U.S. Culture (week 21): Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty

HTP is committed to maintaining a strong cultural component of it J-1 Program and regularly publishes topics related to U.S. culture. This week, HTP Program Manager Kira Udo covers Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty

Ellis Island, Gateway to America

Over 120 years ago Ellis Island became ‘the spot’ for all immigrants to enter the US; it was the busiest inspection station from 1892-1954. It was an enormous three-story main building with other smaller building on the grounds and it was built of Georgia pine.

Ellis_Island_First_Bldg_Burnt_15-June-1897It was an impressive figure for all incoming immigrants (Image courtesy of wikipedia. At its height, the main inspection building processed over 11,000 immigrants a day! (And you thought your wait at the airport was a long one.) Additionally all incoming immigrants had a series of questions to answer. Some were the standard;

What is your name?

How old are you?

Are you male or female?

Are you married or single?

How tall are you?

What color are your eyes/hair?

Where were you born? (list country and city)

What is your occupation?

Are you able to read and write?

What country are you from?

What is your race?

Have you been to America before?

Are you meeting a relative here? Who?

What is the name and address of a relative from your native country?

What is your final destination in America?

Who paid for your passage?

How much money do you have with you?

(It was suggested they bring 50 American dollars)

Then the questions start to take a turn to towards the personal;

Have you been in a prison, almshouse, or institution for care of the insane?

Are you a polygamist?  Are you an anarchist?

Are you coming to America for a job?  Where will you work?

What is the condition of your health?

Are you deformed or crippled?


Do you have any identifying marks? (scars, birthmarks, tattoos (did they have   tattoos back then?))

And then the questions about America. Who thinks they can answer all of them? (I couldn’t!)

Who was the first President of America?

What are the colors of our flag?

How many stripes are on our flag?  How many stars?

What is the 4th of July?

What is the Constitution?

What are the three branches in our government?

Which President freed the slaves?

Can you name the 13 original Colonies? (This is the one I struggled with.)

Who signs bills into law?

Who is the current President of the United States?

What is America’s national anthem called?


The Statue of Liberty

Ellis Island was the ‘landing’ point for immigrants and as they rode into the Upper New York Bay, not too far away stands a beautiful neoclassical sculpture. She’s the picture of the “land of the free;” she is the Statue of Liberty (Image courtesy of wikipedia). Here are some fun facts about the Statue of Liberty:



The 7 rays on her crown represent each continent and the seven seas.

It took 9 years to build.

The only way to the top is by climbing 546 stairs. (Whoa!)

It functioned as a light house from 1886-1902 and you could see her light from 24 miles away.The outside is covered in a thin layer of copper and it is green because of oxidation.

Her shoe size is 879.

And the same structural engineer designed the Eiffel Tower.


These two places are the jumping off point for The United States. Most of our population is made up of immigrants, wanting to come here for a new start, a chance at a different life.


Do you have questions about Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty? Do you have a suggestion on an American cultural topic that you would like to know more about? Please comment below for any and all suggestions!


All information in this post found here and here.

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