It probably wasn’t hard for amateur photographer, Augustus Sherman, to persuade these Ellis Island immigrants to pose for him in their best clothes or national dress. Most people passed easily through the to the mainland within a few hours, while others were held for longer for one reason or another, waiting for an escort, money or tickets, perhaps. They were vulnerable, and As the chief registry clerk for Ellis Island, Sherman had special access to them.
At the station’s peak in 1907, more than one million immigrants passed through in a single year, with 3,000 to 5,000 entering every day, mostly from Europe and around.
His pictures were published in National Geographic in 1907 and for decades and also hung anonymously in the lower Manhattan Federal Immigration Service HQ. Today, more than 100 million Americans — a third of the population — can trace their ancestry back to an individual who immigrated through Ellis Island.
Scottish boys, circa 1910
(Via the New York Public Library digital archives)