True Immigrant Tales: The Many Interpreters at Ellis Island

With thousands of immigrants were arriving daily, Ellis Island officials were hard pressed to find enough interpreters to process the many nationalities.  In 1911, Commissioner William Williams reported to his superior in Washington on how many interpreters knew how many languages and pleaded for more multi-lingual personnel: “Languages known by interpreters: Arabic (2), Albanian (2), … More True Immigrant Tales: The Many Interpreters at Ellis Island

True Immigrant Tales: After Ellis Island

The travail for immigrants wasn’t limited to the journey and Ellis Island processing. They could still be exploited and/or treated harshly before reaching their final destination as this 1910 report to the Presidential Commission on Immigration reveals. “At Ellis Island, the inspection by the doctors and the officers of the Immigration Service was quickly completed.  … More True Immigrant Tales: After Ellis Island

True Immigrant Tales: American Men Did Not Wear Beards

[In 1907 at age 10, Edward Corsi arrived with his family at Ellis Island. Twenty-four years later in 1931, President Herbert Hoover would appoint him as Commission of Immigration at the Port of New York. Three years after that, after leaving the Immigration and Naturalization Service, he wrote him memoirs. This is an excerpt from … More True Immigrant Tales: American Men Did Not Wear Beards

True Immigrant Tales: “Are you a polygamist?”

[In 1913, Scottish travel writer Stephen Graham (1884-1975) left Liverpool, England, as a steerage passenger. This is another excerpt from his book, With Poor Immigrants to America (1914). In the previous installment, he described events leading up to his inspection at Ellis Island. Here, he tells of his observations on the island itself.] “Once more, … More True Immigrant Tales: “Are you a polygamist?”

True Immigrant Tales: “It Was the Tombstone of Columbus”

[In 1913, Scottish travel writer Stephen Graham (1884-1975) left Liverpool, England, as a steerage passenger. This is an excerpt from his book, With Poor Immigrants to America (1914), in which he described events leading up to his inspection at Ellis Island.]                             … More True Immigrant Tales: “It Was the Tombstone of Columbus”

True Immigrant Tales: Waiting Without Food and Water

[This is Part 2 of American journal Broughton Brandenburg’s account of a 1903 steamship voyage with immigrants in steerage, taken from his book, Imported Americans.] “. . . In mid-afternoon. . . when we reached the slip at Ellis Island we merely tied up, for there were many barge-loads ahead of us, and we waited our … More True Immigrant Tales: Waiting Without Food and Water

True Immigrant Tales: Reaching the Promised Land

[American journalist Broughton Brandenburg traveled on a German steamship with Italian immigrants in October 1903 and wrote about his observations in his book, Imported Americans.  This is part of his account.] “Sunday fell on the 11th, and it was a pleasant day till afternoon, when it began to get rough. The ship’s band was sent … More True Immigrant Tales: Reaching the Promised Land

True Immigrant Tales: “I Was Weak in the Knees”

      [Louis Adamic was a prominent Slovene-American writer who migrated to America in December 1913 at age 15.] “Now and then I glanced at the noisy, picturesque, garlicky crowd on the steerage deck; people of perhaps a dozen nationalities milling around the capstans and steam-hissing winches, pushing toward the rails straining and stretching, … More True Immigrant Tales: “I Was Weak in the Knees”

True Immigrant Tales: “There Was Prejudice Everywhere”

[This is another firsthand immigrant story from my oral history collection.] “My story about America begins even before I was born in Calabria in 1920.   When my uncle was eight years old and the oldest among seven brothers and sisters, his parents told him they could no longer take care of him and he would … More True Immigrant Tales: “There Was Prejudice Everywhere”

True Immigrant Tales: “I Knew It Was a Good Country”

[This is another firsthand immigrant account from my oral history collection.] “I was born in Queens County, Ireland, in 1911.  I was one of thirteen children, with six brothers and six sisters.  I attended school until 10th grade, which was the maximum education offered at that time.  On the farm where we lived, I helped … More True Immigrant Tales: “I Knew It Was a Good Country”