Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, 1915
What Is Ellis Island?
Ellis Island was the main U.S. immigration center between 1892 and 1954, when it closed. It is located in Upper New York Bay, off the shore of New Jersey. During the 62 years it operated, more than 12 million immigrants were processed on the island.
Opening of Ellis Island
Home to the military’s Fort Gibson during the early 19th century, Ellis Island became the New York immigration station (known as Castle Garden) from 1855 to 1890. With immigration to the United States increasing, the federal government decided to establish Ellis Island as a national immigration center. The first immigrant (an Irish teen named Annie Moore) passed through the new federally operated station on January 1, 1892.
Immigrants who arrived in the United States on ships sailing into New York Harbor had to pass a medical and legal inspection before being allowed to enter the country. For most people, this experience took place at Ellis Island, and the process lasted three to five hours. An immigrant was rejected if they had a communicable disease or they seemed likely to become an economic burden to the state. However, only about 2 percent of immigrants were rejected.
1897 Fire and Later Expansion
In 1897, just 5 years after the opening of Ellis Island as a federal immigration station, a fire destroyed the buildings and many immigration records. The rebuilt station opened in 1900. As the number of immigrants passing through Ellis Island grew over the years, the government had to expand the facilities. They built kitchens, dormitories, hospital buildings, and more.
Why Did Ellis Island Close?
Ellis Island’s busiest years were between 1900 and 1914. Then, in the early 1920s, Congress passed more restrictive immigration laws, and after 1924 the number of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island decreased. In 1943, immigration reception was moved from Ellis Island to New York City, and the station was finally closed in 1954.
Today, Ellis Island has undergone restoration and is now part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
Learn more about Ellis Island through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.
Articles and Clippings about Ellis Island
Description of the newly opened immigration station on Ellis Island Fri, Jan 1, 1892 – Page 4 · The Evening World (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.comNewspaper article about the first group of 107 immigrants to arrive at Ellis Island Sat, Jan 2, 1892 – Page 1 · Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, Monroe, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.comIrish immigrant, Annie Moore, is received as the first immigrant to land at Ellis Island Sat, Jan 2, 1892 – Page 2 · The Sun (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.comCongress recommends improvements of medical inspections at Ellis Island after typhus outbreak Sun, Mar 6, 1892 – Page 9 · The New York Times (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.comProcess in which immigrants are examined after reaching the immigration station at Ellis Island Thu, Jun 16, 1892 – 7 · Bristol Herald (Bristol, Vermont, United States of America) · Newspapers.comAn opinion that construction and improvements on Ellis Island have been a waste of public money Fri, Jul 29, 1892 – Page 1 · Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Blair, Pennsylvania, United States of America) · Newspapers.comNewspaper article describing an unexpected family reunion at Ellis Island Sat, Dec 9, 1893 – Page 4 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America) · Newspapers.comArticle about how Italian immigrants are aided by Italian government representatives in the US Thu, May 30, 1895 – Page 3 · Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Dauphin, Pennsylvania, United States of America) · Newspapers.com"Ellis Island: Uncle Sam’s gateway for the admission of immigrants" Wed, Nov 27, 1895 – Page 1 · Edgefield Advertiser (Edgefield, Edgefield, South Carolina) · Newspapers.comPrecautions taken at Ellis Island to guard against the importation of contagious diseases Sun, Jan 5, 1896 – Page 9 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, Kings, New York) · Newspapers.comThe large number of immigrants worry Ellis Island officials about their ability to accommodate them Fri, Apr 17, 1896 – Page 7 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, Kings, New York) · Newspapers.com$800,000 is estimated to be lost after immigration buildings burn in fire at Ellis Island Tue, Jun 15, 1897 – Page 1 · Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America) · Newspapers.com"Heroic rescues and lucky escapes from the burning buildings" during Ellis Island fire Tue, Jun 15, 1897 – Page 1 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, Kings, New York) · Newspapers.comProcess of handling the continuously steady arrivals of immigrants Mon, Dec 26, 1898 – Page 10 · Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America) · Newspapers.comCommission finds allegations of "ill-treatment" of immigrants at Ellis Island to be unfounded Mon, Feb 29, 1904 – 2 · The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Lancaster, Nebraska, United States of America) · Newspapers.comPhoto of Ellis Island officials examining men and boys Sun, Sep 2, 1990 – 108 · The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Fulton, Georgia, United States of America) · Newspapers.comImage of line of immigrants waiting to pass through the portals of Ellis Island Sun, Sep 9, 1990 – 120 · Austin American-Statesman (Austin, Texas, United States of America) · Newspapers.comPicture of a Hungarian mother and her four children after their arrival to Ellis Island Sun, Jun 29, 1986 – 176 · The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida, United States of America) · Newspapers.comImmigrants give firsthand accounts of their experiences at Ellis Island Sun, Nov 13, 1921 – 9 · Daily News (New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.comGovernment denies accusation that immigrant children "die like flies" at Ellis Island Tue, Sep 30, 1913 – Page 5 · The Washington Herald (Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America) · Newspapers.comWorld War I causes immigration problems at Ellis Island Thu, Jul 20, 1916 – 6 · Sylvia Sun (Sylvia, Kansas, United States of America) · Newspapers.comImmigrants try to reach Ellis Island before new immigration quotas are filled Mon, Jul 2, 1923 – Page 2 · Lansing State Journal (Lansing, Ingham, Michigan, United States of America) · Newspapers.comArticle predicts Ellis Island is likely to close due to a reduction in the number of immigrants Sat, Aug 1, 1925 – 4 · The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada) · Newspapers.comAnti-immigration op-ed arguing to keep Ellis Island open to screen immigrants Sun, Aug 30, 1925 – Page 60 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, Kings, New York) · Newspapers.comPhotos of immigrants and conditions at Ellis Island in 1927 Sun, Sep 4, 1927 – 37 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America) · Newspapers.com128 German sailors are detained at Ellis Island on deportation charges during World War II Thu, May 8, 1941 – 1 · The Post-Star (Glens Falls, Warren, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.comPicture of men being held at Ellis Island in 1953 when it was a detention center Sun, Jul 5, 1953 – Page 5 · The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States of America) · Newspapers.comEllis Island closes gates after 62 years of welcoming immigrants Tue, Nov 30, 1954 – Page 26 · The Indiana Gazette (Indiana, Indiana, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com