All of Us!

All of Us!
Finally! All together with enough time to spare (??) to capture a picture of all six of us in the same spot, same time. Now this is a precious photo! I tried to get one last year for our Christmas card and didn't succeed. So when I had the chance I threw out the lasso and rounded everyone up (at my niece's graduation party) to grab a couple snapshots. My oldest son, Casey, and his girlfriend Nika are on the left; and my youngest son, Brady, and his girlfriend Jenne on the right; that leaves Bob and I in the center. (Bob is the one who doesn't look very happy about having his picture taken!!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Big Apple: Day 4, Part 2 - Ellis Island

Continuing on with Day 4, we have climbed back on a ferry, left the Statue of Liberty and are now heading to Ellis Island.  As the waves are splashing against the sides of the ferry and the misty rain combined with the spray from the harbor water flings about, the eerie sensations of Ellis Island approaching us sends shivers down my spine.  It is hard to imagine all the immigrants who have sailed these waters seeking refuge and a new life in America -- not knowing what they will find, if anything.  Will they make it through the "golden gates" or will they be turned away?  A long trip for many, for sure, even when they may not know the outcome.

Hospital Building on Ellis Island
Former Detention/Quarantine  Buildings on Ellis Island
Former Hospital Building on Ellis Island
The outside facade of the Main Immigration Building
The Bell Tower on the Main Building at Ellis Island which is now the Immigration Museum
Ellis Island: Ellis Island is an island in New York Harbor and was the gateway for millions of immigrants into the U.S. as the nation's busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. The island was greatly expanded with landfill between 1892 and 1934. Considered the chief gateway into the United States during the 1892-1924 era, Ellis Island has had over 12 million immigrants enter through its doorways. At present, over 100 million Americans trace their ancestry to the immigrants who crossed this island before dispersing throughout our country. Now the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, following restoration in the 1980's, the main building reopened as a symbol of this nation's immigration heritage.  Its exhibits tell the tale of Ellis' role in immigration history, and a still broader context of four centuries of immigration to America.

Immigration Inspection Station:  In the 35 years before Ellis Island opened, over eight million immigrants arriving in New York had been processed by New York State officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in lower Manhattan, just across the bay. The Federal Government assumed control of immigration on April 18, 1890 and Congress appropriated $75,000 to construct America's first Federal immigration station on Ellis Island. Artesian wells were dug, and landfill was hauled in from incoming ships' ballast and from construction of New York City's subway tunnels, which doubled the size of Ellis Island to over six acres. While the building was under construction, the Barge Office nearby at the Battery was used for immigrant processing.

The first federal immigrant inspection station, an enormous three-story tall structure, with outbuildings containing all of the conveniences thought to be necessary, opened with celebration on January 1, 1892. Three large ships landed on the first day and 700 immigrants passed over the docks. Almost 450,000 immigrants were processed at the station during its first year. On June 15, 1897, a fire of unknown origin broke out and destroyed the wooden structures on Ellis Island. No one died, but most of the immigration records dating back to 1855 were destroyed wherein approximately 1.5 million immigrants had been processed at the first building during its five years of use. Plans were immediately made to build a new, fireproof immigration station on Ellis Island. During the construction period, passenger arrivals were again processed at the old Barge Office. 

As I witnessed the beauty of this building firsthand, designed in a French Renaissance Revival style, the present main structure (Museum) is built of red brick with limestone trim. When it opened on December 17, 1900, officials estimated 5,000 immigrants per day would be processed. However, the facilities proved to be able to barely handle the flood of immigrants that arrived in the years just before World War I.  By the time it closed in 1954, twelve million immigrants had been processed. The peak year for immigration at Ellis Island was 1907, with 1,004,756 immigrants processed with an all-time daily high on April 17, 1907, when 11,747 immigrants arrived. After the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed greatly restricted immigration and allowing processing at overseas embassies, the only immigrants to pass through the station were displaced persons or war refugees.

