Monday, April 4, 2016

Ellis Island - New York City

I think it is a rule that if you go to New York City that you absolutely must take the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  We are rule-following people! So to the ferry we went!

We decided to get our tickets in advanced and I do highly recommend it.  That way you are guaranteed a spot on the boat at the time you want to go.  The nice thing about it all is that for one price you get a round trip ferry ride to both places and entrance into both places as well!

We didn't know what to expect when we got there and I am SOOOO glad we got there way earlier than the departure time on our ticket because we had to go through airport type security (including taking off shoes!) just to get on the boat.

We were deemed safe and finally ready to stand in line for the ferry. Luckily we didn't have to wait long.

Statue of Liberty Ferry NYC

It doesn't look like it holds much but they pack the people in!  I didn't realize how packed it was until we were off the boat and able to see a different one on its way.  It was standing room only!

Statue Cruises Boat NYC

Packed or not there are some great views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline as you travel along. 

Statue of Liberty Back NYC

Manhattan Skyline During the Day NYC

The ferry took us to the Statue of Liberty, but we reasoned that most people would go there first so we stayed on to go to Ellis Island hoping it would be less crowded.  It was still crowded but not as bad!

Here is Ellis Island as seen from the Statue of Liberty.  I just love the colors of the building!

Ellis Island Seen From Statue of Liberty NYC

Once inside, we picked up our audio guide (also included in the price!) and headed to the great hall where immigrants went first after arrival to be registered.  

Registry Room Ellis Island NYC

Just imagine how many different languages have been spoken in just this one room alone! (There were quite a few just when we were there!) I really thought about what it would be like to be in the hall after such a long journey from home. I imagined they had such feelings of trepidation as they stood there not fulling knowing what would happen.  Would they be let through?  Were they going to live the great American dream? What would happen after they stepped through those doors and out into a whole new country?

Frankie and I have had our share of travelling to foreign lands, but everything has always been planned out ahead of time.  We knew were we would sleep that night.  We knew we had enough money to eat.  I think the people that stood in this hall without that knowledge were some of the bravest people!  It takes a lot of courage to completely uproot with so many unknowns!

One of the ways a person could be denied access into America was if they were sick.  Any sickness could delay their entry and a incurable sickness could get a person sent home.  One sickness they checked for was called trachoma, a highly contagious eye infection.  They used button hooks to flip the eyelid up to check for it! 

Button hooks!!!

Trachoma Info Ellis Island NYC

I think you need to see a photo of just how this was done.  Yes, I do!

Checking for Trachoma Ellis Island NYC


Sometime during the process of proving to be a worthy new American the immigrants would be asked questions.  The government wanted to make sure they were not letting criminals or other unwanted types into the country.  If a person didn't answer a question to the officers liking, they could be deported. According to a sign we saw, there were interpreters on hand, but sometimes the interpreters were soft-hearted and really hated to see people sent back.  So when the officer asked a question and the interpreter knew the answer given wasn't going to work they would change the answer so immigrant wouldn't get deported.

That would be me!  Just knowing what they went through to get to America and knowing that they left home for a reason would make it hard for me to say no!

There were many people that came through Ellis Island who had no education.  I mean none. Since it is hard to read the sign let me explain this photo.

In 1914 a group of Italian immigrants ages 15 to 30 were asked to draw a shape they saw.  In this case the shape was a diamond.  The top grouping of diamonds were drawn by men who had never even held a pencil before.  I cannot even fathom that concept!  But, I must say, some of them did amazingly well!  The middle grouping were done by men who had never gone to school and the bottom grouping were done by men who had less than a year of schooling.

Literacy Info Ellis Island NYC

How can a society function when they don't view education as important?  Things, of course, have changed for Italy but there are still a few countries out there that don't value education for their youth and I simply don't understand that!  

Education is freedom, people!!  Come on now!

After seeing that and ranting a little, we had to take a coffee break.  There is a cafe at Ellis Island and of course the prices are ridiculously high, but what can you do?  You're stuck on an island and that is all there is!

At least the views are nice!

Manhattan Skyline from Ellis Island NYC

The other part of Ellis Island dealt with the immigrants once they were in America.  We learned they were taught that if they were going to come to this country then they were going to be loyal to this country.  

Man, what a concept!!  If only that happened today!

Be Loyal Sign Ellis Island NYC

Be Loyal Ellis Island NYC

On the walls there were large photos of some of the immigrants and it told from which country they originated.  They were from every corner of the world, all ranges of age, any social status you could think of! It was interesting to see their photos and how they were dressed.  Let me share a few with you.

A woman and her small son from Slovakia. 

Slovak Mother and Child Ellis Island NYC

A mother and her three children from Italy.

Italian Immigrants Ellis Island NYC

This last one is my favorite.  It is two women from the French West Indies.  They just look so refined and proper.  

Women from French West Indies Ellis Island NYC

Would you believe the very first person to go through Ellis Island was a fifteen year old girl from Ireland?  

It is true!

Below is her story and a statue memorializing her.

Annie Moore Info Ellis Island NYC

Annie Moore Statue Ellis Island NYC

I showed my students her statue and told them that teenagers must have been MUCH more mature back in 1892, because I knew lots of fifteen years old kids and I didn't think that any of them could handle a trip to a new country without their parents.  They thought it was funny.  What can I say, they are easy to entertain and hard to insult!

The last photo for this post is this amazing American flag that shows just how diverse America is because of the immigrants who come to this great nation!  I am happy we are one big old melting pot of greatness!

Flag of Faces Ellis Island NYC

That's all for Ellis Island.  In my next post I would like to share all about the Statue of Liberty.  Since we were on the ferry and all it just makes sense that it would be next.  I hope you will return to read about it.

Until then!