead

by Amy Gustine

You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine X
You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine
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    Feb 2016, 256 pages

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Rory L. Aronsky
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Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Etc. But First, They Have to Stand in Line

This article relates to You Should Pity Us Instead

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Ellis Island Station #2Before Ellis Island became the "Welcome to America" sign for about 12 million immigrants from 1892 to 1954, Castle Garden on the waterfront at the tip of Manhattan was the first official immigration hub. From 1855 to 1890 it took in over 8 million immigrants mostly from Northern Europe.

However, worsening conditions in Europe ensured a quickly growing number of immigrants, and Castle Garden could not handle those crowds. So the federal government stepped in and set about building an immigration station that they would operate. They chose Ellis Island for its location and doubled its size (from three to six acres) by adding landfill. During that time the Barge Office at the Battery processed immigrants.

On January 1, 1892, the Ellis Island Immigration Station opened to three large ships waiting to be processed. The 700 immigrants from those three ships were the first to pass through Ellis Island and into AmericaBut this turned out to be only the first Ellis Island station, because on June 15, 1897 a fire broke out in one of the towers in the main building, and the roof collapsed. None of the 200 immigrants on the island, nor anyone else, were hurt, but the records were wiped out. Once again, the barge office at Manhattan's Battery Park processed arrivals.

Immigrants in LineThe United States Treasury ordered that the new facility be made fireproof, and on December 17, 1900 Ellis Island reopened with fireproof protection. 2,251 immigrants passed through on that day.

By 1906, Ellis Island had grown to over 27 acres; it now included two new islands created by landfill. Island Two was used for the hospital administration and contagious diseases ward, and Island Three for the psychiatric ward. On April 19, 1907, Ellis Island reached an all-time high of 11,747 immigrants coming in in one day, and that year a record 1,004,756 immigrants arrived in the U.S.

The United States entered World War I in 1917 and Ellis Island was turned into a hospital for the U.S. Army, a detention center for enemy aliens, and a way station for Navy personnel. After the war, the United States began to be seen as an emerging world power and immigrants applied for visas at American consulates in their respective countries. Paperwork and medical inspections were performed there instead. After 1924, Ellis Island was host only to people who had problems with their paperwork, as well as displaced people and war refugees, certainly not as many people as it once had. And so, in November 1954, Ellis Island closed.

Aerial View of Ellis IslandIn 1965, President Lyndon Johnson began the process for Ellis Island becoming what it is today, by declaring it part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. In May of 2015, the Peopling of America Center was added to the island, and the museum became the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.

Second Ellis Island building, courtesy of wikipedia
Immigrants Arriving at Ellis Island in 1902, courtesy of wikipedia
Aerial view of Ellis Island, courtesy of wikipedia

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Rory L. Aronsky

This article relates to You Should Pity Us Instead. It first ran in the February 17, 2016 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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