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24 Remarkable Photos of Immigrants from Around 1900 Show a Time Like No Other

Immigrants endured long lines, separation from their families, and were sometimes even quarantined or detained for weeks or months. They were given medical inspections and were subject to rigorous questioning. Weary-eyed and tired, those that did finally make it past the immigration stations could start a new life.

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

Ready for travel and going north, south and west. Immigrants with baggage lined up at teller’s windows marked money exchange, early 1900s. Via/ NYPL

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

Immigrants carrying luggage on Ellis Island, 1900. Via/ Library of Congress

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

Immigrants unloading their bags in Battery Park,1900. Via/ Library of Congress

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

Quarantine station on Hoffman Island, 1901. Via/ Library of Congress

Some immigrants were detained for long periods or were held indefinitely as in the case of Angel Island near San Fransisco, where the Chinese Exclusion Act made immigration for Chinese an extremely arduous process that could leave immigrants cooped up in cells for years.

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

U.S. Immigration station main building examination room Angel Island, early 1900s. Via/ Wiki Commons

Once they finally got settled, immigrants often lived somewhat separate lives from the larger community, usually living near other immigrants. Tenement housing in New York City became notorious for poor living conditions and overcrowded spaces. But, these apartments were the only thing that most immigrants could afford.

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

Home of Italian ragpicker and family, 1907. Via/ Library of Congress

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

Laundry lines outside NYC tenement buildings, 1900. Via/ Library of Congress

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

Family in tenement kitchen, 1911. Notice the crib and the laundry packed into this space. Via/ Library of Congress

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

Family in tenement room, 1912. Via/ Library of Congress

So-called “steamer classes” taught through object identification and signing to help immigrant children learn English. These classes were often mixed-age.

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

Steamer class, 1909. Via/ Library of Congress

Incredible Photos of Immigrants at the Turn of the Century

Immigrant children at school in Boston, 1909. Via/ Library of Congress

The boom in immigration around the turn of the century meant that extraordinary numbers of people from all over the world flooded Ellis Island and major cities across the country. It wasn’t easy, but they made the best of the situation, making friends and money as they could and carving out new lives in this unfamiliar new land.

To learn more about how names were processed at Ellis Island click here!

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