While Ellis Island is known as an immigration center, it has a rich history prior to the immigration era. In the 18th century, Ellis Island was known as Kiosk or Gull Island. The natives valued Gull Island because it was covered with rich oyster beds and the site of shad runs. As the owners of the island changed, so did the purpose of the island. In 1794 Ellis Island played a role in the military. When the British navy came to North America for the Revolutionary War, they were able to sail without challenge into New York Harbor. Because of this, the United States purchased Ellis Island from New York prior to the War of 1812 in 1808. On the island the military installed guns to prevent vessels from entering New York Harbor.
For years foreigners in search of a better life have crossed the Atlantic Ocean to America. The first place they stopped at was Ellis Island, an immigration station where Ellis Island fist opened on January 1, 1892 and operated until 1954. During the 62 years of operation, Ellis Island processed thousands of ships packed with immigrants. Upon setting foot on the island, immigrants were tagged with information from the ship and were required to pass a medical examination to determine whether or not the immigrant should be allowed to enter the United States. While the majority of the immigrants were granted access to America, about 80%, those who failed the medical examination were detained. Some were detained for long periods of time ranging from days to weeks. Those who passed entered New York or traveled to other destinations such as New Jersey.
In 1921 and 1924 the passage of the Immigrant Quota Act and National Origins Act limited the number of immigrants allowed into the country and ended the era of immigration. From 1924 to 1954 23 million immigrants were allowed into the country, which still accounted for more than half of the immigrants who arrived in America during the time period.
One reason why people wished to come to America was freedom. From when it was completed on Liberty Island in 1886 until modern day, the Statue of Liberty was a symbol of freedom. The Statue was made to celebrate the friendship between the United States and France. Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, fashioned the statue out of copper and worked with Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who designed the steel structure. Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was also the same man who the Eiffel Tower in Paris is named after. The project was to be completed in 1876 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In order to complete the task on time, the French were to design and build the statue while the Americans were to build a pedestal on what was later named Liberty Island. However, due to lack of funds, the project didn't commence until 1875 and was not completed in time for the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Bartholdi completed his masterpiece in 1885 and broke the statue down and packaged it into over 200 crates.
Meanwhile, Joseph Pulitzer used his newspaper "The World" to raise money for architect Richard Morris Hunt. Hunt built the pedestal on Bedloe's Island, the home of Fort Wood, a War of 1812 fortress. In June of 1885, the 200 crates arrived aboard the vessel Isere. In all of four months, the Statue of Liberty was put together and on October 28, 1886 President Grover Cleveland officially dedicated the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty stands 305 feet 6 inches above the water, weighs about 450,000 pounds, and is a symbol of America and the freedom we are blessed to live with.