Ellis Island

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Ellis Island
Ellis Island Complex.jpg
Ellis Island (New York City)
Paris plan pointer b jms.svg
Coordinates: 40 ° 41 ′ 55 ″  N , 74 ° 2 ′ 24 ″  W.
Location: New York , United States
Next city: Jersey City , New Jersey
Surface: 0.111 km²
Surface: 0.2 km²
Founding: October 15, 1965 , date of inclusion in the Statue of Liberty National Monument
Visitors: 3,555,244 (2008, includes the Statue of Liberty)
Main building, now the Immigration Museum
Main building, now the Immigration Museum
Details of the building
Details of the building
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Ellis Island is an island in the port area formed by the Hudson River near New York City . Since 11 May 1965, the island along with the Statue of Liberty as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument as a memorial by the National Park Service manages. Since 1990, the island has been open to the public as a museum (Ellis Island Museum of Immigration) on the history of immigration to the United States . For a long time the island was the seat of the immigration authorities for the state and the city of New York and for over 30 years the central collection point for immigrants to the USA . About 12 million immigrants passed through the island between 1892 and 1954.

The island is located in the Upper New York Bay in Jersey City and has an area of 11.1 hectares, to 90 percent by artificial land reclamation was 1892-1934.


Early history and previous owner

Before the expansion, the island only had a fraction of its current area and was used in different ways. She was also often affected by name changes. The native American Indians called the island Kioshk ( gull island , "seagull island"). Dutch immigrants called the island due to its mussel beds in the 1630 oyster Iceland ( "Oyster Island"), later it was gibbet Iceland ( "gallows Island") named because at the time many pirates were hanged on the gallows. Samuel Ellis acquired the land in 1770 during the American Revolution , from then on the site was used as a public picnic area. In 1785 he tried unsuccessfully to sell the land.

Government takeover and use as an immigrant collection point

After Ellis' death in 1807, New York State took over the island and sold it to the federal government of the United States a year later for $ 10,000 . From then on, the island was first used as a prison under the name Fort Gibson and later as an ammunition depot for the army . As of 1861, the island's official name was Ellis Island . When immigration rose enormously from 1890 onwards, the central immigration facility was relocated from small Castle Clinton on the southern tip of Manhattan to Ellis Island. Since the island was insufficient for the required buildings, land reclamation began.

Sketch map of the island. The original, natural island (including the first small extension to the south by the original ship landing stage - from 1.11 to 1.3 ha) is shown in green. Only this area belongs to the state of New York, the large remainder of the land reclamation from 1890-1935 to the state of New Jersey.

Ellis Island is part of both New York State and New Jersey . New York includes the land on the original island on which the main building stands, and New Jersey includes the rest that was later raised. In practice, this assignment is of little importance because the island is wholly owned by the federal government.

By the time it was closed on November 12, 1954, around 12,000,000 people had immigrated to the United States via Ellis Island. About 500 people were employed in the immigrant assembly center. It took between 4 and 7 hours to clear an immigrant. During the weddings there were 400 to 500 immigrants a day, which meant 1 million people a year for several years. The record day was April 17, 1907 with nearly 12,000 immigrants.

Period of the First and Second World Wars

During the two world wars, parts of the island were used as internment camps for foreigners from a country with which the USA was at war ( enemy aliens ). During World War II it was also used as a hospital / assembly point for wounded US soldiers. After the war, the original use was initially resumed, but finally ended in 1954. Immigrants were no longer isolated.

1954 until today

In 1954, the immigrant assembly point on Ellis Island was closed. The island has been open to visitors since 1965 and is managed by the National Park Service as part of Liberty Island National Monument . In 1980 extensive renovation of the main building began. On September 10, 1990, they reopened as the Ellis Island Immigration Museum . The renovation cost $ 156 million and included a completely new tour guide and story-telling facilities. The renovation of the outbuildings such as the barracks and the hospital has been progressing gradually since then, but has not yet been completed.

The Hurricane Sandy in 2012 damaged the building and facilities considerably. The exhibition reopened in October 2013, with further repairs carried out until 2014. In June 2015, the new permanent exhibition Peopling of America opened , which tells the entire history of immigration from 1550 to the present. At the same time, the museum was renamed the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration . In September 2015, the museum and archive holdings relocated after the storm returned to the island. In October 2015, the slightly revised earlier exhibition reopened to visitors.

