Ellis Island Quarantine, NY: Deaths in Quarantine, 1909-1911

Flying the Quarantine flag

Deaths in Quarantine, 1909-1911



Troubles for the Passengers Begin at Quarantine.
Health Officer As a Despot

Three Tugs Lie in Wait for Ships From Across the Ocean
Triple Ordeal of the Health Officer, the Custom House, and the Immigration Bureau
Doty's Supreme Power
Every One Quizzed

Source: The Washington Post, March 19, 1905, page 5.


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New York, March 18. — The troubles, usually light, or the voyager who has finished a swift and pleasant trip over unruffled seas in a modern marine hotel begin when he reaches Quarantine, and do not end until the customs inspectors chalk his baggage at the liner's pier and permit him to reassume his interrupted freedom.

Quarantine — that is, the land part of the station — is as picturesque and healthful a spot as may be found on Staten Island. It is not uninviting even in winter, and in the summer is an ideal place to loaf and dine.

Less than an eighth of a mile from the little pie at the base of the hill are the anchorage grounds of the big and little ships from all the great ports of the world. There every vessel, steam and sail, must stop by the rigorous law of the Empire State, and permit herself and her passengers, if she has any, to be examined for possible infection.

In the period between May 1 and November 1 ships from domestic ports south of Cape Henlopen are subject to inspection; in the period between November 1 and May 1 they are permitted to pass Quarantine and proceed to dock. All craft from foreign ports must submit to examination at all seasons.

The rules are most rigorously enforced against great ships that bring the persecuted, the adventuresome, and the homeseekin throngs from the peasantry, and occasionally from the slums of Europe. Frequently the persecuted are also the great unwashed, and therefore are considered more likely than the others to spread, if not to catch, communicable disease. Ships that bring this class are generally held in Quarantine longer than those that do not.

Short Shrift for the Dirty

But the unwashed do not stay dirty long after they get aboard a new leviathan, with steerage quarters more comfortable and neater than some of the second cabin accommodations of a decade ago. Every mother's son of the mob unfamiliar with water externally applied is scrubbed, massaged, and sand-papered into an appearance almost juvenile.

He looks as if he had been just made in Germany, and is ready for an overlooking at Quarantine even with a microscope. The steamship companies cannot afford to have their human cargo rejected, as it costs much to take deported immigrants back to their far away homes, so they are made fit for publication.

Cabin passengers, although subject to inspection by the health officer, are usually let alone. In case of an outbreak of cholera aboard ship, even though it be in the steerage, the inspection and detention rule is enforced, and the cabin suffers. That is why the cabin passenger is interested in the health of the steerage.

A few cases of smallpox may mean the holding of the ship over night if she happens to get into quarantine late in the afternoon. The patients must be transferred to Kingston Avenue Hospital, in Brooklyn; those exposed to the contagion in the compartment in which the disease was discovered must be taken to Hoffman Island for observation, and all the steerage folks who have not been vaccinated must submit to the virus. A smallpox case aboard a ship that gets in early in the afternoon usually causes a detention of a few hours and a thorough and the unpleasant fumigation 'tween decks.

The stewards begin hauling from state rooms baggage the passengers will not need again before landing when the liner is within sight of Sandy Hook. It is always known by her commander whether she will dock or not, provided there is not so great a crush of ice in her slip as to prevent her making the venture.

Doty — Despot and Ogre

The Postmaster General, mail hustler for Uncle Sam, is usually the first boat to greet the ship as she steams through the Narrows, to drop anchor where Health Officer Alvah H. Doty, who is regarded by some mariners as a sort of cross between a despot and an ogre, is lying in wait for her. The Postmaster General runs alongside, puts up her maw of a chute, and gobbles the mails, sorted on the trip by the sea post-office clerks. Then she flies to the city. Sometimes the mail boat waits until the liner gets to quarantine, and does her work there.

Since the establishment of the wireless service on all the big liners within the last few months, folks ashore are able to find out about what hour a passenger ship will dock, provided fog does not hold her up outside Sandy Hook. Even then she can talk aerially with her agents in New York,and let them know what to do in the matter.

Sometimes a wireless message comes out of the gloom telling of the ship's plight, and the line is able to send home the waiting throng on the pier that had heard, when the ship passed Nantucket and before she ran into the fog, that she was coming up to her dock.

Three tug-like craft, all propellers, and none fit to risk a trip outside the Narrows in a gale, are always waiting at Quarantine for the liner that docks on the day of her arrival here. One is the Governor Flower, the health officer's boat; another is the revenue cutter containing the deputy collectors who take the declarations of cabin passengers, and the other is the cutter Chamberlain, having aboard the Ellis Island immigration boarding officers and a surgeon of the United States Revenue Marine Hospital Service. There are four Marine Hospital surgeons on duty at this port — Drs. Parker, Sweet, Tappan, and Sprague, and one is put aboard every liner that comes from a foreign place.

Arbitrary as the Czar

The health officer's boat has precedence in boarding. His power is as arbitrary as the Czar's used to be. He may even shoo off the custom men. But he doesn't when they happen to come alongside simultaneously, and, by hailing, he finds that there is no sickness aboard. If there should be sickness of a suspicious nature he announces it and asks the revenue cutter force to wait a bit until he investigates.

Sometimes the mail boat, the cutter and the health officer's boat are all alongside the ship at once. Then the passengers get interested, and occasionally alarmed.

Necks are stretched from portholes and faces peer over the rails. What are all these piratical looking craft going to do? Will we get up this evening or will we have to spend the night down the bay?

Up go the ladders from the little boats bobbing below. Steady there! Men at the rail hold the top of the first ladder from the doctor's boat.