Generally, those immigrants who were approved spent from two to five hours at Ellis Island. Arrivals were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money carried as it was important to the American government that the new arrivals could support themselves and have money to get started -- between at least $18 and $25. Those with visible health problems or diseases were sent home or held in the island's hospital facilities for long periods of time. More than three thousand would-be immigrants died on Ellis Island while being held in the hospital facilities. Some unskilled workers were rejected because they were considered "likely to become a public charge." About 2% were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a chronic contagious disease, criminal background, or insanity. [I will discuss this more below in "Medical Inspections."].  Rightfully so, Ellis Island was sometimes known as "The Island of Tears" or "Heartbreak Island" because of those 2% who were not admitted after the long voyage. The Kissing Post is a wooden column outside the Registry Room, where new arrivals were greeted by their relatives and friends, typically with tears, hugs and kisses.

Ellis Registry RoomThe Registry Room at Ellis Island is huge. Can you imagine all the immigrants coming through this? Ellis was a little emotionally confusing for me when I think back to my ancestors coming over and how crowded these rooms and ships would have been.  Glancing around you can almost get a sense of the magnitude of emotions that would be inside this large hall on any given day.  Especially, in the earlier years.  Nearly every day for over two decades from 1900-1924 the Registry Room was filled with new arrivals waiting  to be inspected and registered by the Immigration Service officers. 
Me in the Registry Room (or Great Hall) at Ellis Island
On many days over 5,000 people would file through this space. For most immigrants this great hall epitomized Ellis Island.  Here they encountered the complex demands of immigration laws and an American bureaucracy that could either grant or withhold permission to stay in the U.S. The Registry Room itself, as you see it above, has been restored to its appearance in the 1918-24 era.

Detention and Deportation Station: After 1924, Ellis Island became primarily a detention and deportation processing station.

During and immediately following World War II, Ellis Island was used to intern German merchant mariners and enemy aliens - American civilians or immigrants detained for fear of spying, sabotage, etc. Some 7,000 Germans, Italians and Japanese would be detained at Ellis Island. It was also a processing center for returning sick or wounded U.S. soldiers, and a Coast Guard training base. Ellis Island still managed to process tens of thousands of immigrants a year during this time, but many fewer than the hundreds of thousands a year who arrived before the war. After the war immigration rapidly returned to earlier levels.

The Internal Security Act of 1950 barred members of communist or fascist organizations from immigrating to the United States. Ellis Island saw detention peak at 1,500, but by 1952, after changes to immigration law and policies, only 30 detainees remained.

Records:  A myth persists that government officials on Ellis Island compelled immigrants to take new names against their wishes. In fact, no historical records prove this. Federal immigration inspectors were under strict supervision and were more interested in preventing inadmissible aliens from entering the country (for which they were held accountable) than in assisting them in trivial personal matters such as altering their names. The inspectors used the passenger lists given to them by the steamship companies to process each foreigner. These were the sole immigration records for entering the country and were prepared not by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration but by steamship companies. The Americanization of many immigrant families' surnames was for the most part adopted by the family after the immigration process, or by the second or third generation of the family after some assimilation into American culture. However, many last names were altered slightly due to the disparity between English and other languages in the pronunciation of certain letters of the alphabet.

Medical Inspections: To support the activities of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration, the U.S. Public Health Service operated an extensive medical service at the immigrant station, called U.S. Marine Hospital Number 43, more widely known as the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital. It was the largest marine hospital in the nation. The medical division, which was active both in the hospital and the Great Hall, was staffed by uniformed military surgeons. They are best known for the role they played during the line inspection, in which they employed unusual techniques such as the use of the buttonhook (ouch! or maybe it is more like ewwww!!!!)  to examine aliens for signs of eye diseases (particularly, trachoma) and the use of a chalk mark code. Trachoma is a bacterial infection that affects the eyes. The bacteria that causes trachoma spreads through direct contact with the eyes, eyelids, nose or throat secretions of infected people. Trachoma is very contagious and almost always affects both eyes. Signs and symptoms of trachoma begin with mild itching and irritation of the eyes and eyelids and lead to blurred vision and eye pain and left untreated, can lead to blindness.

