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Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monuments

Part 1: History of the Park and Researching Passengers Arriving at Ellis Island

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Statue of Liberty

copyright Darren Smith and his licensors. All rights reserved.

Recognized as one of the most universal symbols of political freedom and democracy, the Statue of Liberty was a gift of from the people of France to the people of the United States in recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution. Sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi had been commissioned to design a sculpture with the year 1876 in mind for completion, to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. It was agreed that the Statue would be a joint effort between America and France -- the American people were to build the pedestal and the French people would be responsible for the Statue and its assembly in the United States.

Raising funds proved to be a problem in both countries, but the Statue was eventually completed in France in July of 1884. It was was transported to the United States on board the French frigate "Isere" and arrived in New York Harbor in June of 1885. On October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland accepted the Statue on behalf of the United States and said in part, "We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home."

The Statue of Liberty was designated a National Monument (and a unit of the National Park Service) on October 15, 1924. Leading up to her centennial on July 4, 1986, the statue underwent extensive restoration. Today the 58.5-acre World Heritage Site (in 1984) draws more than five million visitors a year.

Ellis Island

Between 1892 and 1954, approximately 12 million steerage and third class steamship passengers who entered the United States through the port of New York were legally and medically inspected at Ellis Island. April 17, 1907 marked the busiest day of recorded immigration, during which 11,747 immigrants were processed through the historic Immigration Station on a single day.

Ellis Island was incorporated as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument on May 11, 1965, and was opened to the public on a limited basis between 1976 and 1984. Starting in 1984, Ellis Island underwent a $162 million restoration, the largest historic restoration in U.S. history. It reopened in 1990, and the main building on Ellis Island is now a museum dedicated to the history of immigration and the important role this island claimed during the mass migration of humanity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The museum receives almost 2 million visitors annually.

Checking Immigration Records

April 17, 2001, marked the opening of the American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island. The center, located in the restored Main Building, contains the database records of more than 22 million passengers that arrived through the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924. You can research passenger records from the ships that brought the immigrants -- even see the original manifests with the passengers' names.

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