- Hardcover: 496 pages
- Publisher: Harper (June 9 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060742739
- ISBN-13: 978-0060742737
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.9 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 726 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,849,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
American Passage: The History of Ellis Island Hardcover – Jun 9 2009
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“Mr. Cannato’s writing is vivid and accessible, and his approach is admirably even-handed.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“Historian Vincent Cannato appears to have overlooked nothing in telling the tale of the historic island, now a national monument. . . . Cannato is not only a meticulous researcher and historian, he’s also a lively storyteller. A rare combination.” (USA Today)
“Cannato does a masterful job of weaving together a slew of singular immigrant stories with the larger issues that surrounded newcomers. He gives us the politics, the health scares and epidemics, the crowding, the corruption and the public policy.” (The New York Post)
“Cannato navigates the crosscurrents of immigration since the 1700s, illustrating his tale generously with odd facts and highly readable stories.” (Associated Press)
“The story of America is one of immigration. By bringing us the inspiring and sometimes unsettling tales of Ellis Island, Vincent Cannato’s American Passage helps us understand who we are as a nation.” (Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein)
“Reading Vincent Cannato’s American Passage was an amazing journey into our nation’s immigrant past. Never before has Ellis Island been written about with such scholarly care and historical wisdom. Highly recommended!” (Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge)
“Immigration has long been a critical slice of the American narrative, and here, in American Passage, Vincent Cannato tells its story with great brio. From landing point to national Monument, from immigrants to interpreters, we see the veritable Babel of Ellis Island play out across the years.” (Jay Winik, author of The Great Upheaval and April 1865)
“To his great credit Cannato does not pretend to answer our tough questions about immigration, nor to find a ‘usable past’ in the history of Ellis Island. He just tells one heck of a story that oozes with relevance.” (Walter A. McDougall, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Throes of Democracy)
“Although Ellis Island is about immigrants from far-away places, it is in fact as American as Thanksgiving and apple pie. This amazing story is recounted beautifully in Vincent Cannato’s well-written and evocative book, which will bring pleasure and profit to readers.” (Kenneth T. Jackson, editor in chief, Encyclopedia of New York City)
“Cannato resists the temptation to setimentalize Ellis Island. He understands that, now as then, immigration is an issue that leaves Americans uncomfortable and contentious, even as it continues to bring new blood and energy into the country.” (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post)
From the Back Cover
For most of New York's early history, Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today the small island stands alongside Plymouth Rock in our nation's founding mythology as the place where many of our ancestors first touched American soil. Ellis Island's heyday—from 1892 to 1924—coincided with one of the greatest mass movements of individuals the world has ever seen, with some twelve million immigrants inspected at its gates. In American Passage, Vincent J. Cannato masterfully illuminates the story of Ellis Island from the days when it hosted pirate hangings witnessed by thousands of New Yorkers in the nineteenth century to the turn of the twentieth century when massive migrations sparked fierce debate and hopeful new immigrants often encountered corruption, harsh conditions, and political scheming.
American Passage captures a time and a place unparalleled in American immigration and history, and articulates the dramatic and bittersweet accounts of the immigrants, officials, interpreters, and social reformers who all play an important role in Ellis Island's chronicle. Cannato traces the politics, prejudices, and ideologies that surrounded the great immigration debate, to the shift from immigration to detention of aliens during World War II and the Cold War, all the way to the rebirth of the island as a national monument. Long after Ellis Island ceased to be the nation's preeminent immigrant inspection station, the debates that once swirled around it are still relevant to Americans a century later.
In this sweeping, often heart-wrenching epic, Cannato reveals that the history of Ellis Island is ultimately the story of what it means to be an American.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
I really did enjoy reading this book, but I did find that most of the text was more informational rather than Cannato answering his historical question. The best section of the book I found was actually at the end when Cannato analyzes the myth and memory of Ellis Island in the contemporary context. The questions he raises about the concerns both African Americans and Native Americans in that America's "immigration story" has all but written them out of.
The book is very well-researched, based on many primary and secondary sources, I just found that it contained a lot of superfluous information. The book could probably have been cut in half with more interpretation rather than explanation. Overall, this is a decent survey into Ellis Island and America's immigration policy in the twentieth century.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com
We had an absolutely splendid volunteer guide whose father had passed through Ellis Island when he was 18, and Doug gives the tours in memory of his father. He said that all of the volunteer and paid guides on Ellis Island consider this book required reading, and re-reading -- it is perhaps heavy on officials and a little light on individual histories. But that history is essential to understand how so many people were processed so quickly.
On statistic: over 98% of the immigrants passed through to either New York or New Jersey; the great majority who were detained and sometimes returned to Europe were denied entry for health reasons. An average of seven seconds per immigrant, but they "cheated". After the baggage hall, and immigrants rarely gave up their worldly possessions for a slip of paper and a promise, the immigrants had to climb three flights of stairs.
Doctors closely watched the flow and marked people who were laboring with chalk on their coats -- "TB", "PG", etc. The marked people were then examined more closely. And, if an immigrant was returned to Europe, the steamship company was forced to pay for the return journey -- so there was careful screening by the shippers in Europe before the ships sailed.
An essential book for anyone planning a visit or for anyone to read after their return from this fascinating place so crucial to American history.
Robert C. Ross
The treatment of their experiences and the motivations behind the creation of a central location for immigrant processing is incredibly detailed, sympathetic, sensible, and beautifully put in this book. I can't imagine a better history of this iconic landmark and what it symbolizes for today's America. Cannato delves into the history of the place and its precursor station Castle Garden, perfectly prepared to acknowledge all sides of the thorny topic of immigration up to the present day. I've already recommended to my mom that she buy the kindle version.
I also want to recommend to anyone who suspects that their ancestors came through Ellis to visit EllisIsland.org where they will find a searchable database of immigration records, including scanned copies of the actual ship manifests of the day. Finding the name of an ancestor in a computer database is one thing, but seeing the actual documents will give you a feeling like no other.
I very highly recommend this book to any US History or genealogy buffs out there, great book but be warned that it is rather lengthy.