In the late 1800's and early 1900's there were massive waves of immigration to America. These new immigrants were largely Italians, Hungarians, Jews, Serbians, Irish, and Slovaks. Fleeing such hardships as poverty, religious persecution, and political unrest in their homelands, immigrants journeyed to the United States in search of freedom and opportunity.
During their voyage from their homelands to Ellis Island, many immigrants suffered. Traveling by steamships, voyages lasted anywhere between seven days to a month. Many immigrants ate off of tin plates with only soup or bread to choose from. To alleviate themselves from the unpleasant smells on the steamships, immigrants went on deck for some fresh air. At times many of the immigrants prayed for the steamships to go under so they could relieve themselves from the fear and worry. While approaching Ellis Island, nearly all immigrants' eyes filled with tears as they admired the beauty of the land. It was argued that if a large number of immigrants entered the United States, it would be difficult to absorb them all because of the language and cultural differences among them. This instilled fear within these immigrants. Uncertain of their future, several immigrants saw America has an adventure and a "beacon of hope.".
Upon arriving at Ellis Island immigrants underwent questioning, medical examinations, and other upsetting ordeals. Each passenger had to answer a series of about 30 questions that were recorded on lists. These questions included name, age, sex, marital status, occupation, nationality, etc. Several immigrants didn't know how to write or spell their own names, so immigration inspectors created one for them. Passengers were inspected for contagious diseases such as small pox, yellow fever, scarlet fever, and measles. The cultural habits of immigrants were frequently targets of criticism, especially when the new arrivals came from a different background.