130 years ago, 15-year-old Irish girl Annie Moore stepped on to Ellis Island and into the U.S. history books, writes Ray Cleere


On the day Ellis Island opened on New Year’s Day 130 years ago, January 1st, 1892, Annie Moore stepped onto the island and into history. She became the first emigrant to the United States who passed through its doors. She was the first of 12 million emigrants who arrived on the island, and instantly became a symbol of those who came to America in search of a better life. Since she became the first emigrant to Ellis Island, the story of Annie Moore has been celebrated in art, story and song.

While New York ushered in the arrival of 1892 with the peals of church bells and the screeching of horns, American dreams danced in Annie Moore’s head anchored off the southern tip of Manhattan.

Aged fifteen (other reports say seventeen), and along with her two younger brothers, Anthony (11), and Philip (7), the teenager had departed from Queenstown (now Cobh), in County Cork on December 20th, 1891, aboard the steamship, the “S.S. Nevada”, bound for New York, to start a new life in a new country.

The trio spent 12 days, including Christmas, at sea among 148 passengers in steerage. They were just hours away before they were reunited with their parents who had arrived four years previously.

The steamship “S.S. Nevada” on which the Moore siblings travelled had arrived too late on New Year’s Eve 130 years ago, December 31st, 1891, for its passengers to be processed that day. That was a lucky turn of events for the 148 passengers who were welcomed to the New World with all the pomp and circumstance New York had to offer at the time as the first emigrants passed through the then newly-built emigration station at Ellis Island on New Year’s Day, January 1st, 1892, instead.

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