Ellis Island Essay, Research Paper
Ellis Island has a long history, was needed, and was the “Gateway to America” from
1892 until it closed in 1954, when it began its slow decay.
The island was called Gull Island by the Indians and Oyster Island by the Dutch. Later
the English erected a gibbet or gallows on the island for hanging criminals and so the
island became known as Gibbet Island. The Indians sold it to the Dutch East India
Company for trinkets. The company later sold it to Mynheer Paauw who also bought
land along the New Jersey coastline. Samuel Ellis, a colonial merchant bought the
island and it became at last Ellis Island. After the Revolution, the island was sold to
New York State and in 1811, Fort Gibson was built on it in preparation for the War of
1812. No fighting took place at Fort Gibson it was mainly a munitions storage fort.
When immigrants began, pouring into New York City, New York State processed them
at an old fort known as Castle Clinton on the Battery at the tip of Manhattan. When
that facility became too small for the large number of immigrants arriving in the country,
they chose Ellis Island as the new immigration center. After erecting new wooden
buildings, it opened in 1892 but those buildings burned in 1897. New buildings were
erected in 1900 and it reopened. Eventually the control of immigration was turned over
to the Federal government.
Ellis Island was the principal federal immigration station the “Gateway to America” in
the United States from 1892 to 1954. More than 12 million immigrants were processed
here. Over time, the immigration station spread over 3 connected islands with
numerous structures including a hospital and contagious disease wards. It is estimated
that over 40 percent of all citizens can trace their ancestry to those who came through
Ellis Island. In its early years, when the greatest number of immigrants entered the
country, Ellis Island mirrored the nation’s generous attitude and open door policy. After
passage of immigration laws in the 1920s, it was used more for “assembly, detainment,
and deporting aliens,” and symbolized a closing door. Immigrants were required to
pass a series of medical and legal inspections before they could enter America. The
actual experience of going through inspection or detainment on Ellis Island was often
nerve wracking. Those who did not pass these inspections were returned to their
country of origin on the boats that brought them here. Even though only 2 percent of
those coming to America were turned away at Ellis Island, that translated to over
250,000 people whose hopes and dreams turned to tears.
It was the “Gateway to America”, it was needed, and it was built.