I don't need time. What I need is a deadline. – Duke Ellington



Murray Street PRODUCTION:
Ellis Island


Transcripts and Descriptions:

Immigrants came to America on ships and many by way of third class or steerage. They experienced crowding, sea-sickness, and fear, yet also shared the exultation of first seeing the Statue of Liberty, and the skyline of New York

Victor Tartarini, Italy :14
"When I saw the Statue of Liberty...(gasp)...it was
something beautiful. I knew I was in America, you
know. I knew I was going to see my father. I knew I
was going to see my stepmother. I had somebody to

Mary Vasily, Austria-Hungary :44
"We came in third class. And I remember it was all
the way down in the ocean. And they had these great
big, round windows. And all you could see is the
oc---, you know, the waves, you know, passing by.
Finally, this one morning, my mother came--- She
must have been on deck. And she was coming real
fast. And she got a hold of me. And she's pulling me
up the steps. And with her left hand, she's pointing,
"Mary, Mary, marcho, marcho, tu America, tu
America." And I'm looking. And that sight, as long as
I live, I'll never forget."

Stephen Peters, Albania :18
"We arrived in New York on a beautiful dawn. It
was a magnificent sight, awesome sight. The harbor
was just replete with boats, come from all over
Europe. And we could see Ellis Island, the place
where we were hoping to get. And it looked

Alexander Alland, Russia :13
"You come to America. You should have come to a
small, little place. But, no--- Boat stopped right in
front of the most impressive sight in the United
States, the downtown New York."

Immigrants were first lead into the huge Registry Room on Ellis Island. This was the beginning of a process that included lengthy waits for medical and legal inspections. Fear and confusion often resulted in being crowded into this large space with so many other people, all anxious, all speaking different languages.

Elizabeth Nimmo, England :09
"After we got off the liner and we got into this huge
hall. And there seemed to be thousands of people
milling around."

Stephen Houbrick, Austria-Hungary :06
"I think everybody wore black clothes and black
shawls. And the men had the fedoras on."

Katherine Beychok, Russia :09
"All kinds of languages, all kinds of people. Peasants
and people that were educated and they were
jabbering away in their own languages."

Barbara Barondess, Russia :10
"To me it was like the House of Babel because there
were so many languages and so many people. And
everybody huddled together. And it was so full of
fear, it was pathetic."

Ellis Island was a place which engendered contradictory feelings. Immigrants recognized it joyfully as the entry point to their new home, yet feared what might happen there. While only 2% of all immigrants were sent back, all immigrants felt fear of detention and expulsion.

Samuel Nelson, Russia :09
"Ellis Island was considered by everybody, by all
immigrants as a purgatory, (laughter), something you
had to go through. It's an ordeal."

Fannie Friedman, Ukraine :17
"We knew what we were coming to. That you have
to stay there. And that they're going to examine you
again and again. So, we knew--- Little by little, we
so got used to it that we weren't excited any more or
afraid. We knew this is the way to come to this
wonderful land."


People brought a range of personal items with them to America. Some carried their most valuable possessions, others arrived only with the clothes on their back.

Paul Sturman, Czechoslovakia
"We didn't have much of a baggage, just some pieces
of clothing and my books."

Gertrude Schneider Smith, Switzerland
"I remember a pair of shoes that she put in there, that
were my father's army shoes."

Elizabeth Martin, Hungary
"Golden earrings. Because I had had pierced ears
since I've been a child."

Frances Oakley, England
"Alpaca wool blankets, they were beautiful."

Pearl Pohrille, Germany
"Beautiful pots and pans."

Victoria Sarfatti Fernandez Macedonia
"Tapestries---because we had--- Our walls were
covered with tapestries."

Frances Oakley, England
"Sets of Minton china that were priceless. I
remember the buds on the outside of the cups and

Elizabeth Martin, Hungary
"And really, outside of that, the clothes we had on
us." [SFX: people milling, bags handled, carts
wheeled across floor]

Immigrants express the confusion and pain of living between two homelands. Often they arrived not knowing the language, "greenhorns" in an unfamiliar landscape. While they embraced the freedom and new opportunity of America, they missed their place of birth and their sense of knowing their place in the world.

Lazarus Salamon, Hungary (:23)
"You put an end, forget about your childhood. I
became a man here, all of a sudden and start life
new, amongst people whose language I didn't
understand. Different life, everything was different.
But, I never despaired. I was optimistic."


©2007 Murray Street Productions, all rights reserved