Sunday, August 26, 2012

Saltiels Tour Liberty and Ellis Islands

High on my list of things to see in New York City was the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Going with a gang of Saltiels served to enhance my visit. Our little group was swallowed up in the estimated 15,000 thousand, daily tourists. The ferries to Liberty and Ellis Islands dock in Lower Manhattan at Castle Clinton. One of the functions of this circular sandstone fort was as America's first immigration station. Over 8 million people arrived there from 1855 to 1890.

The security at the ferry boarding terminal is as stringent as at any airport.

I knew the National Monument was a gift from France. I did not know that the robed figure represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence; and that a broken chain lies at her feet. I learned also that the hollow Statue, composed of thinly pounded copper sheets, was designed in Paris by Frederic Bartholdi. The French engineer, Gustave Eiffel (of the Eiffel Tower) designed the massive pylon and skeletal framework which allows the Statue's skin to move independently and yet stand upright. In transit, the Statue was reduced to 350 pieces and packed in 214 crates. Reassembled; it was dedicated on October 28th, 1886.

On Liberty Island. Beyond is Ellis Island (left) and the Manhattan skyline with the new World Trade Center towers under construction 

Another ferry took us to Ellis Island, which was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965. It has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990. With plans to restore all 33 buildings, on the island, to date only three are complete.

 The impressively restored main building; Jay (hand up, herding cats, again) a midst the wandering Saltiels

The history, facts and figures of Ellis Island are staggering. Individual states regulated immigration before 1890. The Federal government assumed this responsibility when it opened the Ellis Island facility on January 1st, 1892. From then until closure, in 1954, it received more than 12 million immigrants. Arriving in NYC, ships would dock at the Hudson or East River piers. First and second class passengers would disembark there, pass through customs and be free to enter the United States. Third class and steerage passengers were transported by ferry or barge to Ellis Island where everyone would undergo a medical and legal inspection.

Doctors sometimes only had six seconds to scan each immigrant during the line inspection. If a doctor found any indication of disease he marked the shoulder of an immigrant's clothing with chalk; with "L" for lameness, "E" for eyes, for example. Marked immigrants, some of whom received several of these mystifying letters, were lead to special examination rooms. Those with visible heath issues or diseases were sent home or were detained for long periods of time.

The Registry Room inside the great hall of the main building

The Main Building included administrative offices, a baggage room, railway and telegraph offices, money changing stalls, as well as dormitories with 600 beds, a dining hall, kitchen facilities and showers. A hospital was opened in 1902, receiving heat, light and power from a plant on the island. The kitchen prepared 2000 meals a day for the immigrants and 300 employees. It treated disease, the passing of 3500 patients and it delivered 350 babies (who received immediate citizenship at birth).

A 15 year-old Irish girl, Annie Moore, was the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island

As the very first person to pass the new facility Annie Moore received a $10 gold coin and has been immortalized with the above statue. Another 700 people came to America that day.

On my own, I viewed the film "Island of Tears" and slipped into a guided tour spending so much time indoors that I didn't leave any to wander the exterior grounds. But Laura and Adam did. They saw the American Immigrant Wall of Honour and photographed familiar names; Koebel, Marshall and Saltiel.

Any Saltiels with names here are not my direct ancestors. My paternal grandparents immigrated to Canada, from England, in 1905.

Currently 700,000 names have been inscribed on the Wall of Honour

A return ferry took us back to Battery Park where we waited for our bus pick up ...

The Sphere, in the background was sculpted by Fritz Koenig. It once stood in the plaza between the World Trade Center towers. Having remarkably survived, with only dents and holes in the 9/11 attacks, six months later it was relocated to Battery Park.


  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

    1. Thank you, Arya, I appreciate your feedback and I'm glad you've signed up!

  2. How wonderful to see and feel all that history, Alice, and especially with your extended family! I love the photo of the Saltiel name, whether or not directly connected. It gives such a sense of the interlocking of the human race! Win

    1. I am one fortunate cookie, Win. And yes, seeing the name "Saltiel", inscribed on the wall felt, made me feel pretty warm inside!