The Ellis Island tourists don’t get to see: Inside the infectious disease wards, morgue and giant furnace where the dreams of thousands of immigrants hoping for a new life in America came to a terrible end

article-2362465-1ACAC7F7000005DC-780_634x357The 22-building hospital was one of the largest public health institutions in the U.S, according to the New York Times. In 1914, its staff treated 10,000 people from 75 countries.
After it closed in 1954 the 750-bed hospital and morgue were left abandoned. They have remained out of bounds to the more than three million tourists who flock to the island each year.

Vilseskogen, the New Jersey photographer who took the photos in 2008, said: ‘We walked through old mental wards, infectious disease wards, saw the morgue, and the giant furnace room. It was an amazing experience and you could really feel the history alive, right here and now.’

We have included several pictures for your use. To find them look at the bottom of the page under “Historic Photos”.

For more resources on teaching this era, check out our:

US History PowerPoints:

*Immigration and Urbanization:
*Progressive Era

Classroom History games:

Covers the three waves of immigration to the United States from Europe. Student teams choose one of seven ports to place their immigrant-laden ships, learning about patterns of immigration to the U.S.

Teaching the American West

Annie Oakley, a dynamic woman who achieved and overcome much in her six decades, is a great figure to introduce to students when teaching a unit on Western History.

Often overlooked, western history is filled with countless stories that students would be excited to learn about.

For more resources please checkout our PowerPoints:

Westward Movement

The West: Miners, Ranchers, Farmers, and Native Americans

Our classroom history games:

Cumberland Gap

This 1986 film explores the significance of the Cumberland Gap to the movement of people for thousands of years, especially in Westward growth in what is now the United States.

For more about Western US History, check out our PowerPoints and Simulation Games:

President Jackson Mini-PowerPoint

Our Expansion and Reform:1829-1860 PowerPoint covers the explosions of growth during this era.

We have included this 27-slide excerpt on President Jackson.

For more on this era check out our:
Simulation Games


Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882

The only law in U.S. history that singled out a particular ethnic group, this act restricted any Chinese immigrant who was skilled or unskilled in the business of mining, effectively excluding all hopeful entrants from China.

The justification given was that it helped to maintain law and order.

The act was extended ten years later as the Geary Act and remained in place for decades afterward.

It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that large-scale immigration reform altered the number of allowable international immigrants.

We have included a copy of the law as well as questions and answers for students.

For more information on this era, please check out our Rise of Industrial America and Response to Industrialism PowerPoints.


President Jackson on Indian Removal


The Indian Removal Act, passed by Congress in May of 1830, was meant to open up lands to white settlement.

President Andrew Jackson believed that this would allow progress and civilization to prosper in these areas and perhaps even save the Indians themselves.

We have included his December 1830 address to Congress in which he justified the policy.

Here is a copy of the transcript of the speech as well as questions and answers for students.

indian removal mapCheck out our Expansion and Reform: 1829-1860 PowerPoint.

Foreign born American residents in history

eastern european immigrants

We have included a chart that depicts the number of foreign-born residents in the United States from 1900-1990 along with questions and answers.

If you are looking for more information on this topic, please check out our Immigration and Urbanization PowerPoint.

American Immigration

This 1946 Encyclopedia Britannica video is made in the optimistic spirit of the post-war years.

It describes the motivation and origins of American immigrants.

Certainly the theme of the film is that the U.S. offers freedom and opportunity that is hard to find elsewhere.

If you are looking for more information about American immigration check out our PowerPoint and simulation game.

The Westward Movement of the American Pioneer, 1870

This video reenacts the experience of pioneers in 1870, following the Carter family from Illinois to the Midwestern plains. Each family member is described, linking them to the experiences of the other early white settlers in the region. They meet another family on their journey and hang around the fire together, talking and playing the fiddle. Next, they run into cattlemen who believe the Great Plains exist for grazing, not farming. The narrator describes the hard work needed to plant a crop of corn and settle into a sod house, which is built with help from a neighbor. Their new life revolves around planting, tending, and harvesting their crop. The scarcity of resources is described in order to show the deliberacy of each action taken by the family. Music is an important part of the lonely life on the Plains, and it unites neighbors and keeps up the spirits of the family in their hard life.

Although we have not included this video in any of our PowerPoints, if you interested in more about the western experience, please view our Westward Movement and The West: 1865-1900.