The Torch

Stories, news, and updates about Lady Liberty and Ellis Island brought to you by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation

Happy Birthday to the Late, Great Emma Lazarus 

| July 22, 2024

Today, on July 22nd, the Foundation celebrates the birthday of late American poet, Emma Lazarus, and honors the legacy she left behind. 


Introducing Our Volunteer: Michael Barbalat

| July 15, 2024

The work of the History Center could not happen without a dedicated team of staff members and volunteers. One such volunteer, from whom you will hear more in the near future, is Michael Barbalat.

Michael’s dedication to exploring immigrants’ impact on American culture has been a catalyst for the creation of a website dedicated to collecting the oral histories of people who have made an immigrant’s journey: the American Mosaic. Michael has collected stories that reflect the breadth and depth of the American experience itself.


Our Summer ’24 Interns

| July 8, 2024

The Foundation is excited to welcome our third class of summer interns! Representing various universities and diverse family histories, this talented group of six will directly support our mission to preserve and restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Click here to learn more about the summer ‘24 intern cohort

On This Day: Liberty Enlightening the World Arrives in NY Harbor

| June 17, 2024

On Wednesday, June 17, 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived at her home in New York Harbor. Broken into 350 pieces and packed into more than 200 crates, Lady Liberty traveled aboard the Isere, a French navy ship.

It was nearly another year before the pedestal was completed and the sculpture could be erected on Bedloe’s Island (now Liberty Island). In an era of New York City that pre-dated the skyscraper, the Statue of Liberty would become the tallest statue of its time.


Announcing Our Next Monumental Project

| March 28, 2024

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation is excited to announce a new $100 million, multi-year project to revitalize the 137,000-square-foot museum on Ellis Island. Commencing in 2024, the project will offer visitors a more compelling and comprehensive experience inside the National Museum of Immigration.

Interactive exhibitry, engaging films, and new programming and temporary exhibit space will transform the visitor experience. Essential repairs and updates will continue the Foundation’s efforts to preserve the historic structure. The renovated Records Discovery Center will feature new exhibits, a mini-theater, a green-screen experience, and 50% more public research stations; the passenger arrival records database will more than double with the addition of data from ports of entry across the U.S.

Visit our Ellis Island Museum Reimagined page for more information. And follow us @StatueEllisFdn for ongoing updates!

Please donate to support the project!

RootsTech 2024

| March 7, 2024

The Foundation proudly participated in RootsTech 2024. Our CEO, Jesse Brackenbury, presented on the main stage, and Jon Da Silva from the American Family Immigrant History Center addressed Archives and Records Custodians Symposium attendees. The Foundation also contributed two on-demand webinars about researching family history. 

Click HERE to learn more and access the presentations for free.  

Join the Wall of Honor Expansion!

| December 8, 2023

After 30 years and some 800,000 names, the original American Immigrant Wall of Honor is full. Luckily, the Foundation is able to expand the monument, fulfilling the wish of many who thought they’d missed this unique opportunity to celebrate their family’s immigration history.

The Wall of Honor expansion is currently under construction. The inaugural panel will be unveiled in the summer of 2024. To be included on the inaugural panel, donors must submit names by DECEMBER 31, 2023.

Check out the Wall of Honor page for more information.

Wall of honor, Ellis, Ellis Island 

Women of Horror!

| October 30, 2023

Nothing says Halloween quite like a good scary story. While it’s easy to think of the world of horror as a “boys club,” plenty of women have contributed to the terrifying literature, films, and TV shows we come back to on All Hallows Eve!

In honor of the season, we’re highlighting some of the women in horror – both on and off the screen – who have ties to Ellis Island and the port of New York. From a pioneer of early cinema to the star of one of Netflix’s most popular shows, some of these connections may surprise you!  


Special thanks to Grace Felder, Research Assistant at the American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island, for this post.

A Century of Comics

| October 16, 2023

We are celebrating New York Comic Con 2023. The display Century of Comics is on display at the American Family Immigration History Center on Ellis Island through October. The content shares the stories – and Ellis Island connections – of many creators, contributors, and artists who helped shape this unmistakably global phenomenon.


Italian American Heritage Month

| October 10, 2023

From food to entertainment to the sciences and more, the influence of Italian immigrants and their descendants permeates American culture.


German American Heritage Month

| October 6, 2023

It is estimated that 12 percent of Americans are of German descent, making German Americans the largest ancestral group in the nation. In 1983, in recognition of the tricentennial of Germantown, Pennsylvania, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October 6th German American Day.


Yma Sumac’s Untold Ellis Island Story

| September 25, 2023

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Foundation remembers Yma Sumac, the influential Peruvian-born singer, composer, actress, and model.

