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Rare footage of immigrant arrivals at New York’s Ellis Island in 1906

Ian Harvey

From 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island in Upper New York Bay was the arrival point for many immigrants coming to the United States.

It was known as the busiest immigration port and inspection station in the nation. The footage shows a flood of people coming off the ships onto the island before being moved onto the ferry that would have then taken the new American citizens across to the mainland.

The short but informative footage shows a grainy but interesting snapshot of the people coming to a new life in America.

Radicals awaiting deportation, 1920

Radicals awaiting deportation, 1920

Immigrants being inspected, 1904

Immigrants being inspected, 1904

Over the years of 1892 t0 1934, the island was expanded by land reclamation projects. It is estimated that between the years of 1905 and 1914 an average of one million people arrived to join the growing country of America. E

llis Island was able to process 5,000 immigrants per day at its peak. In 1907, Ellis Island hit its largest number of immigrants processed in a year, reported to be 1,004,756 men, women, and children.

In 1924, the Immigration Act was passed – the start of the restriction of immigration into America. At this point, embassies around the world were able to process immigration applications, so the only people who went through the Ellis Island station were those who had problems with their paperwork, war refugees, and displaced persons. In the United States today, over 100 million people can trace their ancestry back to the immigrants who first stepped foot on American soil by coming through Ellis Island station.

When the immigrants arrived at Ellis Island, tired from the long sea journey, they were often on the island for no more than five hours if their application was approved. The newcomers were asked a total of 29 questions that included name, the quantity of money they were carrying, and occupation. It was important to the American government at the time that immigrants were skilled workers who had enough money to get themselves started in their chosen employment.

Dormitory room for detained immigrants

Dormitory room for detained immigrants

They were required to have 18 to 25 dollars, on average, with them. If they had health issues or diseases, they were either held in the Island’s hospital facilities or sent home.

Read another story from us: The Parsley Massacre – when the dictatorial Trujillo judged whether people are native Afro-Dominicans or immigrant Afro-Haitians based on how they pronounce ‘parsley’

Three thousand immigrants died in the hospital facilities while waiting to be approved or sent home. An unskilled immigrant was more likely to be sent home than a skilled one, due to the fear that they would become a public nuisance. Only 2% of immigrants were thought to have been sent back home due to criminal history, illness, or insanity.