Maybe Dr. Doty himself boards, with both his assistants, Dr. John B. Homedieu and Dr. Eugene B. Sanborn. Following them up the ladder in case there is no suspicious disease aboard, go the quarantine reporters, William E. Seguine and Dick Lee. They have big bundles of the weekly newspapers under their arms for the purser and the captain, who distribute them to passengers, who happened to be nearest.

The pilot already has given up a few papers, perhaps, and the news of the week may have been partly digested even before the reporters' bundles are opened. Events of international or national importance have been published in the ship's wireless paper,if she has one, and the eagerness to get the great dailies is not so sharp as it used to be before the liner could absorb the news of the Old World and the New in mid-ocean.

The reporters have lots to do in a very little time. They get passenger lists with conspicuous voyagers marked by the purser; a record of the incidents of the trip, including birth and deaths; brief interviews with prominent men and women of the world who may be aboard, and whatever else of interest that they may pick up by a hurried chat with veteran voyagers they know.

Meanwhile the doctors have received the report of the ship's surgeon. If all is well in the cabin and steerage, the doctors begin the examinations of immigrants. On some of the big boats the examination is made in the steerage dining-room.

Quick Work with the Caronia

Caronia [1904-1933], Cunard Line

This was the case on the arrival of the new giant Cunarder Caronia, from Liverpool and Queenstown, on March 5, with 1,286 immigrants. They passed in double file before the doctors, each of whom examined the men and women in one file. All were bareheaded and none showed any symptoms of ailment.

The ship was less than half an hour in quarantine, but she was thoroughly inspected. In fact, there was little to inspect, as the ship's steerage was as sweet and clean as a hospital ward, and every immigrant had been forced to keep himself in harmony with his environment by frequent ablutions.

On many of the ships that have the old fashioned steerage the examination of immigrants is made on the open deck. They pass with bared heads before one or two doctors along the main deck. At night they file under a cluster of incandescent lights that reveals their faces as clearly as daylight.

If any one who looks sick is found in the line he is stopped and examined more carefully. A swift glance from a trained eye is usually enough to detect an ailment out of the ordinary.

Long before the health officer's men get through with their work, the acting deputy collectors, who have swarmed up from the deck of the revenue cutter, are down in the saloon sitting at tables taking the declaration of passengers. The acting deputies are in charge of Deputy Collector J. Castree Williams and his chief of staff, John J. Loughrey.

They have a tall climb, twenty feet up the cutter's ladder to the rail of the ship, as a rule. The loftiest liners, whose rails cannot be reached by the cutter's ladder, lower an accommodation gangway, and the collector's men then have little trouble getting aboard.

There are two cutters on boarding duty, the Calumet, Capt. John Bradley, and the Hudson, Capt. James A. Bradley. They work week on and week off, alternately. The cutter off always has steam up and her pilot within call for emergency duty.

It is sometimes necessary to have the full force of acting deputy collections about fifteen, to take declarations when there are more than 1,000 cabin passengers aboard the liner. The acting deputies take the declarations of both first and second cabin passengers in the saloon. The job is generally not over till the ship ha been warped into dock.

What Is Admitted Free

Every passenger gets a ticket corresponding with the number of his declaration. The passenger turns in his ticket at the desk of the customs men the pier and an inspector who receives the declaration attends to the passenger's baggage. Every passenger is allowed to bring in fifty cigars,300 cigarettes, and $100 worth of personal property, including wearing apparel free of duty. Sometimes he grumbles, but he generally gets all that he is entitled to under a very liberal construction of the law.

Among the swiftest workers who board the liner at Quarantine are the boarding customs inspectors, James H. Little and Howard G. Steinert. They rush up the ladder or the accommodation gangway and get from the captain or purser the ship's manifest for filing at the barge office.

Usually the boarding inspectors are off and on the cutter before the doctors get through with the examination of a quarter of the steerage passengers. Little and Steinert see that no person without a permit gets on the liner from the cutter. They also expedite the business of diplomats of government officials who find it necessary to meet ships at Quarantine and come up to dock aboard them.

Chief O'Connor, of the boarding division of Ellis Island, his staff, and the Marine Hospital surgeon board the liner from the cutter Chamberlain. The inspectors do not look at the steerage passengers, as they will be thoroughly examined after their transfer from the ship to Ellis Island. O'Connor's men and the surgeon are interested chiefly in alien second cabin passengers.

Every One Quizzed

Every one of this class passes before the surgeon, and is quizzed by an inspector. Few ships land all their alien second cabin passengers at the piers. Sometimes a woman traveling alone and in delicate condition is held up and taken to Ellis Island. She is generally sent back. There have been instances where women thus deported have tried to enter again by traveling in the first cabin, noting that first cabin passengers escape inquisition. They have been detected and deported again.

The government surgeon and the immigration boarding officers have the right to examine all alien passengers in the first cabin, but they do not exercise it because it is presumed that first cabin saloon voyagers are not likely to be immigrants. Nevertheless the surgeons and the inspectors wander through the saloon on the lookout for suspects.

Recently a surgeon found a man in the first cabin who had been debarred as an immigrant several months before when he arrived in the second cabin of a first-class ship. The man had a well-developed case of consumption. He objected to going to Ellis Island, and made a scene in the saloon. He admitted that he was the man who had been debarred.

Another well-to-do immigrant with consumption attempted to enter the country on a steamship by way of Boston. He was in the first cabin and was detected and sent back by an inspector who recognized him as a man who had been deported after coming in the steerage.

A few months later the man again excepted to enter the country on the first cabin of a ship arriving at this port. One of the boarding inspectors who was on duty in Boston when the man was held up there recognized him and he was deported once more.

It is probably, one of the surgeons said, that many immigrants who have money and are rejected because of their physical condition, dodge into the country again as first cabin passengers, ad stay here.

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