Remembering Annie Moore, The First Immigrant To Come Into America Through Ellis Island

Ellis Island has been the entry point for millions of new Americans for over 60 years. It stands as an icon and symbol of American immigration. On 1 January 1892 Ellis Island opened the first federal immigration station.

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At that time, Annie Moore, then 17, was the first of millions that entered the USA through those doors. There is a fascinating story of mistaken identity which many people are not aware of. Annie and her two younger brothers had left their former homeland in Queenstown, Ireland, on 20 December 1891. The three were now anchored just south of Manhattan as New York City revelers welcomed in the new year with car horns blaring and church bells ringing.

The siblings had spent 12 days at sea on steamship Nevada, looking forward to new start in a foreign land. She was looking forward to being reunited with her two older siblings and her parents who she had not seen for four years. The steamship had arrived too late to be processed on New Year’s Eve so the third-class passengers would be the first to enter the brand new federal immigration station on Ellis Island.

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Before the remodeling, the building had been a gunpowder storage area for the U.S. Navy. At 10:30 a.m. on 1 January, the flag on Ellis Island was dipped three times as a signal to send the first batch of immigrants by boat. First down the gangplank, with brothers close behind, was Annie. Former Treasury Department official, Charles Hendley was there to register the new immigrants.

Annie and her two brothers, Anthony and Philip, were the first names in the registry book. From there she went to the next room where she was given a ten-dollar gold piece by former congressman John B. Weber before being blessed by a Catholic chaplain who gave her a silver coin. Annie was the first of over million immigrants that would follow over the next 62 years.

There are conflicting stories as to how Annie came to be first. One states that an Italian immigrant gave her as place after seeing her cry whereas another claims it was German that sent her to the front, insisting that ladies go first. During the 80s the immigration station was restored and Moore’s face was used as a symbol of immigrants coming through Ellis Island. In 2006 however, it was discovered that it was not the same Annie Moore that was the first to come down the boardwalk back on 1 January 1892.