Symbols were chalked on the clothing of potentially sick immigrants following the six-second medical examination. The doctors would look at the immigrants as they climbed the stairs from the baggage area to the Great Hall. Immigrants' behavior would be studied for difficulties in getting up the staircase. Some immigrants entered the country only by surreptitiously wiping the chalk marks off, or by turning their clothes inside out.
The symbols used were: B – Back; C - Conjunctivitis; CT – Trachoma; E – Eyes; F – Face;     FT – Feet; G – Goiter; H – Heart; K – Hernia; L – Lameness; N – Neck; P – Physical and Lungs; PG – Pregnancy; S – Senility; SC – Scalp (Favus); SI – Special Inquiry; X – Suspected Mental defect; and X (circled) – Definite signs of Mental defect.  Pardon the pun, but . . . talk about having a "mark on your back." 

Immigration Museum:  As I stated earlier, the wooden structure built in 1892 to house the immigration station burned down after five years. The station's new Main Building, which now houses the Immigration Museum, was opened in 1900.

After the immigration station closed in November 1954, the buildings fell into disrepair and were all but abandoned. Attempts at redeveloping the site were unsuccessful until its landmark status was established. In October 1965, Ellis Island was proclaimed a part of Statue of Liberty National Monument. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places one year later in October 1966.

The building reopened on September 10, 1990. Exhibits include Hearing Room, Peak Immigration Years, the Peopling of America, Restoring a Landmark, Silent Voices, Treasures from Home, and Ellis Island Chronicles. There are also three theaters used for film and live performances. As part of the National Park Service's Centennial Initiative, the south side of the island was to be the target of a project to restore the 28 buildings that have not yet been rehabilitated.

The "Wall of Honor" outside of the main building contains a partial list of immigrants processed on the island. Inclusion on the list is made possible by a donation to support the facility. In 2008, the museum's library was officially named the Bob Hope Memorial Library in honor of one the station's most famous immigrants. The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is awarded annually at ceremonies on the island.  

The exhibits in the Museum also portray and give voice to the immigrants themselves.  Each of their stories is unique and bears witness to the courage and determination that enables men and women to leave their homelands and seek new opportunities in an unknown land.
Layout of Ellis Island
Southside:  Many of the facilities at Ellis Island were abandoned and remain unrenovated. The entire south side, called by some the "sad side", of the island is off-limits to the general public. The Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital operated from early 1902 to 1930. The foundation Save Ellis Island is spearheading preservation efforts. The New Ferry Building, built in the Art Deco style to replace an earlier one, was renovated in 2008, but remains only partially accessible to the general public.

Restrictions: Here is a summary of the restrictions placed on immigrants entering the Ellis Island:  

1875 - first federal immigration legislation bars convicts, prostitutes, and coolies (Chinese contract laborers).  
1882 - Chinese immigration is curtailed.  Lunatics, idiots and person unable to take care of him/herself without becoming a public charge are excluded.   (Idiots -- really??)
1885 - Contract laborers are excluded.  
1891 - Paupers, polygamists, the insane, and persons with a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease are excluded.  (Now why ever would you restrict the insane? LOL!)
1903 - Epileptics, professional beggars, and anarchists are excluded.  (I bet the anarchists really liked being put in the same category as a professional beggar!)
1907 - Imbeciles, the feeble-minded, tuberculars, persons with physical or mental defects that could affect their ability to earn a living, and children under 16 unaccompanied by their parents are excluded.  Gentlemen's Agreement between the U.S. and Japan curtails Japanese immigration.  ( I wonder how they were terming that at that time...imbecile as in dunce? or imbecile as in retarded? if it was dunce, there are quite a few politicians that could fit that bill right now!)
1917 - Literacy test enacted.  Virtually all immigrants from Asia banned.  
1921 - Temporary quotas limit admissions to 3% of each nationality's representation in the 1910 census.  An annual ceiling of 350,000 is placed on immigration.  
1924 - Admissions from each country are further reduced to 2% of each nationality's representation in the 1890 census.  An annual ceiling of 165,000 is placed on immigration. 

