Immigration to the United States Where did immigrants come from? • Before 1890 most immigrants came from northern and western Europe (old immigrants). • After 1900, more southern and eastern Europeans came (new immigrants). Why do immigrants come to America? • Religious, racial or political persecution • Lack of economic opportunities • Famine • Contract labor agreements • Railroad companies advertised free or cheap farmland How did they get to America? • They came by steam ship and sailing ships. How much did it cost? • First Class (parlor suite) £870/$4,350 ($69,600 today) • First Class (berth) £30/$150 ($2400 today) • Second Class £12/$60 ($960 today) • Third Class £3 to £8/$40 ($172 to $640 today) What did they bring with them? • They brought what their family could carry in their hands. • Often times immigrants sold many belongings to buy their tickets What was steerage on a ship like? • Passengers had to bring their own bedding • Some ships required them to cook their own food • a berth was 18 inches wide by 6 feet long. They were often in tiers up to four rows high • There was on average one toilet for every hundred passengers • passengers often suffered from illnesses like trench mouth, body ulcers, and lice • Immigrant ships were recognized by the smell How long was the journey? • Average trip for: Sailing ship: 8 weeks Steam ship: 6 weeks Where did most European immigrants enter the United States? • Ellis Island in New York City Harbor Where did most Asian immigrants enter the United States? • Angel Island in San Francisco Bay What did they first see in New York City Harbor? • Statute of Liberty Ellis Island Arrival at Ellis Island • New arrivals were taken by ferry to the main building at Ellis Island opened in 1892, • The first immigrant to arrive was a 15-year-old girl from Ireland named Annie Moore to join her parents in New York City. Arrival • Not everyone arriving in New York had to go to Ellis Island. Immigrants in firstand second-class were processed aboard their ships soon after docking on the mainland. Onboard exams were shorter than those on the island, since inspectors were more accepting of anyone who could afford the higher fare. Arrival • The single busiest day in Ellis Island history came on April 17, 1907, when 11,747 immigrants were processed for admission into the United States. Some of them had been waiting days just to get on to the island. Arrival • After 1907, children under 16 had to be accompanied by their parents or else they would be sent back. Baggage Room • Immigrants entered the main building through its ground floor baggage room. They left their trunks, suitcases and baskets here until they were finished. Immigrants with only a few belongings carried their things as they climbed the stairs to the Great Hall for medical and legal examinations. Stairways to the Great Hall • The first test the immigrants had to pass became known as the "six second medical exam." As the immigrants climbed the stairs to the Great Hall, doctors stood at the top and watched. They were looking for anyone having difficulty coming up the steps. If a medical problem or disability was suspected, one of seventeen different chalk marks was put on the person's clothing. They were then sent for a full physical examination. If they weren't marked, they went on to wait in the Great Hall. Medical Exam • By 1917, complete medical exams were required for every immigrant. The main purpose of these exams was to find persons with contagious diseases or conditions that would make them unable to work. If their problem was curable, immigrants were sent to the island's hospital. If it was not, the steamship company that brought them would have to pay to send them back. Medical Exam • The 15 medical buildings of Ellis Island stood across the ferry slip from the main building, and included hospital wards, operating rooms, an Xray plant, and even a morgue. Medical Exams • The dreaded "eye man" was the name immigrants gave to the doctor who inspected them for trachoma, a highly contagious disease that caused blindness. Using a hooked tool or his fingers, he would pinch a person's eyelid, turn it over, and look for any signs of the disease. Medical Exams • Any immigrant chalkmarked with an "X" underwent mental exams that tested their intelligence. Often these exams were wooden puzzles of the human face. If a person didn't pass, they would be sent back. Medical Exam • Parents were allowed to carry their small children through Ellis Island. But during the medical exam, all children two years or older were required to show doctors that they could walk on their own. The Great Hall • The Great Hall was the large waiting room of Ellis Island. Immigrants waited here for their interviews with legal inspectors after finishing their medical exams. At best, the entire process through Ellis Island took three to five hours. But sometimes problems came up, like family members waiting for a relative to be treated in the hospital ward. Some families stayed for days on Ellis Island, others for weeks, and still others for months. The Great Hall • Many reforms to improve Ellis Island began under President Theodore Roosevelt. One simple improvement came in 1903 — benches were added for immigrants to sit on while waiting in the Great Hall. The Great Hall • The dining hall for detainees could seat up to 1,200. The menu featured beef stew or baked beans, and extra crackers and milk were provided at each meal for women and children. Great Hall • Over the years, private charitable societies provided classes for children of detainees on Ellis Island. Volunteers also operated a library and offered cultural events like music performances to familiarize immigrants with their new country. Legal Inspection • After passing the medical exams, immigrants had to prove they could legally come into America. They had to prove their country of origin and where they expected to live and work once they entered the country. Inspectors rejected any immigrant with a criminal record or those suspected of being indentured servants. By 1921, immigrants had to pass a literacy test and show a passport and visa. Legal Inspection • Inspectors spoke an average of three languages to help those immigrants who didn't speak English. There were also interpreters who spoke over six languages each! • Indentured servants had their travel costs paid by an employer to whom they would be indebted for years to come. This practice was illegal and immigrants had to prove to inspectors that they themselves or a family member — and not some stranger — had paid for their crossing Legal Inspections • After 1917, immigrants over 16 years old had to pass a literacy test in the language of their home country. Inspectors presented them with test cards featuring familiar passages from the Bible, which immigrants would then have to read aloud. Failing the literacy test could mean deportation Money Exchange • In the money exchange area immigrants exchanged the money of their homeland for dollars, and purchased any train tickets they needed. Laws passed in 1909 required each immigrant to have at least 20 dollars before they were allowed to enter America. Money Exchange • Immigrants continuing by train to points beyond New York could buy food for their journey at a concession stand. A box lunch of sandwiches, fruit, and pie sold for 50 cents — that's well over ten dollars by today's standards. Money Exchange • Often immigrants arrived to the United States dressed in the exotic clothing of their homeland. This made them easy targets for anyone looking to take advantage of a recent arrival. To aid their transition, charitable societies offered immigrants free American-style clothing before they left Ellis Island. Money Exchange • Women traveling alone were not allowed to leave Ellis Island until immigration officers felt they were in safe hands. In some cases, concerned officers took it upon themselves to escort a woman to a connecting train or proper lodgings in New York City. The Journey’s End • Just beyond the money exchange was the exit from Ellis Island. Staff members referred to this spot as the kissing post because of all the emotional reunions that were witnessed there. Two thirds of the new Americans then boarded a ferry to New Jersey, where the next leg of their American journey would begin. The remaining third took the ferryboat to Manhattan to begin their new life in New York City, only one mile away. The Journey’s End • By 1950, Europeans counted for only half of all immigrants — and they usually came by airplane, not steamship. More and more, the new arrivals came from Mexico and Latin America, or from Asian countries. Ellis Island had outlived its use as a processing center. • By 1954, only a few dozen immigrants paced the nearly empty floor of the Great Hall. When Ellis Island closed its doors to immigrants on November 12, 1954, its last detainee was a Norwegian sailor named Arne Peterssen. He was waiting, ironically, for the next ship back to Norway.