From 1892 to 1954, over 12 million immigrants passed through the portals at Ellis Island seeking freedom and the bright promise of opportunity in America. Some sought wealth and fortune; for others, the journey was made to escape war, drought, famine or religious persecution, but all who came shared the common hope for a better life in the new world.
Originally called Gull Island by the Mohegan Indians, this little piece of land just south of Manhattan was acquired by the Dutch in 1630 and renamed Oyster Island. During the 1760’s, it was known as Gibbet Island, named for the gibbet, or gallows tree, used to hang men convicted of piracy. During the Revolutionary War, New York merchant Samuel Ellis purchased the island and built a tavern on it to cater to local fishermen.
In 1808, the state of New York purchased Ellis Island for $10,000 and the US War Department paid the state to use the island for military fortifications and ammunition storage during the war of 1812. During the US Civil War, Ellis Island was used as a munitions arsenal for the Union Army.
After the Civil War, Ellis Island stood vacant until the US government decided to replace the New York immigration station at Castle Garden, which closed in 1890. Control of immigration was turned over to the federal government, and $75,000 was appropriated for construction of the first federal immigration station on Ellis Island. Artesian wells were dug and the island’s size was doubled to over six acres, with landfill created from incoming ships’ ballast and the excavation of subway tunnels in New York.
When the first great wave of immigration began in 1814, there was very little regulation, but by 1875, the United States began to deny entry to prostitutes and criminals; “lunatics” and “idiots” were also forbidden to enter the country.
The first Ellis Island Immigration Station officially opened on January 1, 1892 as three large ships waited to land. Seven hundred immigrants passed through Ellis Island that day, and nearly 450,000 followed over the course of that first year.
After an arduous sea voyage, immigrants were tagged with information from their ship’s registry, then waited in long lines for medical and legal inspections to determine if they were fit for entry into the United States.
Over the next five decades, until its closing in November, 1954, more than 12 million people passed through the island on their way into the United States. Today, 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island.
Inspired by the eponymous collection of Limited Edition writing instruments, the Ellis Island Folding Knife stands as a tribute to the millions of immigrants who came to the United States seeking freedom and opportunity and who together built a great nation “out of many, one”.
Flags from countries with the greatest numbers of immigrants from 1892 to 1954 are displayed in high and low relief guilloché engraving and finished in translucent and opaque hot enamels. The monochromatic American flag stands in high relief above Lady Liberty, and engraved underneath are the famous words penned by Emma Lazarus: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
The Ellis Island Folding Knife continues in the spirit of artistic mastery and the tradition of Old World craftsmanship by combining the centuries-old technique of Guilloché with the art and expertise of Hard Enamel.
Hand-crafted in solid Sterling Silver, the scales of the knife are engraved, or diamond-cut in high and low relief using a centuries-old technique known as Guilloché.
Using a mortar and pestle, a composition of glass, water and metal oxides is ground for hours by hand. When settled, the water is removed, leaving the fine paste that is the basis for Hard (Hot) Enamel. A quill is then used to apply each coat of the mixture to the surface of the metal, ensuring that the entire guilloché area is completely covered. The components are then fired in a furnace at temperatures exceeding 1,000° F, fusing the enamel to the metal and forming a layer of glass.
After cooling, the pieces are manually ground with a diamond file, restoring their proper shape and surface. This tedious process is repeated at length until the level of enamel reaches the depth required to cover the peaks and fill the valleys of each intricate guilloché pattern. When the final stages of firing are completed, the scales are polished and buffed, revealing the velvet finish of translucent hard enamel.
Production of translucent hard enamel demands the highest levels of patience, experience and skill. A five-year apprenticeship is required to ensure that the highest levels of quality will be met in each individual Collection piece.
The Blade on the Ellis Island Folding Knife is forged using Swedish Stainless (Damasteel DS93X) Damascus and a diamond is set in each side of the silver thumb stud.
Ellis Island Writing Instrument also Available
The Ellis Island Folding Knife will be produced in the following color variations, each limited to 62 pieces:
Translucent Ruby Red Hard Enamel
Translucent White Hard Enamel
Translucent Sapphire Blue Hard Enamel