Ellis Island was originally known as Oyster Island, and sold to the US
While most of us associate Ellis Island with the entry point to the United States for late XIXth century immigrants, the island had quite a history.
Named after its owner Samuel Ellis, Ellis Island was originally known as Oyster Island, and sold to the United States in 1808. It was used as a federal arsenal and a military post for a little over eighty years.
The immigration station was moved from Lower Manhattan to Ellis Island in 1890. The Nevada, the first boat carrying passengers to be processed through immigration, arrived on this day, in 1891. The immigration station opened officially the following day, welcoming seventeen-year old Annie Moore and her two younger brothers, who, alone, had undertaken the twelve-day voyage from Ireland. They reunited with their parents who were already living in New York City. To commemorate her historical role in US history, Moore was given a $10 gold coin.
In 1897, a big fire destroyed most of the station and immigration records from the previous 40+ years. The station was expanded and re-opened in 1900. In 1924, caps were set to restrict immigration.
In recent years, the island which falls under New York and New Jersey States' jurisdiction, was proclaimed as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, and presently houses the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.
Today, about a third of the American population can trace back ancestors who arrived on Ellis Island.