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ELLIS ISLANDE - 1892 TO 1954

- Often coming to America from Eastern and Southern Europe, immigrants fled poverty and religious intolerance as in Italy, Poland and Russia. Many began their journey on foot, horseback or by train before boarding a ship bound for America.

- During one to two weeks, the ship was crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
With up to 3,000 people on board, speaking different languages, belonging to different religions and divided by wealth and class, first and second class passengers were accommodated in (sometimes luxurious) cabins, while third class passengers were in the 'steerage'.

01 The Passage

The Statue Of Liberty

After a long and tiring journey, the first thing passengers saw was the famous Statue of Liberty. Inaugurated in 1886, some applauded, others wept with joy when they saw it.

Before docking, health officers checked for signs of illness. First and second class passengers were processed quickly to reach New York faster. While third class passengers sometimes had to wait a long time for a smaller ferry to take them to Ellis Island for immigration clearance.

A first inspection

02 The Arrival

03 The Ellis Island Baggage Room

With their numbered tags, distributed by the officers, immigrants enter the baggage room on the ground floor of the building to deposit all their precious belongings until their medical and legal inspections are completed.

04 The Registry Room

This room, which is extremely noisy, used to receive immigrants before the medical and legal inspections. It was here that it was decided whether some could enter the country immediately or whether their case needed to be examined further.

" The Great Hall "

05 The Medical Exam

The first test was a "six-second physical examination" during which a doctor looked for any signs of disease.
If a person was considered a public health risk, they were marked with a piece of chalk with a letter of identification as on the board, before further examination.

During the legal inspection, the officers asked the immigrants 39 questions and checked their answers against a manifest given by the ships' crew.

Interpreters helped the immigrants to communicate.

06 The Legal Inspection

"Isle of Hope" or the "Isle of Tears" ?

07 Detainees

The legal detainees lived in a dormitory on the third floor while waiting for their case to be heard in the courtroom.

Those detained for medical reasons were treated in the island's hospital or kept in quarantine, sometimes for months.
Ultimately, a special board of enquiry decides whether to allow the individual to enter the United States or to remove him or her.



To New York City

West and South destinations

The detainees

At the bottom of the stairs was a post office, a ticketing office for the railways, an office to exchange money from their home country for U.S. dollars and social workers to help the immigrants who needed assistance.

08 The Stairs of Separation

09 The Kissing Post

After months and sometimes years of separation, it was with laughter and hugs that families and friends met again.
The road was finally finished, they were in America.