This quota system was to be replaced in 1927 with a national origins system limiting immigration to 150,000 per year and assigning quotas based on each nationality's percentage of the total population in the 1920 census.  This restrictive policy was not changed until 1965. 

This picture was one of hundreds hanging in the Museum and, of course, I found it hit home -- it is a band of German musicians practicing at a picnic in Madison, WI, in 1897

Annie Moore
Annie Moore:  On January 1, 1892, Annie Moore, at the young age of 15, became the first immigrant to enter the U.S. through the new Ellis Island Immigration Station.  Ten days earlier, Annie and her two brothers left County Cork, Ireland, and sailed in steerage class on the steamship Nevada.  As was much the case during this time period, their parents had come over a few years earlier.  Upon her arrival, she was greeted by then U.S. Immigration Superintendent John Weber who gave her a $10 gold coin to commemorate the occasion.  Three years later, Annie married, through the years had several children and at age 47 died from a brain aneurysm.  

The last person to pass through Ellis Island was a Norwegian merchant seaman by the name of Arne Peterssen in 1954.

The Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital was a hospital that operated on Ellis Island from 1902 to 1930. The abandoned buildings were made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument by proclamation of President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. While the monument is managed by the National Park Service as part of the National Parks of New York Harbor office, the south side of the island remains off-limits to the general public. Efforts to restore the hospital buildings and others on the island are being made by government partner Save Ellis Island.

Background:  Three times previously in the nineteenth century, the United States had suffered a devastating cholera outbreak, each originating abroad. As a port of entry, Ellis Island was poorly equipped to handle the threat. Its two-story wooden dispensary had neither the staff nor the laboratory to contain a disease as deadly as cholera. In 1892, believing he had no other choice, Dr. W.T. Jenkins, the Port of New York's health officer, ordered the Moravia to anchor offshore until the outbreak was contained. Five days later, two more "death ships", the Rugia and Normannia, steamed into the harbor, and they, too, were ordered to anchor offshore. Dr. Jenkins warned that anyone — passenger or crew member — who tried to leave the quarantined ships would be shot. More than a thousand passengers were stranded on the ships, and they begged to be let off, fearing that infected passengers put them at risk. Their plea was denied. Over the next several days, additional cases broke out, killing most of the infected passengers within a day. Not until nearly three weeks had passed were the passengers finally allowed to disembark. It was unclear if the inadequacy of the medical facility at Ellis Island was partly to blame for the additional deaths. Health authorities could not easily dismiss the possibility that if the arriving passengers might all have lived if they had been immediately removed from the ships and quarantined at a safe medical facility.

Layout of Ellis Island

The issue of how to protect the health of both the nation and the immigrant would hover over Ellis Island for the next decade. Its medical facility was not equipped to handle anything but routine illness. When the wooden infirmary  caught fire and burnt to the ground in 1897, the problem intensified. A makeshift hospital was established in an old house on Ellis Island but it was small and ill equipped. Passengers with infectious diseases like measles, diphtheria, and favus were shuttled to neighboring hospitals, which increasingly refused to take them.  (Favus is is a disease usually affecting the scalp, appearing in honeycomb shape, but occurring occasionally on any part of the skin, and even at times on mucous membranes. Discovered in 1829, it was sometimes confused with leprosy but wherever infected and healed, it would leave the skin  void of hair.) Although New York's indigent hospital remained open to immigrants for several years to come, even it eventually stopped taking them.
Layout of Ellis showing the Main Building, etc.

