Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Subscribe to Email Updates

Tag: immigration

Records of Rights Vote: The Immigration Act

Cast your vote for the Immigration Act to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery. Polls close on November 15!

On November 13, 1954, Ellis Island closed. More than 20 million immigrants had been processed through the island station since its opening in 1892.

But immigration was still limited. From 1924 until 1965, a person’s place of birth often determined his or her ability to immigrate legally into the United States. Immigration laws favored people from northern and western Europe over those from southern and eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Numerical limits, often called quotas, were assigned to each country. For example, a 1924 law allowed about 4,000 Italians to enter the United States annually while about 66,000 could emigrate from Great Britain. Asian immigrants, who entered the United States through Angel Island, were already largely banned from U.S immigration by other laws passed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

When President Johnson signed the 1965 amendments to the Immigration Reform Act of 1952, that system of country-based immigration quotas was ended.

“This system violated the basic principle of American democracy–the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man,” said the President at the ceremony on Liberty Island.

The law authorized 120,000 immigration visas for people from the western hemisphere and … [ Read all ]

The people are voting. And the winner is . . . up to you!

Today’s blog post comes from Bruce Bustard, curator at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Page Header_VOTE

“Exercise your right to vote! This time, help shape the new exhibition space at the National Archives.” David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States

The National Archives invites you to choose an original document for our new exhibition.

America’s founding documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—are icons of liberty. But the ideals enshrined in those documents did not initially apply to all Americans. They were, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”

“Records of Rights,” a permanent exhibition in the new David M. Rubenstein Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC, allows visitors to explore how generations of Americans sought to fulfill this promise of freedom. “Records of Rights” showcases original and facsimile National Archives documents to illustrate how Americans throughout our history have debated and discussed issues such as citizenship, free speech, voting rights, and equal opportunity.

Now everyone can join this debate and help the curators select the first original landmark document to be featured for the November 8 opening. Make your mark at the “Records of Rights Vote,” an online poll where you can help choose the opening document to be displayed.

The documents under consideration are:

Archives Spotlight: San Francisco

The National Archives is on the West Coast, too!

The National Archives at San Francisco (located in San Bruno, California) contains over 55,000 cubic feet of Federal records from the 1850s through the 1980s. The records come from northern and central California, Nevada (except Clark County), Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The Trust Territory was administered by the United States from 1947 to 1994 and comprised what are now the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau.

Those interested in the history of Alcatraz and its inmates should know that the National Archives at San Francisco holds case files, identification photographs, and warden’s notebook pages for most listed inmates from 1934 to 1963. Before 1934, Alcatraz housed a military, rather than a Federal, prison. The National Archives only holds the Federal prison records. The inmates are listed online both alphabetically and numerically.

Because most Asian immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries came across the Pacific to the United States, the National Archives at San Francisco houses a very large collection of Federal documents and individual records relating to Asian-Pacific immigration and the Chinese exclusion laws. This collection is invaluable to Asian-Pacific historians and genealogists. Many of the items used in the recent exhibit “Attachments” at the National Archives … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Mustaches and Moral Turpitude

It was a long, hard journey to the United States in the early 20th century, but even a successful voyage did not guarantee that the immigrant would be able to enter or stay. Deportation was a threat. When immigrants were deported, it could be because of serious crime like murder or petty crime like theft. The files stated “excluded as a person having been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.”

But how to stop immigrants from reentering under different names or identities? When they were deported, they were photographed, and their physical characteristics were recorded in writing, from their hat size to the condition of their teeth. (Only Chinese immigrants were also consistently photographed by the authorities, and they resented this suggested link between themselves and criminals.)

Why were these two individuals, Francesco Zaccaro and Dubas Wasyl, deported?

Zaccaro (“small, thin lips, medium chesnut mustache”) arrived from Italy on the SS Hamburg on February 17, 1907, and was headed to his mother-in-law’s house in New York City. However, he was deported and back on the SS Hamburg just three days later. He was excluded due to his crime of moral turpitude: He had served eight days in prison for “applying vile names to a woman.”

Wasyl (“small, thick lips, chesnut mustache”) came from Austria on the SS Kroonland. He arrived on November 13, 1906. But … [ Read all ]

Plucked from our records: Pasquale Taraffo and the Harp Guitar

 

“Attachments,” the current exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, DC, tells the stories of some of the millions of people who have entered and left the United States.

One visitor, Pasquale Taraffo, came to the United States three times—once for a concert tour of New York City and California in 1928–29, once as a crew member of a ship that docked in New York in 1933, and once for a concert stop in New York in 1935.

Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1887, the musician began giving guitar concerts at age nine. He eventually switched from the traditional guitar to the harp guitar, a 14-string instrument mounted on a pedestal. Taraffo started touring abroad in 1910, performing on his own and with other musicians. Known as “the Paganini of the guitar”—a reference to the legendary Italian violinist—he was wildly popular around the world and especially in South America.

When he came to the United States, he applied for a visa based on artistic abilities, and probably had to submit evidence of his exceptional talent in order to enter the country. Photo postcards of Taraffo with his harp guitar, along with a handbill for his 1926 concert in Corregio, Italy, were found, but these documents were separated from any of his other documents, mixed into what appears to be a dead letter file. It … [ Read all ]