The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Promised Land: Manhattan (#atozchallenge)




"Manhattan - reaching for the stars "--  
Susan Scott  from Garden of Eden Blog

English: Ellis Island, seen from Liberty Island
 Ellis Island, seen from Liberty Island
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Promised Land for Immigrants
  1.        For over fifty years Ellis Island in Upper New York Bay was the processing point for millions of immigrants coming to the United States in search of new opportunities, freedom from oppression, or to join relatives already living in the country.  These immigrants were in search of a promised land that they had heard wonderful stories about.   Manhattan was often the gateway to this promised land.
  2.       With the Statue of Liberty in near proximity to them, the new arrivals could see the Manhattan skyline as they awaited clearance by the immigration authorities.  The screening process would usually take a few hours, but sometimes if medical problems or some other complications were discovered, the time spent on Ellis Island could be weeks or longer.  
      Tourists who visit the Statue of Liberty typically will stop over at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum to spend some time looking at the exhibits available there.  There are a number of film and multimedia presentations about the history of the island as well as the millions of immigrants who passed through its gates.   Anyone who takes the boat ride to Liberty Island should make Ellis Island a part of their visit.

Promised Land for Americans

       Ann Bennett from So Much to Choose From related the following when responding to my post What Does Manhattan Say to You?:

For a kid living in an Air Force town in Georgia, Manhattan was the promised land, full of adventure, learning and a glamorous life.
I never made it to Manhattan except on vacation to see the Rockettes at Radio Music Hall. I rode a bus, subway and ate an overpriced sandwich which was very good.
Manhattan still holds the dream for anyone who was born wanting to write or create. I try not to think too hard of the reality of not having a place to live or being able to afford life there. I will not get started about my country come to town presence not gelling with NYC.
We all need our dreams. How real or likely they are to happen is irrelevant.

        What a wonderful observation!  We've all heard stories of the dreamer who goes to Manhattan with little more than a few bucks and a lot of aspirations.  Some make it to the success of which they dreamed while others struggle along and perhaps eventually leave broke and broken.  Others might dream of going to the Big Apple and never make it any farther than what they see in a movie or read about in a magazine.  However many of us do make it for some kind of a visit whether a fast paced day in the city or a longer stay that allows for more sight-seeing.  No matter how long the visit, we can never have time to see everything or even a small fraction of that which is to be seen.

        Some who manage to land a job in Manhattan never leave, making the city their home.  Others work for a while and then go elsewhere.  Maybe it's a matter of money or maybe the lifestyle didn't meet expectations.   In an earlier post I referred to a series by Robin at Your Daily Dose where she refers to the city as her "Promised Land".   If you missed Robin's series, by all means click on the link to read about her experience.   Perhaps some of you have a similar story to tell.

         As I mentioned earlier in my series, I have been to Manhattan for rushed visits on a few occasions.  Since the city was a place that I had visited in my childhood, a visit there as a part of a bucket list experience had been addressed early.  Still Manhattan and the New York City area remains a place that I want to revisit in order to see what I missed on my previous visits.  Then there are dreams that I harbor concerning opportunities that could arise someday somehow.

        The Promised Land of Manhattan is a dream that has many interpretations depending on the individual.   My dreams might be similar to your dreams while for others the dream might be completely different.  Then there are those for whom Manhattan holds no promise--at least none they can name or think of at the moment when asked.  But think harder if you think Manhattan is not your Promised Land.   It could be that the promise is there, but you don't recognize it yet.

         What promise do you see waiting for you in Manhattan?    Have you experienced any disappointments regarding Manhattan?    Did any of your ancestors pass through Ellis Island to come to the United States?
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43 comments:

  1. I was lucky enough to visit Ellis Island in 2004. My family came through there from Italy in 1911 and several relatives are on the wall, including my grandmother. It's a fascinating museum. However, part way through the day, everyone was evacuated due to an unspecified issue or threat and we had to get the ferry back to Manhattan.

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    1. JoJo, Bummer that you didn't get to finish. Ellis Island is worth more than one visit. We didn't see most of it on our visit. Then we went to Liberty Island to see the statue and my wife got very sick. The harbor police had to take her back to Jersey City in a special boat while her sister stayed with her. I had to go back to our van with the rest of her family to meet up with her at the hospital. I guess it was something she ate as she was okay after a few hours in that nasty hospital. It was such a nightmare.

      Lee

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  2. Most of my ancestors came over before Ellis Island (and came in via Virginia in the 17th Century or North Carolina in the 18th century). I had been to NYC a number of times, but last summer spent 9 days in the city and enjoyed Manhattan (my high school daughter had an internship at the UN, so we sent her off to work each morning and then made use of the transient pass (and our feet as we walked an average of 10 miles a day). Great times!

