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Ellis Island


... passengers had to take the ferry to Ellis Island for inspection. Arrival ' ... And when we got to Ellis Island, they put the gangplank down, and there was a ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Ellis Island

Entering America Through
Ellis Island
Immigrants sailed to America in hopes of carving
out new destinies for themselves. Most were
fleeing religious persecution, political
oppression and economic hardship. Thousands of
people arrived daily in New York Harbor on
steamships from mostly eastern and southern
Europe. The first and secondclass passengers
were allowed to pass inspection aboard ship and
go directly ashore. Only steerage passengers had
to take the ferry to Ellis Island for inspection.
We were put on a barge, jammed in so tight that
I couldnt turn round. There were so many of us,
you see, and the stench was terrible. And when we
got to Ellis Island, they put the gangplank down,
and there was a man at the foot, and he was
shouting, at the top of his voice, Put your
luggage here, drop your luggage here. Men this
way. Women and children this way. Dad looked at
us and said, well meet you back here at this
mound of luggage and hope we find it again and
see you later. Eleanor Kenderdine Lenhart, an
English immigrant in 1921, interviewed in 1985.
Medical Inspection Eye Exam
Trachoma Trachoma, a highly contagious eye
infection that could cause blindness, was a
common disease in southeastern Europe but
relatively unknown in the United States. It
appeared as inflammations on the inner eyelid.
Doctors checked for the disease by raising the
eyelid with either their fingers, a hairpin, or a
buttonhook a painful, but quick procedure.
Since trachoma is difficult to cure, sufferers
were generally isolated and sent back to their
ports of embarkation at the first opportunity.
Mental Inspection
According to a 1917 U.S. Public Health Service
manual, 9 out of 100 immigrants were marked with
an X during the line inspection and were sent
to mental examination rooms for further
questioning. During this primary examination,
doctors first asked the immigrants to answer a
few questions about themselves and then to solve
simple arithmetic problems or count backward from
20 to 1 or complete a puzzle. Out of the nine
immigrants held for this weeding out session,
perhaps one or two would be detained for a
secondary session of more extensive testing.
Legal Inspection
After the medical inspection, each immigrant
filed up to the inspectors desk at the far end
of the Registry Room for his or her legal
examination, an experience that was often
compared to the Day of Judgment. To determine an
immigrants social, economic and moral fitness,
inspectors asked a rapid-fire series of
questions, such as Are you married or single?
What is your occupation? How much money do you
have? Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
The interrogation was over in a matter of
minutes, after which an immigrant was either
permitted to enter the United States or detained
for a legal hearing.
During the peak years of immigration, detention
on Ellis Island ran as high as 20 percent for all
immigrants inspected. A detainees stay could
last days or even weeks. Many were women and
children who were waiting for a relative to come
for them or for money to arrive. Others were
waiting for a hearing in front of the board of
special inquiry or for a final decision from
Washington, D.C. Perhaps the most poignant of the
detainees were the families waiting for a sick
parent or child to be released from the Ellis
Island hospital.
Free to Land
After being inspected and receiving permission to
leave the island, immigrants could make travel
arrangements to their final destinations, get
something to eat and exchange their money for
American dollars. Relatives and friends who came
to Ellis Island for joyous reunions often after
years of separation could escort the immigrants
to their new homes. Immigrants boarded ferries to
New York and New Jersey and, at last, were free
to land in America.
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