Role in immigration to the USA


Wave of immigration from 1880

Before US immigration policy began, it was up to each state to decide how to deal with immigrants. The number of immigrants was initially low. It was not until 1820 that the immigrants began to be counted. Only 152,000 immigrants entered the country between 1820 and 1830. In the decade from 1840 to 1850 the number rose to 1.7 million. In the period from 1820 to 1880, most immigrants (3.1 million) came from Germany, followed by the Irish with 2.8 million and the English with 1.9 million In the 1880s there was the so-called “New Immigration”, increased immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, which gave rise to cultural conflicts. The new immigrants had a reputation for being unwilling to assimilate and generally unable to understand the American world. Write and read tests were introduced. The restrictions became increasingly severe. The authorities gradually banned the sick, polygamists, prostitutes, the poor, anarchists, Chinese (1882), Japanese (1907) and illiterate (1917) from entering the country.

Collection point for immigrants

Film footage of immigrants on Ellis Island

For several decades by 1892, immigrants had entered the city via Castle Clinton , a former concert hall at the foot of Manhattan that had been converted into a warehouse. By 1890, the camp was overburdened by the increased number of immigrants and it was decided to set up a larger collection point outside the city of New York. The tightening of immigration laws required a more thorough review, and so Ellis Island was an obvious choice, as immigrants could not enter the city unseen from here. By December 17, 1900, the required buildings on Ellis Island had been completed. They were designed for a total capacity of around 500,000 immigrants per year, but at times almost twice as many had to be processed each year. The peaks were around 12,000 people per day, but there were also days with only a few people willing to enter, especially when the weather was bad and no ships were landing. In 1907 alone 1,285,349 immigrants were processed.

The Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of immigrants. Later on, the few tasks that remained to be completed were no longer worth the effort, and the immigrant assembly point on Ellis Island was closed in 1954.

Aftermath of the wave of immigration

About 43 million Americans - one in six - stated in the 2000 census that they had German ancestors. Almost every second American (40%) has ancestors who came into the country via Ellis Island.

Reception of the immigrants

The immigrants called Ellis Iceland, the tears Island (Engl. Isle of tears ) because here after a two-minute interview and a medical examination their fate decided. The immigrants had to climb a steep 50-step staircase to the registration room right at the beginning, while doctors watched them. If someone had problems, it indicated a heart condition and they were examined more intensively. The medics checked for infectious diseases, looked at hands, face and hair; if someone was suspicious, they had a chalk mark drawn on their right shoulder (an S stood for senility , a Ct for the eye disease trachoma and an X for mental illness). The others went through a door labeled "Push to New York" and were picked up.

Immigrants, 1931

The whole process of official immigration could take several days. During this time, those wishing to enter could be sorted out at any time. Sometimes the passengers had to stay on their ships for days before they were even allowed to land. First and second class passengers, i.e. people with money or reputation, did not come ashore via Ellis Island, but directly to Manhattan after a brief visit.

On land, d. H. on the island families were separated at night, men and women slept in different sections. A total of 3,000 people died on Ellis Island and 350 children were born there. Allegedly ten percent of all travelers are said to have already died during the crossing because they were crammed together in inadequate hygienic conditions. Infectious diseases could spread particularly quickly. Because of these deaths, New Yorkers also called the immigrant ships "coffin ships".

Expansion of the flow of immigrants

The immigrants mostly went directly to the urban areas where there were other immigrants from their nation. For German immigrants, it was mainly small Germany on the Lower East Side . Once there, many families stayed only for a short time and prepared for the onward journey to the settlement areas. Often they followed friends or relatives who had already entered the country or responded to state offers that directed the flow of workers to certain areas with discounts. California, for example, offered immigrants a discounted train ticket to make settlement in this area more palatable. It was also possible for the immigrants to buy equipment cheaply or to take out cheaper loans. Many newcomers stayed among themselves for a long time even after entering the USA or moved across the country as migrant workers. Against this invasion, perceived as "foreign infiltration" by other "races", increasingly many established Americans resisted and developed the idea of ​​a Nordic race that was still to be bred and that was to colonize the rapidly growing America.