The Marine Hospital Service had been founded in 1798 to care for American merchant seamen. In 1903, in recognition of its expansion into the wider areas of quarantine and infectious disease control, its name was changed to the United States Public Health and Marine Hospital Service both of which served Ellis Island Hospital. The medical department at Ellis Island remained under the dual authority of the Marine Hospital Service and the Bureau of Immigration until 1903. 

In his first State of the Union message, President Theodore Roosevelt proposed a change in immigration policy that would thrust the medical facility at Ellis Island into national prominence. Roosevelt said that America should open its gates to the able bodied while barring the entry of the weak and the infirm.

Although the new policy applied to all points of entry, of which there were more than three dozen, Ellis Island was the key. Because of its location in New York Harbor, it handled more arrivals than all the others combined. The numbers were staggering.

Another Angle of the Layout of Ellis

Recognizing that Ellis Island would need strong leadership if it was to institute a more thorough screening process, President Roosevelt turned to a Wall Street lawyer who also happened to be a friend and a fellow veteran of the Spanish-American War, William Williams. An odd choice for an Ellis Island commissioner, as he was a millionaire whose roots traced to a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The immigrants, on the other hand, were new to America, and most of them were dirt poor.
In his first directive as commissioner, Williams sought to curb Ellis Island's barbaric reputation stating that the immigrants should be treated with kindness and civility by everyone at Ellis Island and that harsh language nor abusive handling would be tolerated. However, a lawyer by training and a stickler for the rules, Williams had no particular affection for the new arrivals and insisted that immigration law be strictly applied -- meaning all able-bodied persons, BUT only those who were able bodied, would be allowed entry.

And Yet Another Angle of the Layout of Ellis

Right after taking the commissioner's job, Williams saw that a more rigorous inspection process would require a state-of-the-art medical facility. With William's goal seeming out of reach, even if he could convince Congress to appropriate the money for a hospital, Ellis Island had no vacant land on which to build it.

Expansion of Island: At the time tons of rocks were being excavating to build the New York City Subway, Secretary of Labor and Commerce Metcalf, announced that they were about to build a hospital, but first needed to build an island on which to place it.  With the excavating going on, there was, in fact, so much fill available for land reclamation that two new islands were built next to the existing Ellis Island. Designated simply as Island No. 2 and Island No. 3, they were precisely sited. The Surgeon General of the United States defined the location of the island that would house the infectious disease hospital with an outside limit of 410 feet from the present island and 200 feet of clear water space between the two islands, it would be amply sufficient to insure freedom from danger or contagion according to modern ideas of hospital construction. 

One more angle of the layout of Ellis Island

Construction:  The first hospital in the Ellis Island complex — the General Hospital — opened on Island No. 2 in 1902. Connected to the main island by a 200-ft gangplank, it had 120 beds, making it larger than most city hospitals of the era. Even so, Commissioner Williams immediately complained to Washington officials that the new hospital's size was utterly inadequate. The General Hospital eventually would expand to 275 beds — more than three times the size of the typical city hospital. It included four operating rooms, a delivery room, and a morgue.

After two mentally ill patients committed suicide in the general hospital, the Psychopathic Pavilion was built. It was charged with housing "idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, insane persons, and epileptics." According to an Ellis Island doctor who helped design it, the Psychopathic Pavilion would make possible the "humane and efficient treatment to those immigrants who, during the voyage to America, become the victims of acute mental disorders." Soon after it opened, however, the psychiatric hospital became a center of controversy, as it was a place where innovative mental tests were developed, yet, unfortunately, also a place where ideas about the mental inferiority of Italians, Slavs, and Jews thrived.

