Between 1892 and 1954, 12 million people passed through Ellis Island upon arriving in America, offering a common heritage to millions more in later generations.
Newtown Historical Society will look at the history and traditions of Ellis Island in a presentation by Arthur Gottlieb on Monday, April 14, beginning at 7:30 pm. The program will be in the meeting room of C.H. Booth Library, 25 Main Street.
Named after Samuel Ellis, an early owner of the property, the once small oyster island was used by the state to hold a 20-gun battery protecting New York harbor from 1794. Ceded to the federal government in 1808, Fort Gipson was erected during the War of 1812 and maintained until it was decided to use the island as an immigration station.
Much more space was needed for the new purpose, and material from the ballasts of ships and also from the New York City subway excavations was used to fill in the tidal flats until the former three acre island reached its present size of over 25 acres. Ninety percent of the island is artificial, and all of it lies on the New Jersey side of the border.
Annie Moore, a 15-year-old from Ireland arriving to join her family, was the first person to be processed at the station on January 1, 1892, and she was given a $10 gold coin to mark her place in history. The processing time averaged two to five hours, with a questionnaire and a health exam included. Only about two percent of those hoping to get into the country were rejected, usually for health reasons, criminal backgrounds or suspected mental deficiencies. The bulk of the total arrivals came before 1924, with a renewed wave of displaced persons and refugees surrounding World War II.
The daily record of 11,747 immigrants processed was set on April 17, 1707, and the yearly record was 1,004,756, also set in 1907. A Norwegian named Arne Peterssen brought closure to the station, as the last person admitted in 1954.
Arthur Gottlieb was Technical Director of Exhibits at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, working with veterans from all services toward the creation of exhibits illustrating the history of 20th Century warfare. Later he coordinated with all service branches toward the recovery and preservation of artifacts, ships, aircraft and armor from around the world.
Mr Gottlieb was an Auxiliary Officer of the Coast Guard for 17 years, and served as the Commander of a flotilla in Long Island Sound.
He currently offers pro bono trauma counseling for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Newtown Historical Society programs are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served following the presentation.
For further information visit www.newtownhistory.org or call 203-426-5937.