View the Ellis Island Immigration Museum: Ellis Island Timeline

Over 12 million Immigrants passed through the halls of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum from 1892-1954. Ellis Island served as the gateway to the New World where immigrants came in search of freedom and opportunity in America.

1630 A 3.5 acre mud bank that is located in the Upper New York Bay called “Kioshk” or “Gull Island” by the Indians is purchased by Colonial Governors of Nieuw Amsterdam. It is renamed “Oyster Island” by the Dutch Settlers.
1700s Ellis Island undergoes names changes during the colonial period such as, “Dyre’s”, “Bucking” and then “Gibbet” after pirates are hanged on the island in the 1760s.
1776 Samuel Ellis, a merchant from New York owns the island during the American Revolution and has a tavern that fisherman frequent on the island.
1808 The island is sold to the state of New York by the Ellis Family. That same year the Federal Government purchase Ellis Island for 10,000 from New York State.
1812 War of 1812 breaks out and the island is used as a fort for protection.
1834 Interstate agreement between New York and New Jersey declaring Ellis Island and Liberty Island part of New York.
1890 The federal government takes over immigration from the states and set up a Federal Immigration Station on Ellis Island that the U.S. Congress approved for 75,000.
1890 During the construction of the Immigration Station on Ellis Island, immigration took place at the Barge office in Castle Clinton at Battery Park.
1891 405,664 Immigrants were processed at the Barge Office.
1892 The Federal Immigration Station was opened on Ellis Island. The first immigrant processed was a 15 year old girl from Ireland, Annie Moore. 700 Immigrants were processed on the first day, 450,000 the first year.
1897 A fire at Ellis Island destroys records dating from 1855. A new building is built that is fireproof. During construction, immigration is transferred back to the Barge Office at the Battery.
1900 The Main Building which cost 1.5 million was opened and was able to receive 5,000 immigrants a day.
1907 1,004,756 Immigrants passed through Ellis Island.
1908 More buildings were completed on the Island such as the Baggage Room, the Registry Room, and the hospital expanded, and a new dining room.
1916 An explosion in New Jersey believed to be caused by Germans damages several buildings on Ellis Island.
1917 During World War I, German merchant ships were detained and enemies and sympathizers were sent to Ellis Island.
1918-19 Ellis Island was used as a way station for U.S. Serviceman.
1918 Sharp decline in Immigration, drops to 28,867
1921 Immigration reaches to 560,971. U.S. Congress passes Quota Law. The Quota Law limited the yearly amount of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 3% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the U.S in the census of 1910.
1924 Immigration Act of 1924 changed the quota from the 1910 Census to the `1890 census. The Act also allowed for immigration examinations to be completed at U.S. Consulates overseas. Ellis Island was now mainly used as a detention and deportation station.
1930s Public Works Administration funded the addition of landfill for the Island creating recreation grounds and reaching the current size of 27.5 Acres.
1938-41 During World War II the island continued to be used as a detention and deportation station.
1946 7000 Germans, Italians, and Japanese were detained and held at Ellis Island. During this time immigration duties were moved back to the Barge. Ellis Island was also being used during this time as a hospital for returning serviceman and training for the U.S. Coast Guard.
1950 Internal Security Act excluded members of the Communist and Fascist groups. 1500 detainees were held at Ellis Island.
1952 Relaxation of detention policy led to the drop of 30 detainees at Ellis Island.
1954 Ellis Island closed and placed under the General Services Administration.
1965 Proclamation 3656 issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson added Ellis Island to the Statue of Liberty Monument and under the care of the National Parks Service.
1976 Ellis Island opens to visitors. Over 50,000 people visited Ellis Island in the first year. A 60 minute guided tour was provided to visitors in the Main Building.
1984 The restoration of Ellis Island began.
1990 The Ellis Island Immigration Museum was open to visitors and over 20 million people have visited to this date.