Along with Plymouth Rock, Ellis Island stands as the best known icon of immigration to America. Until after the Civil War, Ellis Island was little noticed by the residents of New York City, nothing but an insignificant island in the harbor, barely showing at high tide. But on January 1, 1892, the immigrant receiving station for New York was transferred from Castle Garden to Ellis Island.
The island was expanded with landfill and large buildings were erected on it. During the next three decades, Ellis Island was the principal gateway for immigration into America, receiving more than ten million immigrants, more than a million during the year 1907 alone. After 1924, restrictive immigration laws made the process of qualifying immigrants something that was performed before they set sail, and Ellis Island processed only a small number after that date. It ceased operation in 1954.
At the present time, the island is a national monument. A museum devoted to immigration is located at the site.
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American Passage: The History of Ellis Island by Vincent J. Cannato.
For most of New York's early history, Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today the small island s...