Ellis Island Day is observed every January 1 to celebrate an island that served as a gateway to America during the immigration wave of 1892 through 1954. Can you imagine that during the peak years of immigration operation through Ellis Island, an average of 1,900 people passed through the station every day? Between 1892 and 1954, about 17 million people immigrated to America through the immigration station at Ellis Island. Currently, such an operation no longer exists on the island, which can only be accessed by ferry. The island is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, including the Statue of Liberty, a national museum of immigration, and Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital.
History of Ellis Island Day
Long before it became the site of the immigration processing stations of 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island was a public execution site for pirates. It was supposedly used during the 1760s to hang pirates on a tree called ‘Gibbet Tree.’ Years later, the island was sold to a colonial New York merchant, Samuel Ellis, who tried to resell it but was unsuccessful.
In 1808, the United States government fully acquired the island for the sum of $10,000. The government converted it into a military fort to protect the New York Harbor from possible British and French armed attacks. The military upgraded the island to include a 14-gun battery, mortar battery, magazine, and barracks. After its fortification, Ellis Island was renamed Crown Fort but later changed to Fort Gibson, after the War of 1812.
After the war, Fort Gibson changed hands and went through various states of disuse. By 1881, the island had had almost all its firepower removed. Its administration passed to the Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance. In 1890, the U.S. government ordered the remaining firepower to be removed and the island converted to a federal immigration station, with its administration handed over to the Department of the Treasury.
The immigration station started receiving immigrants on January 1, 1892, and by June 15, 1897, before its wooden structures were razed in a fire accident, it had processed about 1.5 million immigrants. After the reconstruction and expansion, the immigration station was again opened on December 17, 1900. But it closed for the final time on November 12, 1954. The closure was due to new laws limiting immigration, the aftermath of the second world war, the cost of keeping the station running, and the federal government’s plan to construct a replacement facility in Manhattan.
In 1965, Ellis Island was added to the Statue of Liberty National Monument, and in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson approved its redevelopment. In 1990, the island’s main building, a museum, was opened to the public. The American Family Immigration History followed that in 2001, and the ferry building in 2007.
Ellis Island Day timeline
The Ellis Island’s immigration station opens and processes its first immigrant, 17 years old Annie Moore, from Cork, Ireland
The wooden structures of the immigration station are razed in a fire, and all the records from 1855 are destroyed.
Ellis Island is closed by the government after its last detainee is released.
Ellis Island reopens to the public, as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
Ellis Island Day FAQs
Can I visit Ellis Island for free?
Yes, there is no cost associated with gaining entrance to the museum on Ellis Island. But you will have to pay for the ferry ticket.
Why do they call it Ellis Island?
Ellis Island was named after the New Yorker Samuel Ellis. He was the island owner in the 1770s before the state of New York transferred its ownership to the U.S. government in 1808.
Was there a Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island?
No, there wasn’t. The Statue of Liberty is situated on Liberty Island, 0.76 miles – a short distance – from Ellis Island.
How To Observe Ellis Island Day
Take a trip to Ellis Island
The perfect way to celebrate Ellis Island Day is to visit the island itself, especially if you’re living in New York or New Jersey. The only way to get to the island is through a ferry. The ferries depart from Battery Parks and make stops at Liberty Island and Ellis Island. You can check online for where to purchase a round-trip ticket.
Educate people on the positive impact of immigration on the U.S. economy
Immigration is one of the most critical issues in the United States presently, with most native-born U.S. citizens of the opinion that immigrants are stealing the jobs meant for them. But that statement is what economists call “the lump of labor fallacy.” On the contrary, immigrants contribute to economic development and the creation of more jobs. By educating people on that, you encourage them to be more receptive to documented immigrants.
Share the history of Ellis Island on social media
Ellis Island went through various phases since it was sold to Samuel Ellis in the 1770s. Collect detailed information on its history, with interesting facts and images, and share them on social media.
5 Interesting Facts About American Immigrants
80% are from Asia or Latin America
Compared with the 1900s, when most immigrants were Europeans, most American immigrants today are from Asia or Latin American countries.
Immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy
Immigrants are more likely to start businesses than native-born Americans, and they or their children own 40% of Fortune 500 businesses.
Spanish is the most-spoken language by immigrants
According to a 2018 study, 42% of American immigrants speak Spanish.
Unauthorized immigrants occupy one-quarter of the foreign-born population
23% (about 10.5 million) of the foreign-born population is made up of undocumented immigrants.
One in five immigrants live in poverty
According to a study, the poverty rate for immigrants is 17.3%.
Why Ellis Island Day Is Important
It celebrates the history of immigration in the U.S.
Between 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island’s immigration station was the busiest in the United States, averaging 1,900 people processed every day. Each successive wave of immigrants that passed through the station has helped transform the U.S. cultural landscape and economic development. About 40% of U.S. citizens can trace their lineage to Ellis Island.
It celebrates the role the island played during conflicts
Although its role in historical military conflicts was uneventful, it was still significant. Ellis Island was the site for Crown Fort, later Fort Gibson, a military fortification that protected New York Harbor during the War of 1812. It housed the 11 Regiment and British prisoners of war. The U.S. military also used Ellis Island in the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.
It showcases the U.S. as the country of freedom and economic opportunity
Most people immigrated during the Ellis Island’s immigration center years because they were fleeing political persecution, economic hardship, and famine. They left their country, not for countries such as England or France, but came to the United States. They saw the U.S. as a place where they can obtain liberty and financial freedom.
Ellis Island Day dates