A Nation of Immigrants

United States Declaration of Independence Signed by the Continental Congress July 4, 1776

Declaration of Independence
Signed by the Continental Congress
July 4, 1776

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”

Thomas Jefferson A Founding Father  Principal Author  Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson
A Founding Father
Principal Author of the Declaration of Independence

In 1886, a gift from the people of France to the United States would become a beacon of hope for immigrants to this country.  The copper statue, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, was built by Gustave Eiffel and dedicated on October 28, 1886.

Statue of Liberty Liberty Island New York City, New York Circa 1900

Statue of Liberty
Liberty Island
New York City, New York
Circa 1900

Mounted inside the base of the Statue of Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me…”

Sonnet by Emma Lazarus – 1883

———————–

President Grover Cleveland presided over the dedication event,  preceded by a New York City parade.  Estimates in attendance ranged from several hundred thousand to a million strong.  As the parade passed the New York Stock Exchange, traders throwing ticker-tape from the windows  would  initiate  New York’s  tradition of  the ticker-tape parade.

A nautical armada followed for the unveiling of the statue and President Cleveland’s remarks.

“…Liberty enlightens the world.”

“Unveiling the Statue of Liberty 1886”
Oil on canvas by Edward Moran (1829-1901)
The J. Clarence Davies Collection
Museum of the City of New York

The United States experienced major waves of immigration during the colonial era of the 1600s, again in the early 19th century, and from the 1880s to 1920.  Many came to America seeking greater economic opportunity and religious freedom.   Others sought solace from war, famine, and oppression.

The first significant federal legislation restricting immigration was enacted in 1882. Individual states regulated  the process  prior to the dedication of Ellis Island, as the first federal immigrant station in 1892.

Initial Ellis Island Immigrant Station Opened on January 1, 1892.  Built of wood, it was completely destroyed by fire on June 15, 1897.

Original Ellis Island Immigrant Station January 1, 1892
Built of wood, it was completely destroyed by fire on June 15, 1897
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Second Ellis Island Immigration Landing Station December 17, 1900, as seen on February 24, 1905 Library of Congress

Second Ellis Island Immigration Landing Station
December 17, 1900
as seen on February 24, 1905
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The present main structure was designed in French Renaissance Revival style and built of red brick with limestone trim.  When it opened on December 17, 1900, officials estimated 5,000 immigrants per day would be processed.  The facilities, however, proved barely able to handle the flood of immigrants arriving in the years just prior to World War I.  Writer Louis Adamic, arriving in America from Slovenia in 1913, described the night he and many others slept on bunk beds in a huge hall. Lacking a warm blanket, the young man “shivered, sleepless, all night, listening to snores” and dreams “in perhaps a dozen different languages.”  The facility was so large that the dining room could seat 1,000 people.

After its opening, Ellis Island was expanded with landfill and additional structures were built.  By the time it closed on November 12, 1954, twelve million immigrants had been processed by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration.   It is estimated that 10.5 million departed for points across the United States.

Immigrants on an Atlantic liner bound for New York and the United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Immigrants on an Atlantic liner bound for New York and the United States
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Immigrants on the steerage deck of an ocean liner passing the Statue of Liberty. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Immigrants on the steerage deck of an ocean liner passing the Statue of Liberty
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Immigrants waiting for transfer to Ellis Island, October 30, 1912 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Immigrants waiting for transfer to Ellis Island, October 30, 1912
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

 

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island  1902

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island
1902
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

 

Immigrants Awaiting Inspection  1904 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Immigrants awaiting Inspection
1904
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

My own maternal grandparents, Carolina and Nestor Simolin, were Finnish immigrants in 1920 with two daughters, Viann (age 4) and my mother, Eva (age 2).  Nestor, a tailor from the old country, was immensely grateful for the opportunity to thrive in his chosen trade.  Settling in northern Minnesota with other Scandinavians, they lived amid the climate and landscape of their homeland in this adopted country.

Carolina and Nestor Simolin  Finland  circa 1915

Carolina and Nestor Simolin
Finland
circa 1915

Carolina  and Nestor Simolin with daughters Viann and Eva, my mother<br/> (1920)

Carolina and Nestor Simolin with daughters Viann (left) and Eva, my mother
(1920)

Nestor Simolin (2nd from left) as a tailor in Chicago 1927

Nestor Simolin (2nd from left) as a tailor in Chicago
1927

 God Bless America

U.S. flag

 God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea

—  America the Beautiful

4th of July fireworks  Washington D.C.

4th of July fireworks
Washington D.C.

Independence Day

July 4, 2015

————————– 

About Karen Evans

Advocate For Honoring Military Service
This entry was posted in American History, Veterans and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Nation of Immigrants

  1. Bravo on your article. This Veteran thanks you.

  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Reblogged this on Our Ancestors and commented:
    Such a beautiful post…

    • Karen Evans says:

      Thank you, Pierre. What a wonderful compliment and glad you enjoyed.

      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        My great-grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1889. He came from Quebec.
        He died in 1927 in Bristol, Connecticut.
        Before 2009 I knew nothing about my paternal ancestors…

        I found everything and shared all on that blog.
        That’s what I am mostly proud of.
        Writing about French-Canadians who sought a better life.

      • Karen Evans says:

        There are so many poignant stories of immigrants and I, too, am late in discovering ancestral history. It should all be perpetuated for future generations.

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