The Opening of Ellis Island

The federal immigration station on Ellis Island, a modest spit of land in New York Harbor, a short distance from the Statue of Liberty, was opened on January 1, 1892. In the first thirty-two years after Ellis Island opened its doors, the facility processed about twelve million men, women, and children—about 75 percent of all immigrants who entered the United States during that time. For millions of Americans, Ellis Island became the symbol of the entire immigration experience. Today it is estimated that over 100 million Americans can trace their ancestry to the immigrants who first passed through the Port of New York at Ellis Island.

free resource button small  The Opening of Ellis IslandThis chapter from Defining Moments: The Dream of America—Immigration 1870-1920 discusses events leading up to and following the opening of Ellis Island, and it’s role in the American immigrant experience.

Additional information about the greatest sustained wave of immigration in U.S. history, plus biographies of the key players and related primary source documents, can be found in Defining Moments: The Dream of America—Immigration 1870-1920.