The gateway to the USA

It is estimated that a third of the population of the United States can trace their ancestry back to families who first arrived at Ellis Island. For more than half a century, until its closure in 1954, this was the busiest immigration centre in the country, and the first piece of American soil that many people ever set foot upon. In autumn 1950, photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt visited the island and took a series of images for LIFE magazine. A selection of these, never before published, are now featured on the magazine's website.

To see the pictures, and to learn more about their history, click on the photograph below.

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