On April 17, 1907, Ellis Island had its busiest day ever, processing 11,747 individuals who just arrived to America. An average day had them processing about 5,000, so this must have overloaded them! According to the Ellis Island Foundation, “During this historic month [April 1907] of American immigration, the Port of New York received 197 ships and more than a quarter-million passengers from around the world. Most of these arrivals were immigrants intent on establishing a new life in America.” 1,004,756 immigrants were processed in the year of 1907.
Ellis Island opened in 1892, two years after Castle Garden closed. It processed immigrants until the 1940s; The Ellis Island Foundation writes, “After the U.S. entered the war in December 1941, Ellis Island served primarily as a detention center for alien enemies, those considered to be inadmissible and others. By 1946, approximately 7000 aliens and citizens, with German, Italian, and Japanese people comprising the largest groups, were detained at Ellis Island. The detainees became so numerous that the immigration functions had to be transferred to Manhattan for lack of room. Ellis Island was also used as a hospital for returning wounded servicemen and by the United States Coast Guard, which trained about 60,000 servicemen there.”
Many well-known Americans arrived through Ellis Island’s doors, ready to make a name for themselves in a new country. One such immigrant was Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the classic Madeline books. Bemelmans arrived in America from Austria in 1914 with just $10 in his pocket, and spent his first night detained at Ellis Island. He worked in the hotel industry, which he had learned from his uncle in Austria, but spent much of his time doodling on the backs of menus, which led to his career as a cartoonist, and eventually a children’s book author. Learn more about Bemelmans and his work in Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans!