Immigrants awaiting examination at Ellis Island.
Ellis Island, in New York City Harbor, was the entry point for 12 million European immigrants to the U.S. between 1892 and 1925. The term is a symbol for the free entry of permanent immigrants coming to the U.S. in pursuit of upward mobility, freedom, and the "American Dream."
The Ellis Island immigration station
The federal immigration station opened on January 1, 1892 and was closed in November 12, 1954. The Ellis Island Immigrant Station was designed by architects Edward Lippincott Tilton and William Boring. They received a gold medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition for the building's design. Immigrants from Europe were processed by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration (Immigration and Naturalization Service). In the 35 years before Ellis Island opened, over eight million immigrants had been processed locally by New York state officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in Manhattan. During the period 1910 to 1940, Angel Island, California, (in San Francisco Bay) was opened on the West Coast; there some 175,000 foreigners were inspected, mostly Chinese. Other small immigration stations were located at New Orleans, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Ellis Island was one of 30 processing stations opened by the federal government. It was the major processing station for third class/steerage immigrants entering the United States in 1892; it processed 70% of all immigrants at the time. Wealthy immigrants who traveled first class and second class would get automatic entry into the United States. During the peak year of 1907, an average 5,000 immigrants arrived daily and 11,747 landed on one record-breaking day.
After 1924, restrictions on the total number of immigrants drastically reduced the flow of immigrants. After 1925 Ellis Island was used only sporadically for immigration, and prospective immigrants were processed at the U.S. embassies and consulates of the emigrant country. Ellis Island was used for detainees and refugees, notably German citizens during World War II suspected of loyalty to Germany.