It’s no secret that the USA is a country built on immigration, however, I never imagined the diversity of the melting pot of people that were coming through the Ellis Island immigration station in New York during the early part of the 20th Century!
The Ellis Island immigration station processed a staggering 12 million immigrants between 1892 and 1954. Its peak year was 1907, during which over 1 million immigrants, between 3,000 and 5,000 per day, were processed during a single year.
The immigrants mostly came from Europe and its periphery, and most entered the USA after just a few hours of questioning. Some, however, were detained for longer periods.
It was during this detention period that Augustus Francis Sherman, Ellis Island’s chief registry clerk, spent his time persuading the new arrivals to put on their finest clothes or national dress and be photographed by him.
His photographs, which simply had his subject’s place of origin as caption, were first published in National Geographic in 1907.
A most incredible statistic is that 100 million of America’s 322 million people can trace their ancestry back to individuals that arrived in the country via the Ellis Island immigration station. Take a look at these beautiful vintage portrait shots:
Photos: Augustus Francis Sherman