A Ticket to History

The people who passed through Ellis added richness and texture to the American story. They found jobs, started businesses, raised families, and made countless contributions to communities all across the country. And some of them became very well known.

Ellis Island passenger logs brim with names like Einstein, Houdini, and Hitchcock. They paint a picture of the passions that shaped the 20th century and show us where the roots of American literature, art, and science originated.

Along with records of immigration, there are entries for native-born passengers like Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Roosevelt. Returning home from trips abroad, you can imagine how their experience sailing through New York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty informed their future presidencies. There are also names of famous visitors like opera star Enrico Caruso, artist Frida Kahlo, and writer W.B. Yeats.

These records are part of our history and our heritage. As you look for your own family connection, take a moment to explore the travels of these and other luminaries and consider the role their journeys played in our culture and society.

Annie Moore

First Immigrant Processed, Arrived January 2, 1892

Annie Moore was the first immigrant to be processed on Ellis Island. The 17-year-old girl was traveling with her two younger brothers on the S.S. Nevada, arriving January 1, 1892 from Queenstown (Cork), Ireland. Annie is a well-known historical figure and even has a statue in the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.

Irving Berlin

Songwriter, Arrived September 14, 1893

Irving Berlin, born Israel Beilin, immigrated from Russia via Ellis Island as a young boy, and became one of the greatest songwriters in American history. During his career, he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including “Easter Parade,” “White Christmas,” “God Bless America” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” He died in 1989 at the age of 101.

Bob Hope

Actor and Comedian, Arrived March 30, 1908

Bob Hope, born Leslie Townes Hope in England, appeared on Broadway, in movies, television, and on the radio during his 60+ year career. He was noted for his numerous United Service Organizations (USO) shows entertaining American military personnel, making 57 tours for the USO between 1941 and 1991. In 1997, the U.S. Congress declared him the “first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces.

Cary Grant

Actor, Arrived July 28, 1920

Cary Grant, born Archibald Alexander Leach, was an English stage and Hollywood film actor who became an American citizen in 1942. Grant is considered one of classic Hollywood’s definitive leading men. A popular box office attraction in both comedic and dramatic roles, he starred in “Bringing Up Baby,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “An Affair to Remember” and “North by Northwest,” and many more films.

Duke Kahanamoku

Olympian and Surfer, Arrived August 12, 1924

Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku was born in Honolulu in the Kingdom of Hawaii. He competed in the Olympics from 1912 to 1924, winning five swimming medals for the American team. He later appeared in Hollywood films and popularized the Hawaiian sport of surfing in American mainland culture.

Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera

Artists, Arrived November 13, 1931

Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo arrived in New York City in November of 1931 in order to attend a retrospective exhibit dedicated to his work at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Known as much for his tempestuous personal life as for his giant frescoes, he was one of the leading members of the Mexican muralist movement. Frida Kahlo achieved international fame in her own right for her self-portraits and surrealist paintings that explored the topics of identity, race, gender and class.

Claude McKay

Poet, Arrived February 2, 1934

The Jamaican poet and writer Claude McKay, born Festus Claudius McKay, was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance. He first arrived in the United States in 1912 to attend the Tuskegee Institute. His interest in the human condition and world events led him around the globe, including trips to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. Several of his trips in and out of the United States during the peak of his writing career are captured in our database.

Josephine Baker

Singer, Dancer, Actress, Arrived October 7, 1935

Josephine Baker was an American born actress, singer, and dancer who rose to fame in the 1920s on the stages of Paris. In 1935, she returned to New York, but faced racial prejudice in a still segregated United States. She returned to Paris and became a citizen of France, where she lived a very interesting life. Baker assisted the French Resistance during World War II as an anti-Nazi spy, and she later spoke beside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington for Civil Rights.

Paramahansa Yogananda/Mukunda Lal Ghosh

Yogi, Arrived October 23, 1935

Indian yogi and guru Paramahansa Yogananda introduced the ideals of self-realization and meditation to many in the West. He first arrived in the United States in 1920 and spent the last thirty-two years of his life here. He toured extensively on the lecture circuit and was hosted by President Coolidge at the White House in 1927. Since its first publication in 1946, his book Autobiography of a Yogi has sold over four million copies. He arrived in the Port of New York after a trip to India in 1936, driving across the country to his spiritual headquarters in California.

Chien-Shiung Wu

Scientist, Arrived September 30, 1952

Chien-Shiung Wu was dubbed “The First Lady of Physics” for her contribution to the field of nuclear physics. She worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II, and after the war she accepted a teaching position at Columbia University. She lived in New York City for much of her later life, and arrived in the Port of New York in 1952 returning from a European trip.