At the beginning of the 20th century, refugees from across Europe were creating an immigration boom – flocking to the United States in search of a new beginning.
Many immigrants arrived in New York by boat with only a few possessions and a small amount of foreign currency.
U.S. authorities required that immigrants hold U.S. Dollars before they were allowed to enter the country. As a result, a number of foreign exchange providers operated at the Ellis Island Immigration Inspection Station. Some of these operators took advantage of the immigrants’ desperation, offering unfavorable exchange rates.1
Courtesty of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC, USA
In 1905, U.S. Immigration appointed American Express as the official provider of Foreign exchange services on Ellis Island, providing immigrants with fair exchange rates to start their new lives and ventures.
In the years that followed, millions of new arrivals conducted their first business transaction on American soil at the small American Express teller's window on Ellis Island. These immigrants went on to begin new lives in their adopted country, creating new businesses and embodying the entrepreneurial spirit that came to define that period of transition.
That same spirit flourishes today among small businesses seeking to compete in a global marketplace.
And American Express is still there to support U.S. businesses with their foreign currency needs.
Safe and simple International Money Transfer is a cornerstone of economic growth. American Express offers overseas payments and helps customers to manage their foreign exchange risk, so that businesses can focus on expansion, at home and abroad.
Our business has changed dramatically since that Ellis Island contract of 1905. What hasn’t changed is our relationship of trust with the business builders of today. They display the same entrepreneurial spirit we have supported for over a century with a service built on trust, vigilance, and security.
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1 See "Ellis Island: Immigration’s Shining Center", pages 97 and 98
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