Sunday, April 15, 2018

This Was The Frightening Truth Behind Medical Inspections At Ellis Island

From 1892 to 1954, most people seeking to immigrate to the United States passed through Ellis Island. In that time, 21,000,000 immigrants saw the island as the first leg of their journey into America. To put it in perspective, enough people landed there for 40 percent of Americans today to have at least one ancestor who knew what the experience was like. And they would likely tell you that it wasn't pretty.

It's a shame too because most of them had already been through some incredible hardships to get there. From Jewish immigrants escaping persecution in Russia to Italians trying to overcome poverty, it seemed like everyone was running from something. While it's hard to adjust to a new land no matter how you're doing it, these immigrants would have to steel their resolve even more when they arrived at Ellis Island.

With only a handful of doctors tending to thousands of patients at once, the result was a nightmare for everyone involved.

COMMENT and let us know if your family went through a similar experience.

From the moment they arrived, the immigrants were being examined.

They carried their bags up long flights of stairs on their way to the great hall while a doctor watched for those who clutched their chests or experienced shortness of breath. Those who did were taken aside and inspected for heart and lung problems.

Once they got there, doctors studied their walk, their faces, and even their nails.

They were looking for muscular problems, defects, and fungal infections and they had to do it efficiently. 

It wasn't unusual for a doctor to take a couple of hours to diagnose a patient in those days, but at Ellis Island, they had the same amount of time to look at about 2,000 people each.

And if an immigrant seemed "odd," they were examined for "psychopathic tendencies."

A person was also subject to this inspection if they didn't follow directions. Considering many immigrants left their homeland quickly without knowing the language, this seemed a little unreasonable.

The real horror began when doctors checked for an eye infection called trachoma.

Doctors officially used a buttonhook like this to pry immigrants' eyes open, but some just used their fingers.

For years, they washed neither their hands nor their hooks when they did this.

The practice continued until 1906 when a horrified Teddy Roosevelt gave the order for frequent hand-washing and tool sterilization at the facility.

If they did have trachoma, the unfortunate new American had an unthinkable struggle ahead.

Nowadays you can cure it with antibiotics, but back then it required painful surgery and corrosive chemical treatments. Out of four trachoma patients, three would lose their sight completely.

Saddest of all, some immigrants were too sick to stay in the U.S.

Fortunately, less than one percent of them went through all this only to be rejected. Still, stories about those who did led many immigrants to fear the Ellis Island doctors.

Remember to COMMENT and share your own family's stories of how they came here.

Main image via Save Ellis Island

Collage image via PBS Newshour


Author: verified_user