This photo shows four immigrants looking out at the water at Ellis Island, New York, on October 30th, 1912.
What a humbling photo – I brought more luggage on my last weekend trip. And those are the entire worldly possessions that those four people have chosen to bring with them in their new life.
I’ve visited many museums (Really? The history nerd visits museums? I never…) and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is still one of my favourites. The displays aren’t that flashy or well-stocked, but you get to walk through the place where millions of immigrants entered the United States. I remember one artefact in particular – a passenger list that enumerated the pieces of luggage each individual brought with them – that was particularly good at illustrating what life was like for those passing through Ellis Island. What do you think would be the average number of pieces of luggage for people moving from one country to another? The last time I moved, I must have had at least 60-80 boxes. The numbers on this list were 0s, 1s, with a few 2s and 3s.
A fun fact: Ellis Island Immigration Museum’s website lets you search their passenger lists online for free if you sign up to their website: Ellis Island Immigration Museum website