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Ellis Island - The Gateway to America - An Educational Series of Postcards

This Educational Series of postcards about the United States Immigration Station at Ellis Island, a small island in New York Harbor, shows what new immigrants encountered there. Ellis Island was used for processing "steerage" or third class passengers. Arriving first and second class passengers underwent a cursory inspection aboard ship.

The cover of this series shows a copyright date of 1925 by D. T. Magowan, Maplewood, NJ. The cards in my set are numbered from 2 to 15. A card of the Star Spangled Banner National Anthem was also included. This series apparently had more than one printing, and several of these cards are © 1931. The numbering on some of these cards is different from some that I have seen in auctions. The images on the cover of the Aquarium (formerly"Castle Garden) and the Statue of Liberty were not included on these postcards.

Castle Garden was used as an immigration station from 1855 until 1891. The first Ellis Island Immigration Station was opened in 1892. In 1897 a fire destroyed the pine structures on Ellis Island and most of the immigration records dating from 1855. A new brick station opened in 1900.

During World War I, there was a sharp decline in immigration, and Ellis Island also served other purposes related to the war. Immigration revived after the war, and 560,971 immigrants passed through Ellis Island in 1921. During the next few years Immigration Quota laws were enacted, and immigration declined again. By 1925 the buildings at Ellis Island had started to fall into disuse and disrepair. Ellis Island functioned less for processing immigrants and more for detention and deportation.

In 1954, Ellis Island was closed and declared excess Federal property. In 1976, Ellis Island was opened to the public for visits. Restoration began in 1984, and in 1990 the Ellis Island Immigration Museum opened.

In 2001, the American Family Immigration History Center opened. The Center and its website ( allows visitors to explore the collection of records of the passengers and members of ships’ crews who entered the United States through Ellis Island and the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924.



2. Aeroplane View—Showing Immigration Buildings at right and in center Hospital Buildings of the United States Public Health Service.


3. Administration Building—Here occurs the medical and civil examination of all aliens brought to Ellis Island.


4. Transfer Steamer—Arriving with passengers and baggage from the steamship pier.


5. Aliens Entering Buildings for Examination—Examination by surgeons of the U. S. Public Health Service after having been transferred from arriving ocean liner by steamboat.


6. Primary Examination—Here aliens appear before immigrant inspectors for primary examination after having been passed by medical officers.


7. Board of Special Inquiry—All aliens found to be not clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to land are examined at length to determine their admissibility.


8. Railroad Ticket Room—Where admitted aliens exchange foreign money, purchase transportation and check baggage.


9. Railroad Waiting Room—Where admitted aliens are afforded opportunity to purchase food in convenient containers to last them until arrival at their destination. Here also they may send telegrams to relatives or friends to meet them.


10. Day Quarters—For detained arriving aliens. Here appropriate religious services are held. Concerts, moving pictures and other entertainment are provided.


11. Dining Room—Seating 400. Those detained are furnished three meals daily during the period of their detention. Also crackers and milk are served throughout the day and at bed time to women and children.


12. Dormitories—Sanitary, well-ventilated and comfortable dormitories insure rest for those detained over night.


13. Kindergarten—Children enjoying games and amusements, requiring healthful exercise under direction of trained instructors.


14. “At the Gateway to America”—Happy family just admitted to country viewing sky-line of downtown New York before going to farmlands in the middle west.


15. Sky-line of Downtown New York—As seen from Ellis Island.




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