Immigration Photographs from Ellis Island, New York – Early 1900s
These wonderful old photos show a small handful of the 12+ million immigrants who entered the United States legally through the immigration station at New York’s Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. These historic photographs of immigrants, some while being processed, were taken by a number of photographers over the years who were interested in not only taking photos, but the stories of these immigrants and their countries of origin.
These are not official documentation photos, but a fascinating historical record of the diverse cultures that passed through Ellis Island in the early 1900s. The images typically show that immigration through Ellis Island was something the immigrants were proud was taking place. The men, women and children are dressed in their finest clothes, many in their national dress which was brought with them from their homelands to the wonder of the American shores. Approximately 5,000 such immigrants entered the United States per day at the height of Ellis Island’s use.
1907 was the biggest year for Ellis Island immigration, with April the all-time highest month and 11,747 immigrants arriving. Immigrants who were approved for legal immigration through Ellis Island spent between three to five hours on the island where they partook in medical exams and were asked various questions regarding their occupation and money/property owned. One question on the entry form asked if they had at least $30 (approximately $770 in 2018 value) and it was preferred that the immigrants had at least that much per person or family to get started in American society. However, not having this much money did not cause a denial of entry or deportation.
Only approximately two percent of hopeful Ellis Island immigrants were denied admission during the processing stations’s first half of operation. And, denials were typically only on the grounds of the person(s) suffering from contagious diseases, insanity or having a criminal background. During its later years of operation, staring in the 1920s, restrictions were placed on immigration from various countries and/or ethnic backgrounds. During this time, immigrants from parts of Southern and Eastern Europe were not granted access on the grounds that they were inferior (less moral, less civilized, etc.) to earlier immigrants from Northern and Western Europe.
Excellent view of the Ellis Island Immigration Station’s front facade; A boat is docked in front – ca1902-1913. (New York Public Library)
Ellis Island Immigrants. Photo of a Polish mother and her nine children. This photo was taken inside Inspector Sherman’s office – ca1902-1913. (National Park Service)
Immigrants seated on benches – Main Hall, U.S. Immigration Station at Ellis Island – ca1902-1913. (New York Public Library)
Joys and Sorrows at Ellis Island – 1905. A group of Slavic immigrants register many shades of emotion. The baby salutes his new home – quite a family group. (New York Public Library – Lewis W Hine)
Photo from the Sunday, February 12, 1905 edition of the New York Times captioned ‘Hungarian Gypsies all of whom were deported’ – Photo dated 1902. (New York Public Library)
Immigrant Station – Ellis Island, with ferry boats docked at adjacent pier – ca1902-1913. (New York Public Library)
Ellis Island Immigrants – Guadeloupean woman at the Ellis Island Immigration Station, New York – 1911. (New York Public Library)
Jewish family from England – ca1914. Photo taken on the 3rd floor west side of Ellis Island Immigration Station. (National Park Service)
Johanna Dykhoff with her 11 children at the ‘Barracks Building’ – Ellis Island – May 12, 1908. (National Park Service)
Group of immigrants that have just passed through immigration medical testing and paperwork at Ellis Island, waiting to be taken to mainland America – ca1902-1913. (New York Public Library)
Photo of Ellis Island taken from the harbor. At the center is the Immigration Station; One of the boats in the pier is the John E. Moore – ca1902-1913. (New York Public Library)
Woman with Russian Baby at Ellis Island – ca1902-1914. 11 month old baby weighed 55 lbs. (National Park Service)
A Finnish stowaway at Ellis Island – 1926. The desire to come to America must have been very strong for this young man to face all sorts of uncertainties as a stowaway. (New York Public Library)
Ellis Island Immigrants – Wallachian woman with her three young children immigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire – ca1905-1915. (National Park Service)
The ‘pens’ at Ellis Island, Registry Room (aka Great Hall). These people have passed the first mental inspection – ca1902-1913. (New York Public Library)
Children on the playground at Ellis Island – 1926. The enclosure is part of the improved conditions on the Island. Here the elders too could play baseball, box or play some of their native games. In the background New York skyline can be seen. (New York Public Library)
Newly arrived Ellis Island immigrants in native costumes, some with turbans, some with fezzes – ca1902-1913. (New York Public Library)