Guide to the United States

from the 1916 book of the same name by John Foster Carr

Home       l       Site Map      l      Exhibitions      l     About the Museum       l      Education      l     Contact Us       l       Links



The United States has always been the land of the immigrant. Men of many different races are its citizens, and have made it great among the nations.

Columbus, an Italian, with four Jews in his ship's company, discovered this western world. Another Italian gave it the name of America. The Spaniards explored it, and planted their flags on it. The English followed, colonizing the land. The Dutch founded New York City. France settled eastern Canada. In the colonial days, also, Germans and Welsh made settlements in Pennsylvania. Swedes built homes along the Delaware. Scotch and Huguenots went to the Carolinas to form their plantations.

The English gradually acquired power over all of these peoples within the territory that is now called the United States. In course of time they abused their power. They loaded the struggling colonists with unjust taxes, and oppressed them in countless ways. In the end, the colonists rose in revolt, and fought together for their liberty. Their victorious army was composed of soldiers of many different races; Jewish blood was shed on every battlefield; Haym Solomon, a Jew, gave his whole princely fortune to the cause of liberty. And when England called home her defeated battalions in 1781, our ancestors, united in victory, formed the union of a new nation.


In the early days of the Republic immigrants still kept coming, and helped build up the nation to power. But progress was so slow and the country so vast that when sixty years ago immigration began on a larger scale, the greater part of the land was still uninhabited. In 1850 it was the Germans and Irish who crowded to our welcoming shores in great numbers. They soon became friends and Americans, and in 1861 again proved human brotherhood, for in our second great war, for union and freedom of the negro slaves, they fought as bravely as if they had been brothers of one blood. And Jews were among them, serving the nation.

The Irish and Germans of those days came to us as poor as the Russian Jews, the Italians or the Greeks of to-day. Like these, too, they began to make their living humbly by hard and honest work. They have forgotten the poverty, unhappiness and oppression that drove them away from the old world. They have prospered, and they are now all Americans. They have all had their defects because they are human beings, but they have still had qualities that have helped make this country great and respected throughout the world.

And so to-day America gives the Jew refuge from persecution. She welcomes him gladly, for she knows his love of justice and righteousness. With her all men are equal, and she gives him the same rights and the same opportunities that immigrants in the past have found precious. Newcomers thus have many privileges. They may travel and live and buy and sell where they will. They pay no tax to religion, but support their own temples and churches voluntarily, as they should. They have the right of peace and the protection of the law. In return for all this, America asks only that they obey the law and do no wrong. If they are willing to make homes here for themselves and their families, America asks them to take citizenship and become Americans, too--members of this great family of the nation.


The immigrant coming into the United States is obliged to submit to a very strict examination by various officials and doctors, to ascertain whether his coming is in accordance with the provisions of the law. In case of misunderstanding due to the fact that he does not understand English, and knows nothing of American laws, the immigrant will find it to his advantage to ask assistance and advice from the agents of the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society, which gives free assistance to immigrants immediately upon their arrival at Ellis Island. Several of the Society's agents are always there, and wear the words "Yiddish Committee" embroidered on their caps. The immigrant who needs assistance from these agents should hold in his hand or have pinned upon his coat, so that it can clearly be seen, the card of identification which has been given out by the ship's doctor or by an officer aboard the steamer. The agent will come to meet the immigrants and, when necessary, will act as their interpreter in the examination that is necessary before admission. There is a Kosher kitchen at Ellis Island.

The immigrants who have been admitted, but who have neither relatives nor friends to receive them, are taken by these same agents to the office of the Society. Here they will receive all the information of which they have need, and will be accompanied, together with their baggage, either to their respective destinations in other parts of the city, or to the railway station to continue their journey. The agents who undertake this duty are entirely worthy of confidence, and their services are rendered freely, without any charge whatever.

No one is allowed to enter the United States who has been induced or invited to emigrate by promises or offers of work or who has made a contract either verbal or written, implicit or explicit, by which he is guaranteed work of any kind. Those also are excluded who have been deported for such reason any time during the year preceding their arrival. The American law also excludes those who come with tickets that have been paid for either directly or indirectly by Societies, Associations, Municipalities, or Foreign States. But the law which forbids the entrance to persons who have come under promise or contract of labor is not applied to those belonging to professional classes of which it is impossible to find unemployed members in the United States. Nor does it apply to those who are actors, artists, public speakers, singers, priests of all religions, professors of colleges or seminaries, members of the learned professions, servants, waiters, and cooks.

The United States law excludes foreigners who are idiots, imbeciles, weak-minded persons, epileptics, lunatics, and those who have suffered lunacy during the five years preceding their arrival, persons who have had two or more attacks of lunacy at any time, preceding, paupers, those who do not appear equal to support themselves and are liable to become a public charge, professional beggars, persons afflicted with tuberculosis and contagious diseases, as well as those who, though not included in the above mentioned classes, shall be judged by the doctor who examines them as deficient mentally or physically, or unable to earn the necessities of life. Polygamists, anarchists, prostitutes, and those guilty of crime involving moral turpitude are also excluded from the United States.

The children who are minors and the wife of a man who has only taken out his first paper, if found to be afflicted with contagious disease, have the right to ask that their deportation be deferred until it is ascertained that their disease is incurable. If it can be proved that it is curable, they will be at once permitted to disembark.

Persons of either sex under sixteen years of age are excluded unless accompanied by a parent.

The Secretary of Commerce and Labor has the power to admit to the United States under bond a foreigner who has been excluded because he is a cripple or physically weak, provided he be not afflicted with tuberculosis or any contagious disease. Any foreigner who, within a period of three years from the day of his arrival, shall be found in the United States in violation of the immigration law, and who might be included in one of the classes of the excluded immigrants, can be arrested and deported.

The provisions of the American law on immigration apply to all foreigners arriving in a port of the United States, no matter in what class they may have travelled in crossing the ocean.








Copyright 2009. Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved. 
Image Use Policy.