PHOTOGRAPHS of the first immigrant to arrive at New York’s Ellis Island have been unearthed almost 120 years after she landed in the United States from Ireland.
Along with her two younger brothers, teenager Annie Moore, from Cork, disembarked on January 1, 1892, the first of over 12 million immigrants to be processed at the tiny island in New York harbour, which sits in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.
The long unseen pictures, one of which has been published in the New York Times, show an older Moore. In one photograph she is a stout, matronly figure while in another, she is younger, more slender and is holding a baby. The photos are inscribed on the back “Ma Schayer” and “Mama Schayer” – Moore’s married name.
Genealogist Megan Smolenyak, who worked with Moore’s descendants to track down the photographs, said there is another picture which she believes could show Moore alongside her brothers soon afterarrival.
“It would be iconic. That would end upbeing turned into posters,” she said.
The Times said Annie arrived in New York on her 15th birthday, but Smolenyak says that detail is a piece of 19th century mythology and that she was already 17.
“It shows you the value of PR even then,” Smolenyak said.
Most of the passengers on that ship were Russian or Scandinavian, not Irish, but officials probably picked out Moore “because she was near the front of the line and was a cute little Irish girl”.
Moore endured a “hardscrabble”, poverty-stricken life in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Smolenyak said. More than half of her children died before they were four.
But she is a symbol “not only of immigration but by proxy of the American dream,” Smolenyak said. “She’s sort of a national symbol in Ireland because she represents the Irish Diaspora.”
In 1993 President Mary Robinson unveiled a sculpture by Jeanne Rynhart of Annie and her two brothers in Cobh. In December 2008 a grave marker was unveiled by Annie’s family members in Calvary Cemetery, Queens.
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