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US Immigration History

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Millions of immigrants have entered the United States, most arriving in the 18th and 19th centuries. Immigration to the United States was relatively until the mid 19th century, when the government began encouraging immigration to help settle the west.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Prior to 1890, individual states (rather than the federal government) regulated immigration into the United States. These regulation efforts were varied and inconsistent. Castle Garden was the first immigration station in the United States and was opened in 1855. In 1890, the federal government took official control of immigration and built a large immigration center on Ellis Island.[2]

Castle Garden[edit | edit source]

On August 1, 1855, the New York opened the first official immigrant receiving station in New York City. It functioned as an immigrant processing center and was the first of its kind in the United States. Castle Gardens operated as an Emigrant Landing Depot until April 18, 1890, when the United States government assumed control of immigrant processing. In total, the center processed approximately 8 million immigrants (mostly from northern and western Europe). [3][4][5]

When immigrants disembarked at Castle Garden, they had to register with their name, birth place, and destination. A clerk at the Railway Agency would then purchase a railway ticket for the immigrant to travel to that destination. The immigrant's baggage would be weighed and checked to his destination. Exchange brokers for immigrants to exchange foreign currency and a restaurant was also located at the center. A station for letting writing was also available, in which an immigrant could send a letter free of charge to inform family or friends of their arrival. The Ward's Island and medicinal department was an important bureau at Castle Garden. There, immigrants without the means to support themselves would be cared for until assistance came from friends or the immigrants would be disposed of as laborers. A large blackboard with the names of ships who were or would shortly be at port as kept for friends of the immigrants to know when they arrived and locate them. The Labor Exchange was where immigrants, and others, could apply for and generally find employment. Immigrants could also find boarding houses to rest for one or two days before heading out to their destinations.[6]

Castle Gardens was a very busy and important immigrant receiving station. To illustrate, in 1869, 2884 letters written from immigrants to their friends were forwarded, over $41,000 was sent from these friends in return. Also in 1869, 4393 telegraph messages were forwarded and 1351 answers were received. Also, 504 steamers and 209 sailing vessels arrived carrying passengers.[7]

Records from Castle Garden can be found at www.castlegarden.org. Records (numbering around 11 million) range from 1820 to 1892.

Ellis Island[edit | edit source]

Ellis Island was designated as the site for the new immigrant screen station in 1890 in part because Castle Garden could no longer handle the flow of immigrants.[8] On January 1, 1892, Ellis Island opened in the New York Bay.[9] A fire broke out on June 15, 1897, destroying almost everything (including records). The island was closed until December 17, 1900 while it was being rebuilt. Ellis Island housed an immigrant receiving station, dormitories, hospitals, kitchens, a baggage station, an electrical plant, and a bath house.[10] Ellis Island operated as the United States' official immigrant inspection station until 1954. The station was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants who entered into the United States.[11]

Records from Ellis Island can be found at www.libertyellisfoundation.org. Records (numbering around 51 million) range from 1820 to 1957.

Statistics[edit | edit source]

The United States is a nation of immigrants of which a majority came from Europe. Between 1820 and 1974, 46,712,725 immigrants entered the United States; 76.8% of these immigrants were Europeans.

The following chart documents the number of European immigrants, their country of origin, and what percentage they were of all European immigrants:

Country Number of Immigrants Percentage
Germany* 6.95 million 28%
Italy 5.26 million 21%
Great Britain 4.84 million N/A
Ireland 4.72 million N/A
Austria-Hungary 4.31 million 17%
Russia 3.36 million 13%
Sweden 1.27 million 5%
Norway .85 million 4%
France .74 million 3%
Greece .62 million 2%
Poland .50 million 2%
Portugal .40 million 2%
Denmark .36 million 1%
Netherlands .36 million 1%
Switzerland .35 million 1%
Other European Countries 1.01 million N/A

* Germany led the world between 1820 and 1974 with 6.95 million of its people emigration to the United States; heavy German emigration also occurred to Argentina, Australia, Russia, Brazil, Canada, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

The following chart documents the number of immigrants from non-European countries and their country of origin:

Country Number of Immigrants
China .48 million
Japan .39 million
Turkey .38 million
India .09 million
Rest of Asia .81 million
Canada 4.04 million
Mexico 1.85 million
Central American 1.59 million
South America .58 million
Africa .10 million
Australia .11 million
Rest of World .41 million

[12]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Arbeiter, Nancy Levin. "The Port of New York Before Ellis Island". AVOTAYNU XXI (Fall 2005): 27-34.
  2. "Ellis Island History," The Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation, https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/ellis-island-history
  3. Arbeiter, Nancy Levin. "The Port of New York Before Ellis Island". AVOTAYNU XXI (Fall 2005): 27-34.
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "Castle Clinton," Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Clinton, accessed 8 August 2018.
  5. "Ellis Island History," The Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation, https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/ellis-island-history
  6. Krbechek, Blanche. "About Castle Garden: Notes from an 1871 Article." Kashubian Association of North America Newsletter (Summer 2008): 4-5.
  7. Krbechek, Blanche. "About Castle Garden: Notes from an 1871 Article." Kashubian Association of North America Newsletter (Summer 2008): 4-5.
  8. "The History of Ellis Island," GGD 45 (January 2006): 30-31.
  9. Arbeiter, Nancy Levin. "The Port of New York Before Ellis Island". AVOTAYNU XXI (Fall 2005): 27-34.
  10. "The History of Ellis Island," GGD 45 (January 2006): 30-31.
  11. Wikipedia contributors, "Ellis Island," Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellis_Island, accessed 8 August 2018.
  12. Parade Magazine, 24 January 1976.