Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today it stands alongside Plymouth Rock in our nation's founding mythology as the place where many of our ancestors first touched American soil. Ellis Island's heyday--from 1892 to 1924--coincided with one of the greatest mass movements of individuals the world has ever seen, with some twelve million immigrants inspected at its gates. Historian Vincent J. Cannato illuminates the story of Ellis Island, from the 19th century days when it hosted pirate hangings, to the turn of the 20th century when massive migrations sparked fierce debate and hopeful new immigrants often encountered corruption, harsh conditions, and political scheming. --Summarized from book jacket.