During Williams’ second term as commissioner, the third and largest medical facility opened — the 450-bed Contagious Disease Hospital. Opening in 1911 and located on Island No. 3 and more than 400 feet  from the main island, the Contagious Disease Hospital was the world's most advanced hospital of its kind. It boasted a mattress autoclave (
instrument used to sterilize equipment and supplies by subjecting them to high pressure saturated steam) that could sterilize entire beds, an eight-cadaver refrigerator, an autopsy amphitheater that enabled visiting physicians and medical students to study the pathology of exotic diseases, and a sophisticated diagnostic laboratory staffed around-the-clock by a senior physician. 
It  had eighteen wards, each built to house patients with a particular disease. There were, for example, separate wards for whooping cough, measles, scarlet fever, favus, and diphtheria, and two wards each for trachoma and tuberculosis. The wards were connected by a central corridor that was nearly two football fields in length, with the doors to the wards staggered so that air from one could not easily enter another. Built to a size that provided the exact cubic feet of air prescribed by the health guidelines of the time, each ward was ventilated by banks of windows, maximizing the flow of air between the interior and exterior, while minimizing the flow between wards. It also had its own laundry where approximately three thousand sheets and towels were washed and dried there each day.

When fully completed, the hospital complex also included nineteen other buildings. Heat, light, and power for the hospital were furnished by the power plant on the first island. Sewage flowed, by gravity, into New York Harbor. The kitchen served two-thousand meals a day prepared by its own cooking staff. All told, three hundred people worked in the Ellis Island hospital complex, about a third of them medical doctors, nurses, and orderlies, many of whom lived in staff housing on the island. 

Inspections: Each day at Ellis Island, nearly two thousand new arrivals climbed the most fateful staircase of their lives. A uniformed officer of the Public Health Service stood at the top landing, watching intently. As the passengers scaled the steps, lugging their suitcases, he looked for the slightest indication of poor health. Upon reaching the top, they were handed a medical card and directed to the left or right, depending on whether they were being processed in the registry's south or north hall. Once there, they stood in line until it was there turn to come forward, each step studied by a uniformed doctor who then examined the scalp, hands, eyes, and throat.

The inspection process was like an assembly line. Every ten seconds or so, another passenger was instructed to step forward. As indicated above, a chalk mark was swiped across the clothing of anyone suspected of disease.  It was said that even the turns in the inspection line had a purpose.  They used to like to have passengers while in inspection line make two right angle turns, which served to bring the light on both sides of a passenger's face. The turns also helped bring out imperfections in muscular coordination which may be the product of some infectious disease.

Immigrants who could afford first- or second-class passage and therefore presumed fit to become Americans went through a speedy inspection line that included a cursory medical exam. Close scrutiny was reserved for the poor passengers that traveled in steerage and were presumed headed for factory jobs. Roughly one in five of these arrivals was pulled out of the line for a fuller medical examination. Seventeen conditions, ranging from problems of the eyes to weaknesses of physique, could result in detention. "Class A" conditions, which included trachoma, were cause for deportation. The process could be unnerving.

Immigrants with infectious diseases like measles, mumps, diphtheria, and whooping cough were sent to the Ellis Island hospital for what was usually a short stay.

The medical inspection at Ellis Island was conducted by order of Congress. Diseases that scarcely get passing notice today were life threatening in 1900. Measles was easily spread and could be fatal. Life expectancy in America was only 48 years of age for whites and a mere 33 years of age for blacks. The PHS physicians at Ellis Island were "guardians of the gate" — the nation's first line of defense against immigrant-borne illness. Even so, disease slipped through. When polio broke out in the Italian section of Brooklyn, frightened residents blamed it on a recent immigrant.

Fifteen years after Ellis Island opened, growing opposition to immigration led Congress to expand the Public Health Service's authority, requiring it to weed out the weak and the unemployable as well as the sick. The new list of excludable conditions included "likely to become a public charge" — meaning someone who had little hope of finding a job. It was a Class A condition — cause for deportation.

As medical doctors, the PHS physicians were sworn to heal the patient. As uniformed officers of the Public Health Service, they were obliged to identify the medically unfit. The available evidence, though largely anecdotal, suggests that most PHS doctors adhered to the strictures of the law while showing leniency when possible.  

