During the late 1800s, New York was the largest port of entry
for immigrants arriving to the United States. In 1855, the state of New
York opened Castle Garden, at the tip of Manhattan, where officials
helped immigrants change money, buy railroad tickets, and find a place
to stay. Critics claimed that the depot brought down property values and
that the immigrants "smelled bad." On January 1, 1892, after
immigration services were taken over by the federal government, a new
and larger immigration station was opened on Ellis Island in New York
harbor. Here, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, immigrants
underwent medical examinations and answered questions about their work,
money situations, and destinations. Later a literacy test was also
administered. At its peak, more than 5000 people a day were processed at
Ellis Island. The center was officially closed in 1954. The photos below
show the Castle Garden and Ellis Island immigrant processing centers.
How do you think the immigrants might have felt as they took their first
steps on American soil into one of these facilities? Why do you think
the two processing centers were located where they were?
For a larger version of the images below, click on the photographs.
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Turn-of-the-Century America, 1880-1920. Use your browser's Back
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