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Flashback Friday: Ellis Island 1954

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National Geographic Ellis Island Image
Women and children were separated from men
when they first entered the building on Ellis Island.
Photograph by Paul Thompson
Credit: National Geographic

Sixty-five years ago, [today] on November 12, 1954, a Norwegian merchant seaman named Arne Peterssen became the last immigrant to pass through Ellis Island. Later that month, the ferry Ellis Island made its final stop at the island in New York Harbor and the immigration facility closed for good, ending its run as a gateway to the United States for generations of immigrants.

These days Ellis Island is a national symbol remembered in sepia tones but, while it was in active service, the station reflected the country’s complicated relationship with immigration, one that evolved from casual openness to rigid restriction. “It was not a great welcoming place for immigrants but, it was not a place of horrors either,” says Vincent Cannato, author of American Passage: The History of Ellis Island.

Until the end of the 19th century, individual states handled immigration with rules varying by jurisdiction. [T]hen, immigration soared. In light of the influx, the federal government decided in 1891 that it had to take charge.

New York was immigration’s epicenter. Some 75 percent of the country’s steamship traffic came through New York Harbor and so did 75 percent of the nation’s immigrants, according to Cannato. New York state ran an immigration facility called Castle Gardens at the tip of Manhattan but, the new federal Office of Immigration wanted an intake and inspection station in a more controlled location. It selected Ellis Island, a three-acre spot of land in the harbor between New York and New Jersey […].

The immigrants who eventually passed through Ellis Island started their journey by buying passage on a steamship, usually sailing from Europe. Between 1892 and 1924, 12 million people successfully traversed this highly efficient conveyor-belt immigration system. Most immigrants were processed through Ellis Island in a few hours and only 2 percent that arrived on the island were prevented from entering the United States.

[T]his era of mass immigration came to an end with the passage in 1921 and 1924 of new laws that severely limited immigration by establishing quotas for individual countries and requiring immigrants to obtain visas from American consulates. Since most official immigration screening now happened at U.S. consulates abroad, Ellis Island became increasingly irrelevant. The facility, which had once teemed with thousands of hopeful immigrants, transformed into “a major center for deportation and for holding enemy alien spies,” says [Barry] Moreno. “It was like night and day.” President Eisenhower quietly closed Ellis Island in 1954.

How Ellis Island Shepherded Millions of Immigrants Into America
Rachel Hartigan
National Geographic
November 13, 2019

Flashback Friday: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 1924

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Macys Parade Clowns ABC News Image
Photo Credit: ABC News

Ninety-six years ago, today, the very first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held.

From History Channel:

As the United States prospered during the Roaring Twenties, so did New York City’s iconic department store, Macy’s. After going public in 1922, R. H. Macy & Co. started to acquire competitors and open regional locations. Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square did such a brisk business that it expanded in 1924 to cover an entire city block, stretching from Broadway to Seventh Avenue along 34th Street.

To showcase the opening of the “World’s Largest Store” and its one million square feet of retail space at the start of the busy holiday shopping season, Macy’s decided to throw New York a parade on Thanksgiving morning. In spite of its timing, the parade was not actually about Thanksgiving at all but the next major holiday on the calendar…Christmas. Macy’s hoped its “Christmas Parade” would whet the appetites of consumers for a holiday shopping feast.

[Previously], the only Thanksgiving parade that had previously passed through the city’s streets was its peculiar, and to many annoying, tradition of children painting their faces and donning tattered clothes to masquerade as “ragamuffins” who asked “Anything for Thanksgiving?” as they begged door-to-door for pennies, apples and pieces of candy.

At [9:00am EST], on the sunlit morning of November 27, 1924, Macy’s gave the children of New York a particularly special Thanksgiving treat as a police escort led the start of the parade from the intersection of 145th Street and Convent Avenue. Macy’s had promised parade-goers “a marathon of mirth” in its full-page newspaper advertisements. While the parade route may not have extended over 26 miles, its 6-mile length certainly made for a long hike for those marching from Harlem to Herald Square.

Although the parade garnered only two sentences the following day in the New York Herald, […] it proved such a smash that Macy’s announced in a newspaper advertisement the following morning that it would stage the parade, again, the following Thanksgiving. “We did not dare dream its success would be so great.”

Macy’s History (NYC Tourist)

TV Tuesday: The Wright Verdicts 1995

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The Wright Verdicts Image One
Photo Credit: YouTube

Twenty-five years ago, today, the television series The Wright Verdicts debuted on CBS. Created and executive-produced by Dick Wolf, it starred Tom Conti, Margaret Colin and Aida Turturro as the main cast (Variety also lists John Glover but, IMDB does not.). Notable guest stars were Candy Clark, Peter Facinelli, Allison Janney and Leslie Mann.

There were only six episodes that aired between March 31 and June 11 with a seventh episode intended for a May slot, never airing. It’s first episode was on a Friday, the second episode aired the following Wednesday, the third episode went back to Friday, the following week and the fourth episode showed up on a Sunday, the next week. The last two aired episodes were on Sundays in June. [No wonder it failed. ~Vic]

IMDB Summary:

Legal drama with Charles Wright, an Englishman, working as a lawyer in New York City. Sandy Hamar is an ex-NYPD detective who serves as the mandatory private eye and Lydia is the super efficient secretary.

 

Tom Conti Image Two
Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Variety Review:

The Wright Verdicts is mature in the best sense. [I]t’s smart, has no false innocence and has the right amount of fun. Criminal lawyer Charles Wright (Tom Conti) will win juries over like clockwork and the series should likewise charm viewers. The character’s chief skill is blarney or, as his investigator puts it, shucking and jiving. Charles is bumbling and self-deprecating one minute, erudite and mischievous the next. Conti brings off Wright’s sense of humor and his status as a ladies’ man. The dynamic between Conti and his two female employees […] needs some work. [T]here’s so much flirtation that the relationships in this office triangle seem headed in only one direction.

The hour has a surplus of spectacular aerial shots of Manhattan.

Picks and Pans from People:

With crimes revolving around designer drugs and cellular phones, the show poses itself as a Perry Mason for the ’90s. It’s about as conventional and formulaic as that old warhorse. The parlor-game plotting is more than passable but, the writing is undistinguished. Only Conti’s malty voice and trilling accent are enough to elevate the program’s mark a little.

Entertainment Weekly:

Executive producer Dick Wolf has cannily combined two genres…Murder, She Wrote’s warm coziness and his own Law & Order’s cold, complex cases…and come up with a lukewarm show that’s nonetheless pretty irresistible.

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