A music pioneer, Yma Sumac can be found in the Ellis Island Passenger Database as she passed through the Port of New York while traveling back from a tour in Europe. She was held at Ellis Island for seven days for charges that were not made public.


Unforgotten: Ellis Island

| September 5, 2023

Ellis Island may not appear large on a map, but its significance is great, having welcomed more than 12 million immigrants to our shores. Yet, when its role as the country’s first Federal Immigration Station became obsolete, Ellis Island was unceremoniously abandoned in 1954.

Join the Foundation’s Stephen Lean, Director of the American Family Immigration History Center, on October 18 (12:00-1:00 pm ET) for a Q&A and virtual screening of Unforgotten: Ellis Island, a short film about the unrestored spaces of Ellis Island.

Click HERE to learn more and HERE to RSVP.

Remembering the Historic Ellis Island Restoration

| September 5, 2023

September 10th marks 33 years since the unveiling of the Ellis Island restoration, which at the time was the largest historical restoration ever undertaken in the United States. 

If walls could talk, spaces throughout Ellis would have endless stories to tell. Ellis Island is a place that represents hope and tears. It is a place that needed to be restored to honor the millions of Americans who passed through the famous immigration station. 


A Day At the Beach

| August 31, 2023

Coney Island and Atlantic City have delighted generations of Americans seeking respite from the summer doldrums. The innovative ideas and hard work of immigrants helped create the lively and diverse experiences that made the boardwalk a symbol of fun in the sun. 

American Family Immigration History Center research experts Dana Ebralidze and Jon Da Silva explored the relationship between Coney Island, Atlantic City, and Ellis Island. The breadth and depth of immigrant connections are impressive: from the daughter of Russian immigrants who grew up to become Miss America to the Romanian immigrant whose imagination led to the building of the Wonder Wheel to a young immigrant from Belarus who would later be nicknamed “the Mob’s Accountant” for his alleged connections to the seedier side of the glittering seaside casinos. 

Read on for a sampling and check out this content (on display at the Family History Center through September 2023) to learn more about Atlantic City and Coney Island.

Special thanks to Stephen Lean, Director of the American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island, for contributing to this post.

Thank You, Intern Class of 2023!

| August 23, 2023

This summer, our Foundation welcomed six interns to our team who supported three departments. We appreciated their enthusiasm, creativity, and dedication to supporting our mission. We’re excited to reflect on their accomplishments.


An Iacocca Family Tradition Continues

| June 29, 2023

When President Ronald Reagan asked Lee Iacocca to chair the initiative to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for their respective centennials, this first-generation American accepted as a way of honoring those who came before him.

[T]his was something I had to do. It’s a labor of love for me.

In 1986, Lee led a four-day extravaganza commemorating the statue’s reopening. Millions attended dozens of events throughout the Liberty Weekend Celebration.

Among them was a young Lisa Kelechava alongside her family, including Uncle Lee.


Pride and the Ellis Island Experience

| June 22, 2023

We’re celebrating Pride Month with a look at some of the inspirational figures from the LGBTQ community found in our Ellis Island Passenger Database. Our featured travelers – Edna Thomas, Olivia Wyndam, Radclyffe Hall, and Frank Woodhull – exemplified the bravery that LGBTQ Pride Month celebrates. To find more influential figures who passed through Ellis Island, explore our digital passenger database.


Meet the Intern Class of Summer 2023

| June 20, 2023

The Foundation is excited to welcome our 2023 class of summer interns – (left to right) Gemma Oshiro, Lucy Bernstein, Fiona O’Reilly, Nico Kossakowski, Retta Karpinski, and Claire Hunt. This talented group comes from various universities and hails from around the country, with diverse family histories. Using their educational experiences, they will support our mission to preserve and restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island! 

Learn more

Black History Month

| February 23, 2023

Carter Woodson, Shirley Chisholm, James Baldwin, and Althea Gibson were experts in their crafts and established phenomenal legacies. They are just a handful of African-Americans who made their way through Ellis Island and who’s passenger records can be found in the Ellis Island Database.

The Foundation is proud to recognize their inspiring life stories and remarkable contributions to America’s story. Click HERE to learn more about their stories.

To find more influential leaders who passed through Ellis Island, from Josephine Baker to Louis Armstrong, explore our digital passenger database.

A Wall of Honor Milestone

| February 15, 2023

In the mid-1980s, with Lady Liberty’s centennial restoration completed, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation turned its focus to restoring Ellis Island – our nation’s first federal immigration station.  

The Ellis Island restoration project was a massive, multi-year endeavor. Working closely with its National Park Service partners and preservation experts, the Foundation was well-equipped to complete the restoration and museum construction. But another critical and equally daunting piece of the project was needed: fundraising. 


