Photographs unearthed of first Ellis Island immigrant

NEW YORK - Photographs of the first immigrant to land at New York's famed Ellis Island have been unearthed almost 120 years after she arrived in the United States as a girl from Ireland.
Teenager Annie Moore disembarked on January 1, 1892, the first of about 12 million immigrants to be processed at the tiny island in New York harbor, which sits in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.

A view of Manhattan from Ellis Island
A view of Manhattan from Ellis Island
The long unseen pictures, one of which was published Tuesday in the New York Times, show an older Moore, by then a matronly figure in heavy, plain clothes typical of the period.
According to the Times, they are inscribed on the back "Ma Schayer" and "Mama Schayer" -- Moore's married name -- and in one she is holding an infant. Moore is believed to have had at least 11 children.
Genealogist Megan Smolenyak, who worked with Moore's descendants to track down the pictures, told AFP there is another picture which she believes could show Moore alongside her brothers soon after arrival.
"It would be iconic. That would end up being turned into posters," she said.
The Times said that Moore arrived in her new country on her 15th birthday, but Smolenyak says that detail is a piece of 19th century mythology and that the Irish girl was already 17.
"It shows you the value of PR even then," Smolenyak said.
Most of the passengers on that ship were Russian or Scandinavian, not Irish, but officials probably picked out Moore "because she was near the front of the line and was a cute little Irish girl."
Moore endured a "hardscrabble," poverty-stricken life in Manhattan's Lower East Side, Smolenyak said. More than half of her children died before they were four.
But she is a symbol "not only of immigration but by proxy of the American dream," Smolenyak said. "She's sort of a national symbol in Ireland because she represents the Irish Diaspora."
Ellis Island's immigration center was closed in 1954, while the Lower East Side is now a trendy area with sky-high real estate prices.

Wednesday, December 30th 2009

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