This is a photo of my maternal grandfather, whom I never met, on a boat. No idea who the man on the left is – the captain? I am guessing the photo was taken before my grandfather went to Russia as a salesman for Ford(?) and met my maternal grandmother, whom he married in Russia and then returned to the U.S – my grandmother and mother came a few years after, needing special permission to enter the country (they came in 1929, one month before the stock market crashed).
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How many of you had relatives that came through Ellis Island? My paternal grandparents did and possibly my maternal grandparents and mother as well. I highly recommend American Passage: The History of Ellis Island by Vincent Cannato. He writes about the different commissioners of Ellis Island and their styles, Castle Garden (the immigration inspection predecessor to Ellis Island), nativist vs. immigrant lobbies, and recent politics of rebuilding Ellis Island as a museum.
There is a funny passage in the book where Theodore Roosevelt declares at a dinner that “he had chosen [Oscar] Straus without regard to race, color, creed or party. To that, an elderly and increasingly deaf Jacob Schiff nodded and said in his thick German accent: ‘Dot’s right, Mr. President. You came to me and said, ‘Chake, who is der best jew I can appoint Segretary of Commerce?”” Sad are the descriptions that investigators bring back of the situation in Eastern Europe – poverty, starvation and disease were too abundant in the late 19th – early twentieth century.