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Business and the Holocaust
Historical Media Reports

Copyright, 1921, by The New York Times Company.
Unedited Full Text. Used by permission.

February 20, 1921; page 5


SAYS ELLIS ISLAND IS NOT INFESTED

Deputy Commissioner Indignantly Denies That Immigrants Got Typhus There.


MORE ALIENS FUMIGATED


Detachment From Philadelphia Is Headed Off by Police at Hoboken and Twenty Sent to Hospital.

Indignant denial that conditions at Ellis Island are so bad that immigrants who go there clean come away infested with vermin was made yesterday by Byron Uhl, Deputy Commissioner of Immigration, in the absence of Commissioner Wallis, who is in Washington making arrangements for better delousing and cleaning facilities at the island.

"The papers have been printing inaccurate reports about typhus conditions," said Mr. Uhl, referring particularly to the report that three children of immigrants were ill in Cortland, N.Y., with typhus. "Our records show that only three persons have gone to Cortland since Jan.5, and they were all adults.

"The island is absolutely clean, and the report that immigrants from the Adriatic or any other ship got typhus here is a damnable lie. Conditions on Ellis Island are satisfactory except that we need more facilities."

Health Commissioner Royal S. Copeland, who made the statement the day before that his inspectors had found lice on immigrants who when they left the steamer to go to the island were free from vermin, merely smiled when told of Mr. Uhl's contradiction and said it was a strange thing for a Government official to say.

More Found Infested.

The inspectors and physicians of the Health Department examined 901 immigrants at railroad stations and piers yesterday and found fifty-three who were in need of delousing. They were sent to the Willard Parker Hospital. Dr. Frank J. Monaghan, in charge of the work, commented on the fact that most of those found in need of cleansing were women, which showed the danger of infecting children. At the Battery 434 immigrants who came from Ellis Island were examined, and seven were found to be vermin infested.

By quick work Dr. Copeland's men succeeded in heading off a party of immigrants who came to the city early yesterday morning from Philadelphia over the Jersey Central. He received word from a health officer in Philadephia that the immigrants were coming and telephoned to the Hoboken police to have them kept together after they got off the train. Twenty were found to be vermin infested and were sent to Willard Parker Hospital.

Two typhus suspects have been under the care of Health Department physicians in the last two days. One of them, Jack Lansalotto, 7 years old, who lived on Graham Avenue, Brooklyn, has been in the Kingston Avenue Hospital in Brooklyn for several days, as physicians disagree about the case. The boy arrived here on the Danzeliro on Feb. 2 from Italy.

Dr. WIlliam L. Somerset, chief diagnostician of the Department of Health, is sure that the boy has not got typhus, and says that his disease is a form of late measles, in which the symptoms are very similar to typhus. Dr. Isaac Smith, the district diagnostician, says the boy has typhus. He is still under observation, and precautions have been taken to make sure that his family is in no danger of infection.

Early Diagnosis Incorrect.

The second case was that of a man who was taken from the Mallory liner Henry R. Mallory at Pier 45 North River, on Friday, and taken to the WIlliam Parker Hospital. Dr. Somerset decided yesterday that the early diagnosis of typhus is incorrect.

The success of Commissioner Wallis's mission to Washington was announced yesterday in a telegram received from him at Ellis Island. As a first step it was decided in Washington yesterday that Quarantine should be taken over by the Federal authorities. The telegram follows:

"Just concluded conference here. Labor Department again advises that typhus and vermin entirely with Quarantine and Public Health Services. Immigration authority or regulation does not apply to Ellis Island. Must land after Quarantine and Public Health doctors certify and pass immigrants. Quarantine now being taken over by Federal Government, and will immediately spend $200,000 for baths and other accommodations.

"My own personal judgement, many times expressed since becoming Commissioner, is that no alien should ever be allowed to land until stripped of all clothing, examined from head to foot, and that a strong disinfectant bath be compulsary for all aliens for all times."

Ford's Paper Wants to Know.

Dr. Copeland received a message from Henry Ford's weekly, The Dearborn Independent, yesterday, asking a statement from him as to the causes that are hindering his work. The message read:

"Will you please wire us collect statement, any length, for publication on the situation as result unrestricted immigration? What threatens for future? What steps should be taken in your opinion? Gravity of situation in our opinion demands outspoken declaration of causes. What interests are hindering your work and what do you want?"

Dr. Copeland later dictated a statement as to his general views of the immigration situation, as far as health inspection is concerned, which was sent to Mr. Ford's paper in answer to the inquiry.

"Having come from Europe so recently and having observed the suffering of people over there, I cannot bring myself to the conviction that an absolute embargo should be placed on immigration," he said. "To the suffering persons in Eastern Europe America seems like heaven, and many a peasant has walked 1,000 miles to reach a seaport where he can get passage to the United States.

"Many formerly well-to-do persons in Europe, individuals so near to bankruptcy, through their business having been destroyed and their homes wiped out, and facing nothing but disaster, are anxious to come to America to make a new start. Except as a last resort I should not desire to deny them the right of asylum. However, so long as quarantine conditions in Eastern ports continue as ineffective as at present, it must be admitted that every immigrant coming from infected ports is a menace to the health of our people.

Tells What Must be Done.

"One of two things must be done, either an embargo must be placed upon immigration from certain sections of Europe, which the President could do under Section 7 of the quarantine laws, or there must be an immediate improvement in the quarantine conditions. It is not enough for the quarantine of officials to inspect the passengers of a steamship merely with a view to determining whether at that particular moment there is any infectious disease aboard the ship. A truly effective examination would go further. It would determine whether or not there are possible carriers of infectious diseases aboard.

"This would mean, as regards typhus, that every vermin infested person would be regarded with suspicion. The period of incubation of typhus is from twelve to twenty days. It might happen, as doubtless it has in scores of cases, that every person at the time of examination was free from the visible evidence of disease. Yet these same persons might have been inoculated with the poison of typhus fever, which would later show itself in symptoms of disease.

"Health authorities could well disregard every such person who was absolutely free of vermin, even though he developed a virulent attack so serious as actually to be fatal. It would be of no consequence to the rest of society. The typhus patient is not a menace if he is free from vermin.

"The conclusion of the whole matter is perfectly apparent. If every person entering an American port from suspected areas is disrobed, deloused if necessary, and equipped with clean clothing, the danger of typhus disappears at once."

Foreign Mail Inspected.

An inspector was sent to the Division of Foreign Mails at Morton and West Streets to inspect foreign mail to be sure that it was free from vermin. So far as Dr. Copeland had learned it had not been found necessary to fumigate any of the mail, but he said it was best not to take chances.

Only one person was found to be infested with vermin on the steamship Cedric when inspectors went over her yesterday morning at Pier 60, North River. This was a girl, a citizen of this country, and she was put through a cleansing process aboard the boat. All of the mail carried by the Cedric was disinfected by Joseph Lonergan of the Sanitary Inspection Bureau. Dr. Copeland said, in reference to fumigation, that all the baggage cars and coaches of trains bringing immigrants from Boston had been fumigated to protect later passengers.

Joseph Ryan, Vice President of the International Longshoreman's Association, called on Dr. Copeland yesterday, and was warned of the danger to longshoremen working on ships entering this port from Europe. He suggested to Mr. Ryan that every longshoreman be sure that he is free from vermin before going to his home at night.

The steamship Rotterdam of the Holland-America Line, which was to have arrived here on Monday with a large first cabin list and many steerage passengers, has been ordered to go to Boston because of health restrictions at this port. She will arrive in Boston tonight. The Cunard Company as not yet decided whether to divert the Aquitania.



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