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Galveston was 'The Ellis Island of the West'

By
PAULA DITTRICK

GALVESTON, Texas -- A historical foundation assembling an exhibit on the Port of Galveston is seeking photographs of immigrants who entered through the port, the second busiest point of entry after Ellis Island from the late 1800s through the turn of the century.

The photographs will be featured in the exhibit at the Texas Seaport Museum, a $2.5 million project to be opened this fall by the Galveston Historical Foundation, said David Bush, spokesman for the foundation.

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Photos of immigrants arriving in Galveston, aboard ships or dockside, would be of particular interest for a pending immigration exhibit, Bush said.

The photos will be used in photomurals and photo albums along with the museum's computer information on immigration.

The museum's computer database, the only one of its kind nationwide, will allow visitors to search records for ancestors who entered the U.S. through Galveston from 1846 through 1920.

Almost 100,000 names have been entered so far, Bush said during a recent interview.

'When Galveston was called the Ellis Island of the West was from 1890 to 1915. There was a movement called the Galveston Movement stemming from concern that Eastern European immigrants were not getting past the Eastern sea ports. It was thought that coming through Galveston, they would move out and settle into the Midwest,' Bush said.

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Although no figures are available, Bush said the number of immigrants coming through Galveston amount to the thousands rather than the millions of immigrants that arrived in the United States through Ellis Island.

The Galveston movement was promoted by Galveston's large Jewish community at the time and was led by Rabbi Henry Cohen of Galveston, Bush said.

The datebase and immigration exhibit will premier during the museum's grand opening Oct. 26. The museum is located at Pier 21 on Galveston Island.

The museum's exhibits are not open yet but visitors can explore the decks of the 1877 iron barque Elissa, Texas' Tall Ship.

On the Elissa, new exhibits are being installed in the hold. The captain's cabin has been renovated using information that described the original cabin, Bush said.

The museum's main gallery will feature walk-through exhibits highlighting the workings of a 19th-century port. Visitors then will move to the theater for a wide-screen, multimedia presentation on the history of sail.

Meanwhile, modern tugs, shrimp boats and freighters can be seen going about their work from the museum's observation docks.NEWLN: ------

Bush said that anyone submitting photographs should include the owner's name, address and phone number along with the identities of the photographer, the people pictured, where the photo was taken and the year it was taken as well as other information of interest.

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The photographs cannot be returned. All photos become the property of Galveston Historical Foundation and may be used for promotion purposes and in future exhibits.

Bush said slides and negatives cannot be used, and anyone submitting a photo to the museum relinquishes all rights to the photo.

Photographs should be submitted to Texas Seaport Museum Immigration Project, 2016 Strand, Galveston, Texas 77550.

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