Initially health and then economic independence were the only criteria for admission, but later a passport and visa requirement and a quota system according to countries of origin were introduced. New York was able to meet its labor needs at all times through immigration. Approximately four million Ellis Island immigrants stayed in the city permanently. Surpluses have been reduced by redirecting workers to other states.

Ellis Island as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument

Ellis Island has been part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument since 1965 and the buildings have been accessible as a museum since 1990.

The museum has an electronic archive with all immigrants processed on the island, which is also available on the Internet. The names of immigrants can be found on the American Immigrant Wall of Honor , provided that the descendants made a donation of 100 dollars. According to its own statement, it is the world's largest wall with a name on it.

The buildings are divided into four sections: the main building with the museum buildings is located to the north of the landing area. At the head end of the basin is the reception building, on the island part to the south there are two building blocks: the southern one on the bank is made up of 18 buildings, which are connected to one another via covered corridors like pavilions.

For Annie Moore , the first female immigrant to Ellis Island on January 1, 1892, two bronze statues were erected in 1993 on the island and in her home town of Cobh, Ireland . In 2005 the German Emigration Center was opened in Bremerhaven, which was built in cooperation with Ellis Island.

Ferries operate from the southern tip of Manhattan, Battery Park, and Liberty State Park in Jersey City to bring visitors to the island, who can also get to the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island after seeing Ellis Island . Entrance fee is not required for access to the island, but is added as a flat rate to participation in the boat trip to Liberty Island.

A car bridge connects Jersey City and the island. It only serves to supply the island and is not passable for visitors.

See also


travel Guide
  • Lester Brooks, Patricia Brooks, Susan Farewell: New York ("New York - Eyewitness travel guide", 1993). New edition RV-Verlag, Munich 1997, p. 78, ISBN 3-89480-902-7 .
  • Jutta Westmeyer (Red.): New York (DuMont visual). 4th edition 1999, p. 148, ISBN 3-7701-3247-5 (EA Cologne 1994).


  • Michaela Kirst: Damned to the Nazi. The fate of German-born US families in World War II who were interned in American camps. Documentation, Germany, Bayr. Radio, 2007, 52 min.
  • Michaël Prazan (Director): Ellis Island. American Dream Island. Documentary, F, 104 Min, 2013. Station information and media library .

Web links

Commons : Category: Ellis Island  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. https://www.nps.gov/elis/index.htm
  2. Hagstrom Map Company, Inc . 2008, ISBN 0-88097-763-9 .
  3. ^ A b Oysters, Pirates and ammunition: The early Days of Ellis Island. (PDF; 69 kB) abcteach.com, 2005, accessed on September 27, 2011 (English).
  4. Passenger Ship Manifests: The immigrant journey. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on July 13, 2011 ; Retrieved September 27, 2011 (English, via libertystatepark.com): "To Be Sold By Samuel Ellis, no. 1 Greenwich street, at the north river near the Bear Market. That pleasant situated Island, called Oyster Island, lying in York Bay, near Powles' Hook, together with all its improvements, which are considerable ... “ Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.jonasfamilyhistory.com
  5. Court ruling on the division
  6. ^ Ellis Island: This Month in History , National Park Service
  7. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/ask-smithsonian-did-ellis-island-officials-really-change-names-immigrants-180961544/
  8. Ellis Island Timeline. ellisisland.org, accessed September 27, 2011 .
  9. ^ Peopling of America Canter , Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation
  10. Artifacts Removed After Hurricane Sandy Return Home to Ellis Iceland National Museum of Immigration , National Park Service, 9 September 2015
  11. Raeithel, Gert: History of North American Culture . 1600 to 2002. 4th edition. tape 2 . Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 0-88097-763-9 , p. 267 .
  12. ^ Edwin Black: War Against the Weak . 2004 (English).
  13. Archived copy ( memento of the original from April 2, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.statueofliberty.org
  14. ^ Ferry System Map. nps.gov / National Park Service - HFC, accessed September 27, 2011 .
  15. Original title: ellis island, une histoire du reve americain.