Ellis Island is famous for being the point of entry for millions of immigrants arriving to United States between 1892 and 1954. Opening day on January 1, 1892, saw the entry of 17-year-old Annie Moore from Cork, Ireland. She was the first of 700 people that day who would step off ships, pass through the checkpoints on the island and start their new lives in America.
Wealthy passengers in first and second class were examined onboard their ships before getting sent on their way. Poor passengers were considered more likely to become a burden on the state. They had to undergo medical and legal examinations on the island for hours before their release. Those that were detained had to wait for money or for someone to come and collect them. One of the factors that allowed immigrants to stay was if they had some money on them and a place to stay.
Immigrants from certain countries were considered more desirable. People from Northern and Western Europe, for example, had fewer problem with entry. Then, in the 1920s, there was a limit placed on the number of Southern and Eastern Europeans allowed entry.
amate*r photographer Augustus Sherman worked as the Chief Registry Clerk on Ellis Island from 1892 until 1925. During his tenure, he took amazing photos of detainees in their traditional clothes as they were waiting for final clearances.
Many were turned away.
1. Hungarian Gypsies, all of whom were deported.
2. Group photograph of newly-arrived immigrants in native costumes, some with turbans, some with fezzes.
3. Scottish boys
4. Dutch woman.
5. Alsace-Lorraine girl.
6. Bavarian man.
7. Guadeloupean woman.
8. Danish man.
9. Bavarian man.
10. German stowaway.
11. Girl from Rattvik, province of Dalarna, Sweden.
12. Norwegian woman.
13. Lapland children, possibly from Sweden.
15. Russian Cossacks.
There exists approximately 97 portraits of people from around the world proudly wearing traditional clothing and sitting for their portrait as they waited to become residents of the United States. For more of these beautiful images, see Flickr Creative Commons. All images are housed by the New York Public Library.