Skip to main content

Terence V. Powderly

Commissioner General of Immigration, July 1, 1897 - June 24, 1902

In March of 1898, President William McKinley appointed Terrance V. Powderly Commissioner-General of Immigration. As Commissioner-General, Powderly established a commission to investigate conditions at Ellis Island. The resulting investigation led to the dismissal of eleven employees. Powderly held the position of Commissioner-General until 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt, who had assumed the Presidency in 1901, removed him from office.

In 1906, however, Roosevelt recalled Powderly, appointing him as a Special Immigration Inspector. The President charged Powderly with studying the causes of European emigration to the United States. After visiting Europe, Powderly submitted a report recommending that the Immigration Service, through European-based agents, inspect prospective immigrants abroad, post officers on immigrant-carrying ships, and that the government take steps to assure that immigrants were more evenly distributed across the country after their arrival. 

In 1907, Powderly was appointed chief of the Immigration Service’s new Division of Information, which – following Powderly’s final recommendation – sought to “promote a beneficial distribution of aliens admitted into the United States.” Powderly held this post until 1921, when he was appointed a member of the Immigration Service’s Board of Review. Terence V. Powderly died on June 14, 1924.


<< back to Commissioners and Directors

Last Reviewed/Updated: