National Geographic : 1990 Sep
Sm T EIGHTED DOWN by their belongings, Slavic women trudge to the Main Building about 1910. Behind them rises a hospital, opened in 1902. During the preliminary "six second medical" -a once-over at the top of the stairs to the Registry Room-two women were marked with blue chalk, E for eyes, and diverted to an examination room (above). There Public Health Service inspectors, using fingers and button hooks, looked for signs of trachoma. Such a "dangerous contagious disease" was-and still is-grounds for exclusion. Another category to be weeded out: "persons likely to become a public charge." Eighty percent of the immi grants passed health and legal inspection in a day. For those singled out for a closer look, delays lasting days or weeks seemed interminable. But only 2 percent of all Ellis Island immi grants were ever sent home.