While walking out from the fortresses of Ellis Island, I feel haunted by the information, sites and feelings of apprehension, fear, excitement, disappointment that the immigrants were faced with once stepping foot on the island.  The eeriness seems embedded within its confines -- many secrets of its past never to be known. 

Our departing ferry - Miss Ellis Island

As we are now departing Ellis Island after an overload of information and emotions, it is time to get on our ferry -- Miss Ellis Island is picking us up.

Once we arrived back on dry land at Battery Park, Nika and I grabbed a bite to eat at one of the local food vendors who were situated in Battery Park.   

Situated right next to this vendor was haunting statue,"The Immigrants." 

"The Immigrants"

 "The Immigrants"

Immigrant Memorial at Battery Park: "The Immigrants" celebrates the diversity of New York City and the struggle of immigrants in this heroic-sized bronze figural group. The sculpture depicts figures of various ethnic groups and eras, including an Eastern European Jew, a freed African slave, a priest, and a worker. Standing together, the members are connected through their pose. The rough surface of the bronze not only accentuates the extreme emotion, but generalizes the features allowing them to represent no individual in particular.

The piece was donated by Samuel Rudin who commissioned the sculpture in the early 1970's, intending it to be installed near Castle Clinton as a memorial to his parents, who, as it is noted on the plinth, emigrated to the United States in the late-19th century. Although sculpted in 1973, it was not placed in its initial home in front of the Castle until 1983. It has since been moved to the northeast of the Castle.  

[On another quick note, I spied one of the Grayline Tour buses that we had taken in the preceding days and thought I would snap a picture for you to see, below.]
One of the Grayline Tour Buses
Marriachi Band Performers on the Subway Train
Mime Performers at a Subway Station Platform
Mime Performers - I think they were doing "Thriller"
As we were heading off to the subway, we passed by another vendor who was parked right before our entrance.  I found a couple things that I wanted to get -- souvenirs for others, so I am glad now that I picked up my NY sling bag at the Statue souvenir shop -- makes easier to carry everything!  

Subway Entertainment: Once we hopped on our train before changing to another, while we were sitting there right before the doors closed, our next form of entertainment entered.  It was a 3-person mariachi band.  They were really good and it was fun to listen to.  Nika had mentioned that she was surprised that they were actually on the train playing.  Apparently, the singers and musicians who play in STATIONS are performing legally, and you should feel free to encourage their talent with financial contributions. On the other hand, those who perform on-board TRAINS are breaking the law, and know it,; they also know it is illegal to ask actively (as opposed to passively) for contributions. In many cases they are little better than roving shake-down artists, and some are aggressive enough to be considered extortionists. Until they come across a police officer who will summon them and eject them from the system (unless they are scofflaws, in which case they will be arrested), they should NOT be encouraged with money.  
I have found out since that many of these terrific performers are from a program called Music Under New York. They compete for top locations (Times Square, Penn Station, Grand Central, 14th St, etc ), and over 100 of them usually perform with the MUNY banner. Everything from Chinese dulcimer to classical violin to barbershop singing to Haitian folk music to anything else you could imagine.

They really represent the diversity of NY residents!  They often sell CD's so you can have a real good souvenir of NYC.

FYI, the athletic break dancers are usually at the 34th Street Herald Square station. Apparently, that station always has a lot of excellent performers, singers, bands, etc.

Well, this is it.  We are hopping on another train and then heading over to finish our tour of the American Museum of Natural History.  All that fresh air and smell of the seawater is making me tired.  I need to get inside and warm up.  We will have a big night ahead of us after the AMNH tour, too, as we are heading to SoHo to do some shopping.  But, for now, we are off to see some treasures. 

I hope you enjoyed your tour and informative guide through Ellis Island.  It may be a lot to learn but I think it is good for everyone to know a little more about Ellis Island.  Because for most of us, it was a piece of the beginning of our heritages.