Liberty Around the World

| October 27, 2022


The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom and liberty all over the world. Although most visit New York Harbor to behold the 305-foot monument, there are hundreds of replicas across the globe. In celebration of Lady Liberty’s 136th birthday, we’re giving a shoutout to just a few. Have you come across a duplicate statue in your travels? Share your photos with us @StatueEllisFdn!


SOL, Statue of Liberty

Ellis Island & AG Garland Welcome Newest Citizens

| September 23, 2022

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Foundation was honored to be a part of a September 17 Naturalization Ceremony that welcomed 200 of our nation’s newest citizens. Following in the footsteps of 12 million Ellis Island immigrants, the candidates, who hailed from more than 60 countries, gathered in the monument’s historic Great Hall. Attorney General Merrick Garland led them through the oath of allegiance and proclaimed, “This country – your country – wholeheartedly welcomes you.”


Exclusive Screening & Panel Discussion

| August 26, 2022

DATE: Thursday, September 1st
TIME: 12:00 – 1:00 pm EDT

Join The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation for a virtual screening of UNFORGOTTEN: ELLIS ISLAND, the latest installment in the Unforgotten film series.

The film features interviews with former Foundation CEO Stephen Briganti and current Director of the American Family Immigration History Center, Stephen Lean.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Stephen Lean and the film’s creator, Aaron Asis.

Click HERE to RSVP

The Statue of Liberty Club

| August 19, 2022

The Foundation recently welcomed members of the Statue of Liberty Club to Liberty Island for a ceremony to unveil the group’s name on the Statue of Liberty Museum’s Donor Wall. The Club joins other important partners whose generosity helped to make the Museum a reality. 


The ONLY way to Liberty Island

| July 20, 2022

Traveling can be amazing and memorable, but not always in a good way. Unfortunately circumstances can leave you frustrated, disappointed, or even cheated out of money, time, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Every year this happens to thousands of people hoping to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Ticket scammers or general misinformation lead visitors to ferries that only sail around the Hudson River, never reaching the actual monuments. In some cases, the experience begins and ends with a bus ride from Manhattan to New Jersey, adding hours to the failed adventure.

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation does not want this to happen to you!

Statue City Cruises is the ONLY vendor authorized to provide tickets and transportation to Liberty and Ellis Islands. No other ferry company can give you access to the Islands, monuments, and museums.


Statue of Liberty, SOL, ferry, statue city cruises

We’re Talking Baseball

| July 19, 2022

“America’s Pastime” is actually an international affair. Currently Major League Baseball boasts players from more than two dozen countries. Throughout its history, immigrants and first-generation Americans have made their mark on the diamond. Here’s a look at just a few.

baseball, blog 

Presentation: Celebrating an Inclusive U.S. (July 3, 10am ET)

| June 30, 2022


Join Stephen Lean, director of our Family History Center, to explore ways in which immigration has enhanced the nation’s life. On Sunday, July 3, Stephen will be “The Forum at St. Bart’s” featured speaker, sharing examples of landmarks (e.g. Yosemite National Park, the Lincoln Memorial), monumental and mundane innovations (e.g., Mr. Coffee, bubble wrap), and other American hallmarks that trace their roots to an immigrant.

For information about in-person or virtual participation go to StBarts.org/grow/The-Forum.

AFIHC, event

Make Music Day Comes to Liberty and Ellis Islands

| June 27, 2022

On June 21, the Foundation participated in Fête de la Musique, a free, worldwide festival where music enthusiasts – professional and amateur – share their talents in public performances.

Jesse Brackenbury joined French Ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Étienne and others for a kick-off press conference in Battery Park with Lady Liberty overlooking the festivities.

Remarks were followed by a performance of Carnival of the Animals, written in 1886 by French composer Camille Saint-Saens, and more on Liberty and Ellis Island.


make music day, event, poster

Meet Our Interns

| June 24, 2022

We are thrilled to welcome four incredibly talented young professionals as our first class of interns at The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. They represent an array of universities and areas of study, and bring their own rich, unique family immigration stories. This summer they will directly support our mission to preserve and restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island!

Check out their stories and stay up to date with their time at the Foundation by following us at @StatueEllisFdn


SOL, statue of liberty, interns, blog

Pride Month at Ellis Island

| June 7, 2022

Throughout its history, Ellis Island welcomed notable pioneers of the LGBTQ community. Despite discriminatory laws and frequent public condemnation, personal, business, and even health-related reasons spurred travel to and from the United States. 

