Island of Hope
Immigrants shaped the demographic and cultural landscape of New Jersey
The oversized flat-top travel chest, a quintessential symbol of immigration, may have seemed quite small to an emigrant family in the early twentieth century as they struggled to choose what items they would take to the New World and what they would have to leave behind. Fleeing poverty and oppression, immigrants came to the United States by the thousands, the vast majority from the countries of southern and eastern Europe. In 1907, the peak year of immigration, more than one million people entered the United States. Their point of entry – a processing center situated in the Hudson River just off the New Jersey shoreline called Ellis Island.
Immigration changed the United States forever. After enduring the medical examinations at Ellis Island, ferries took immigrants to Hoboken where they boarded trains for all points west. Many, however, chose to stay in New Jersey. In 1900, the state had fewer than two hundred thousand residents. Thirty years later, the population had more than doubled. Torn between the New World and ties to their ancestral land, most immigrants made numerous back-and-forth trips before ultimately deciding to stay permanently