10 Interesting Facts You May Not Know about Ellis Island

While New Year’s Day rightfully receives the most recognition for being the first of a new year, there is another notable reason to celebrate. A day that marks new beginnings, January 1 is the anniversary of the opening of Ellis Island. A historical site that opened in 1892 as an immigration station, Ellis Island served its purpose for more than 60 years until it closed in 1954. In honor of the anniversary of one of the most recognizable landmarks that helped shape the United States into the melting pot it is today, here are 10 interesting facts you may not know about Ellis Island.

1. Close to 40% of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island.

2. After immigrants arrived, they were tagged with information from their ship’s registry. Then, they waited on long lines for medical and legal inspections to determine if they were fit for entry into the United States.

3. Many immigrants remained in New York, while others traveled by barge to railroad stations in Hoboken or Jersey City, New Jersey, on their way to destinations across the country.

4. Ellis Island opened to the public in 1976. Today, visitors can tour the Ellis Island Museum of Immigration and trace their ancestors through millions of immigrant arrival records made available to the public in 2001.

5. Ellis Island had multiple uses before it was an immigration station. It was known as Gibbet Island and used to hang men convicted of piracy. Later a tavern was built on the island by New York merchant Samuel Ellis. After his death, it was purchased by New York State and used to build a military fortification and store ammunition.

6. By 1906, Ellis Island has grown to more than 27 acres. Its original size was only 3 acres.

7. On January 1, 1892, teenager Annie Moore from County Cork, Ireland, became the first person admitted to the new immigration station.

8. Doctors checked those passing through Ellis Island for more than 60 diseases and disabilities that might disqualify them from entry into the United States.

9. Free meals served to immigrants included beef stew, potatoes, bread, bananas, and ice cream. In addition, immigrants could purchase packaged food from concessions.

10. A few notable people who passed through Ellis Island included psychologists Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, as well as silent film star and comedian Charlie Chaplin.

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