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    1. Sage, my ancestors also arrived before Ellis was opened. Your last visit to NYC sounds like a great way to experience the city. You're right--seeing the city or just getting around period requires walking and a lot of it if you don't want to spend a fortune on cabs. The subway system is efficient as well so one can get by without a car and probably better since parking is sometimes difficult to find and it's expensive.

      Lee

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  3. The author is right. Those who want to make it there in a creative field are numerous. The chance of actually making it is one in a million. When I look at that, I feel defeated. It is an exciting and dangerous place.
    Mary at Play off the Page

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    1. Mary, success requires persistence and happenstance besides the prerequisite talent which is not as important as the first two. If you want to make it you can't let a feeling of defeat stop you. There's always tomorrow. These days many places can be dangerous. I think a lot of times it's a matter of the risks one takes and the wisdom to avoid dangerous situations.

      Lee

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  4. I visited Ellis Island to see if I could find my Swiss-Italian grandmother's name in the records. She was there. Only 16 years old. Alone and not able to speak more than a country dialect. Wow! Go Grandma.

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    1. C.Lee, so neat to reach back through the old records. Ellis is a great source of information about immigration from the 1890's to about 1952. What a challenging experience to relocate like your Grandma did.

      Lee

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  5. I see the promise of way more people than I want to deal with on any given day.
    It's just never been high on my list of places to visit. Although I have been to an even bigger city, London, and would go there again in a heartbeat.

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    1. Alex, more people can mean more opportunities, but more trouble as well. New York is a great city that Americans should be proud of.

      Lee

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  6. I've been to Manhattan and Staten Island, but didn't get to Ellis or the Statue of Liberty. I know somewhere between 1920-22 my mother, as little girl traveling from Puerto Rico, passed through Ellis Island. Even though she and her family were American, they had to go through there first.

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    1. Bish, I guess Ellis Island was a screening center for more than just immigrants. It was a busy place for many years. If you're ever back in NYC you should visit Ellis and Liberty Islands.

      Lee

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  7. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are two places I wouldn't miss. So much history there! Here's hoping I can cross New York City, incl. Manhattan off the bucket list soon. Waiting for a better Cdn./U.S. dollar exchange rate. It has been bad lately, but seems to be back on the rise.

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    1. Debbie, Bad exchange rate, eh? My wife and I were thinking about driving across Canada on our way home from our East Coast trip this year. If the exchange rate hold in our favor this might be a good time to do that.

      Lee

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    2. It might well be, Lee. Although our dollar has been on the rise again, there's still a long way to go!

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  8. My grandfather came through Ellis Island from Czechoslovakia after the war was ending (WW1). He was 18 at the time and he came with his brother. His brother had gone to Argentina because at the time many foreigners were going there because of the work available, but he couldn't find any so he went back to Europe and got his brother, my grandfather, and together they came to New York.
    I'd love to go see the museum there! The title of your post is perfect: Ellis Island was indeed the Promised Land.

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Michele, I thank my commenters who referred to Manhattan as "Promised Land"--they inspired this post. If you go to the museum you might be able to research info about your grandfather and his brother's arrival to the U.S.

      Lee

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  9. Lee, I understand how some would see NYC as the "Promise Land". For me, I felt like it was an easy place for one to get lost in. That's coming from a small town perspective, but the reality is everyone can't find fame and fortune in the Big Apple. I haven't been to Manhattan, so I have no disappointments to report. It would be cool to know, if any of my relatives passed through Ellis Island, but most of the ancestry data I've picked up pre-dates Ellis Island. Now, you've stirred a new interest for me to get going on my family tree again. :D

    ~Curious as a Cathy
    All Things Vintage: Pretty Things #AprilA2Z

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    1. Cathy, but I guess the real point is that if one is going to find fame and fortune NYC is the most likely place to find it. If you find that you have relatives who came through Ellis I think you can do research there to find out more about them. Might even be something on line that you can do.

      Lee

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    2. Here is the website for Ellis Island: http://www.ellisisland.org You can search passenger records there. As I recall, it was free to join their site. Have fun!

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  10. I'm sure my great great grandfather passed through Ellis Island at one point or another. Most likely we all have some kind of family who did.

    As for immigrant, many of my friends are refugees from Myanmar. I've even been learning to speak their language and had the privilege to attend an assembly this weekend in Rochester New York (Okay, not Manhattan, I know), which was over 95% all in their own Karen language.
    It seems America is still a melting pot.

