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Centennial of Record-Breaking Day

March 29th, 2007

Immigrants More Than Doubled on April 17, 1907


April 17, 2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the busiest day in Ellis Island’s history, when 11,747 individuals arrived there to begin new lives in America. A usual day saw some 5,000 immigrants processed. It was the highpoint of 1907 when 1,285,349 immigrants entered the United States, with Ellis Island processing nearly 80 percent of those new arrivals. The country would not welcome as many immigrants again until 1990.

Forty percent of Americans can trace their roots back to at least one ancestor who arrived through Ellis Island, which processed 17 million immigrants from 1892-1954. Notable people who entered there were songwriter Irving Berlin, comedians Henny Youngman and Bob Hope, and actors Rudolph Valentino and Cary Grant.

Many immigrants, like the Natte family from Holland, underwent numerous hardships to start better lives in America. Evert Jan Natte and his wife, Cato, arrived on the S.S. Potsdam in March 1907, after having lost two of their eight children at sea to diphtheria and seeing a third die from the same illness shortly after they arrived. The surviving children were sent to a hospital in nearby Hoboken, New Jersey, while Cato, pregnant and due to give birth, remained at Ellis Island for the entire month of April. Her infant son was named Robert Ellis Natte, after the Port Commissioner at Ellis Island and the place where he was born. Finally, the family was reunited and on May 3, 1907, they headed west for Minnesota. Today the Natte family has a rich and extensive genealogy, with 100 direct descendents sharing a tie to the Dutch couple’s sacrifice and courage.

According to Dr. Alan Kraut of American University and chair of the History Advisory Committee for The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., America’s current wave of immigration has striking similarities to the turn of the last century when Ellis Island was America’s flagship immigration depot. “The percentage of our foreign born population in 1907 was 15.7%, and today it is just slightly lower at 12.5%,” says Dr. Kraut. “However, the real difference is where they are coming from: in 1907 most of those arriving were from Southern and Eastern Europe, while today they are coming predominantly from Latin America and Asia.”

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation will celebrate this centennial by holding its 6th Annual Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards on Tuesday, April 17, at 11 a.m. in the Great Hall at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. These awards will honor three outstanding Americans with roots to Ellis Island: Mike (“Coach K”) Krzyzewski in Sports, Bill Novelli in Public Service, and John Mack in Business. The Peopling of America Award, honoring an immigrant from another time period or different port of entry, will salute fashion entrepreneur Josie Natori.


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