Searching the Ellis Island Database for relevant passenger manifests you’ll find travel records for the likes of Christine Jorgensen, considered to be “America’s First Transgender Celebrity”; Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld who founded what is said to be the first “advocacy for LGBTQ rights” in response to many of his gay patients committing suicide; and Eva Kotchever (aka Evan Adams), author of Lesbian Love, a collection of short stories.  

If you’re visiting the American Family Immigration History Center during Pride Month, check out the display curated by research experts from the American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island to examine individual manifests and photographs honoring these often-accidental trailblazers.  

LGBT, blog

Festival of NY Event

| May 23, 2022

Join The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and co-hosts from the Tenement Museum for a panel discussion about the Ellis Island immigrant experience and for a look at how these individuals from all corners of the world helped share New York City and beyond.


event, poster, This is NY

Webinar: Ellis & Angel Islands

| May 10, 2022

Join us Wednesday, May 11, 8:00-9:00 pm (EDT) for a conversation about two of the country’s most consequential immigration stations: Ellis Island and Angel Island.

Among the topics to be covered by Stephen Lean, Direct of the Family History Center at Ellis Island and Casey Dexter-Lee, State Park Interpreter for Angel Island Immigration Station:

  • When and why were these immigration stations established?
  • How many immigrants entered the U.S. via Ellis and Angel Islands?
  • Were immigrants detained at either location?

This free, virtual presentation is co-hosted by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month.

Register here.

Ellis, historic, angel island 

Love and Lady Liberty – A Story Spanning Generations

| February 14, 2022

From family heritage to family vacations, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island hold special meaning to millions. For Ariel and Margie Moutsatsos, the significance spans generations.

October 11, 2015, Ariel Moutsatsos and Margie Lope began a new chapter in the family’s story with an engagement celebration aboard a private boat in New York Harbor hired by Ariel for the occasion. “I knew I wanted to involve Ellis and Lady Liberty somehow, since they meant so much for us and our families,” explained Ariel. “I told Margie that the trip was a way to remember where we came from.”


Statue of Liberty, SOL, ferry

Ellis Island and the Early Days of Film

| February 4, 2022

The immigrant experience at Ellis Island was carefully documented by filmmakers, with some of the most notable footage dating back to 1903. 

These scenes include a woman holding a child and waving an American flag, a man with two infants in a crowd of families posing for the camera, immigrants streaming off the boat at Ellis Island, and women staring at the Statue of Liberty.  

Be on the lookout for these clips, which are often featured in documentaries about Ellis Island and European immigration. You might even spot a family member in the crowds; after all, about 30 percent of Americans can trace at least one ancestor through Ellis Island.


blog, archives, immigrant, immigrants, Ellis

A “Door” to the World

| January 20, 2022

A visit to the Foundation’s American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island takes you back in time as you retrace the steps of your Ellis Island ancestors.

Through a special initiative between SOLEIF and the Italian-based SlideWorld, now you can also journey back to the Old World, crossing a virtual bridge to another cultural institution.

Step through SlideDoor!


technology, jesse, ceo, italy

Wall of Honor Celebrates His Past, Present & Future

| December 9, 2021

For millions, the Statue of Liberty holds great meaning, sparking memories and emotions that are as unique as Lady Liberty herself.  

Some people are reminded of their ancestors arriving in a new world for a new life. Others reflect on her symbolism and the circumstances that inspired the people of France to gift the Statue to America. For Jack Laub, the Statue of Liberty is the beacon that welcomed him home from war – six times.  


wall of honor

Ken Burns’ “Honor Your Hometown”

| October 26, 2021

“We have a special day or week for just about everything, from Taco Day and Handbag Day to Name Your Car Day, but we do very little to honor our cities and towns. We decided to do something about it.”  Ken Burns & Marty Stuart – Opinion contributors – USA Today

The Foundation was invited to participate in “Honor Your Hometown,” an initiative by documentary producer Ken Burns…. 


The Vote Is On!

| September 30, 2021

Help the Foundation select our 2022 Member Card. Choose from one of four stunning images of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Submit your VOTE by 11:59pm on October 4!


member, SOL, SOLEIF

The 2021 Collectibles!

| September 16, 2021

The Foundation is excited to unveil our 2021 Collectibles! With five options, including our first-ever four-piece mini-sets, there is something for everyone.


copper, collectables, product, Christmas

Where are the Books?

| September 16, 2021

There are many myths and misconceptions associated with Ellis Island, but one stands out above all others… “Where are the Books?”   

This is the most common question heard by our expert researchers at The American Family Immigration History Center

It certainly is a romantic notion – examining actual documents that were held and signed by your ancestor a century ago. Alas, this is not reality, despite what Hollywood tells us (Thank you, HITCH! *) 


hitch, celebrity, cinema, film, Ellis, Ellis Island, pop culture, movies