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    1. Jeffrey, problem is that now a lot of the pots are separate and not melting together. Could present problems in the future.

      Lee

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  11. A few of our ancestors came through Ellis Island, but the majority of our ancestors (mine, anyway) were already here before there was a Manhattan, at least one controlled by the Europeans.

    Thanks for another great post! Have a great day.

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    1. Suzanne, I don't know of any of my family who came after the early part of the 1800's. Most I think were here by the 1700's.

      Lee

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  12. >>... But think harder if you think Manhattan is not your Promised Land.

    I can certainly imagine why some people might think of Manhattan as their "Promised Land", but that's not even remotely true for me.

    Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960s, '70s, and early '80s, I was greatly blessed and never realized how much so until I got older and visited / lived in other places.

    There was nothing I could have wanted that L.A. didn't have. But what we also had which Manhattan couldn't provide were great beaches (from Redondo to Malibu) for surfing and spending All Summer Long there. The best girl-watching market, too. :o)

    Unfortunately, the never-ending influx of people (legal and illegal) pretty much ruined what seemed like Paradise to me. By the late '80s, I knew the party was over and I wanted to leave.

    Certainly, today, I would no sooner move to Manhattan than I would move BACK to L.A.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. STMcC, I can see promised land opportunities available to me in Manhattan that wouldn't require my relocating there. I think I would be much more at home in an environment like East Tennessee or someplace similar.

      I hear what you're saying about this L.A. area as it is now. I want to leave, but first my wife has to retire with her full benefits so that means a few more years ahead being here. We might all be destroyed by then, but I guess it's what we need to consider doing for now.

      Lee

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  13. I think I've said this before, but I loved living in NYC right out of college. Working in publishing. The sights. The sounds. The wonder of it all.

    And still... I wouldn't go back today given the choice. So there you go. Dreams change. Maybe you grow up and realize there is no "promised land." There is just land. You have to put your stake somewhere.

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    1. Robin, I agree--what was once a "promised land" loses some luster once we've gotten there. We've got to find that place in life where the heart feels at home.

      Lee

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  14. I have been there, but I was only passing through. I want to go back and see what I missed~
    I am not sure about my family tree-but I would think it is likely.
    I need to go trace some more branches of the tree~

    You make me think-I have moved so, much~ I saw promise everywhere I have lived!

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    1. Ella, an attitude of finding contentment in whatever situation you are it brings the greatest peace of mind.

      Lee

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  15. I never thought of Manhattan as the promised land because it's just too much concrete for me. I would love to think I would enjoy the theatre and shops. I had always wished to be drawn by Al Hirschfeld which will never happen now. The reality would be that I would be living in some cockroach infested walk-up and dressed like I am now:) I had to go look up Ellis Island and I found a Baderski that could be a relative for sure. I know my grandfather owned a saloon in Chicago in the 1890's but he moved back to Ontario because his wife was homesick.

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    1. Birgit, without ample money life in the big city can be a struggle or an adventure best suited for the younger folks. It's an interesting place to visit, but in my current financial circumstances I wouldn't want to live there.

      A saloon in Chicago in the 1890's? Seems like there could be some interesting stories in that.

      Lee

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  16. I've been to Manhattan several times and I have relatives living there but I've never wanted to live there for myself. It is a fascinating city. There are so many songs about making it big in New York but my dream has always been to make it big in Europe.

    None of my ancestors passed through Ellis Island and I haven't experienced any disappointments when visiting.

    Shalom,
    Patricia @ EverythingMustChange

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    1. Pat, I'd like to visit many places in Europe, but I wouldn't spend money to do it unless I had all sorts of disposable funds. I have no interest in living anywhere in Europe especially with the direction things have been going.

      Lee

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  17. I believe my grandfather and his brothers came through Ellis Island when they emigrated from Norway. Only one of the uncles was happy and successful here...the others didn't realize their dreams.

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    1. Patricia, it's sad not to realize dreams unless different dreams were found to replace the old ones.

      Lee

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  18. Being a Brit no known ancestors passed through Ellis Island and when I visited New York in 1971, I didn't get to visit it.

    On September 27th, I will be entering the US by ship - the QM2 - and will get to see the Manhattan skyline in all its glory. But our onward journey will bypass all the amazing places that you have been describing, sadly.

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    1. Roland, maybe one day you can make it back to see the sights.

      Lee

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  19. Some of my relatives have passed through there when coming to America. I wish I knew there personal experiences. Great post Sir!

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    1. Pat, has anyone in your family done any genealogical research> If not, maybe you could. You might start with the records available from Ellis Island.

      Lee

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Lee