01 January 2020

Ellis Island Opened 1 January 1892



The Inspection.
    Let the arrival of the ship, with the number of immigrants, be announced to the officer in charge, and let the order be given that they shall be brought in. Have a special officer conduct them to the platform in groups, a family, or two or three individuals, or sometimes a single person.
    1.  A general inspection, as they pass through a gateway, by a surgeon of the marine hospital, who takes a general look from feet to head; he is on the lookout for contagious skin-diseases or for any disease or deformity. If he sees anything suspicious in any one, that person is marked with a chalk-mark and sent to the detention-room, after being marked “F. I.,” for a more careful examination.
    2. A careful inspection of the eyes by another uniformed doctor, who is looking especially for trachoma or any contagious eye-disease. Those whose cases seem doubtful are also marked with chalk and sent to the detention-room.
    3. The immigrants pass up to the table of the inspector, who asked them the questions given below. He has before him the papers on which the answers they have already given to the same questions at the the place where they embarked. If their answers are satisfactory, and if they agree with those on the paper before him, they are marked “O.K. for New York,” or “O.K. for the Railroad,” or “O.K. for the West,” or wherever they are going.
    If any immigrants are not able to give satisfactory answers to the question, or if for any reason the inspector does not dare to admit them on his own responsibility, they are marked “F. I” (Further Investigation), of “S. I.” (Special Inquiry), and are sent to the detention-room. 
Questions to be Answered by all the Immigrants.
  1. What is your name?
  2. How old are you?
  3. Where did you live before coming here?
  4. Who paid your passage?
  5. Where are you going?
  6. Have you a ticket?
  7. What is your business?
  8. How much money have you?
  9. Can you read and write?
  10. Were you ever in prison or an almshouse?
  11. Are you an anarchist or polygamist?
  12. Are you under a labor-contract?
  13. Who is to meet you here?
• • •
On 1 January 1892, Ellis Island Immigration Station opened. It was named for Samuel Ellis who owned the island in the 1700s. During the 62 years it was in operation, more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island.

The original Ellis Island Immigration Station on Ellis Island, circa 1896. The following year, this building would be completely destroyed by fire. Source: WikiCommons

The original building was built from Georgia pine, and it was completely destroyed by fire on 15 June 1897. No lives were lost in the fire. While a new fireproof building was constructed, immigration intake was moved to the U.S. Barge Office on the southeastern tip of Manhattan in Battery Park.

Ellis Island Immigration Station with a ferry docked at the adjacent pier taken between 1902-1913.
Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections. 

Among the millions who passed through Ellis Island, many were our immigrant Germans from Russia ancestors, who began coming to the United States in the early 1870s after the privileges granted by Empress Catherine the Great and Alexander I were revoked in 1871 by Alexander II. They came seeking land and a new life. 


1855 – Between 3 August 1855 and 18 April 1892, Castle Garden, located on the southwestern tip of Manhattan in Battery Park, was used for immigrant intake in New York Harbor. Prior to 1855, there was no central immigrant processing center in New York. Each wharf kept their own custom passenger lists. 
1890 – 19 April 1892, immigration intake was moved to the the U. S. Barge Office on the southeastern tip of Manhattan in Battery Park. 
1892 – 1 January 1892, Ellis Island Immigration Station opened on a a small island off the New Jersey coast in New York Harbor.   
1897 – 15 June 1897, a fire destroys the Ellis Island Immigration Station. Immigration intake moved back to the U.S. Barge Office from 15 June 1897 through 16 December 1900.
1900 – 17 December 1900, the new fireproof Ellis Island Immigration Station opened and was in operation until late 1924 after the Immigration Act of 1924 (The Johnson-Reed Act).  

Learn More: