The Liberty Ellis Foundation

Immigrants’ First Pictures Reveal What It Means To Be American (Historical Kindness)

We often forget that each one of the immigrants who entered this country between 1892 and 1954 was a unique person with their own cultural identity.

These people came to the United States filled with the hope of a better life, and the mingling of their cultures eventually wove the fabric of American identity.

But it’s easy to quantify these people into lists of numbers, names, and nations. It’s far more difficult, however, to reach back into the past and reveal the faces behind those facts and figures.

This is the image that we associate with Ellis Island today.

The Liberty Ellis FoundationWhile the Immigrant Wall of Honor is an incredibly important monument, there’s something distant and isolating about seeing thousands of names etched into shiny stone walls.

But the images that Sherman captured over the course of his career show the true faces of immigration.

From 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island saw over four million immigrants pass through to begin a new life in a new continent. Every single one of them brought not only a suitcase of possessions, but a heart filled with hope and a dream of a better life. Along with registering with the government and adopting American names and lifestyles, many immigrants were required to take photographs to document their arrival. Luckily, some of these photographs have survived.

The following photographs were taken by Augustus Sherman, a registry clerk who worked for over 25 years at Ellis Island. These photographs show what is likely each of these immigrants first or second day in America and showcase just how diverse these people were.

Norwegian Woman

Immigrants' First Pictures

Slovakian Women

Immigrants' First Pictures

Danish Man

Immigrants' First Pictures

Albanian Soldier

Immigrants' FImmigrants' First Picturesirst Pictures

By confining these people to textbooks, we lose touch with the fact that a wave of diversity rolled in every time a new ship docked at Ellis Island.

Italian Woman

Immigrants' First Pictures

Algerian Man

Immigrants' First Pictures

Romanian Piper

Immigrants' First Pictures

Russian Cossacks

Immigrants' First Pictures

Sherman photographed the last glimpses of who these people were before they started over in America.

Women From Guadeloupe

Immigrants' First PicturesRussian Man

Immigrants' First Pictures

More Pipers

Immigrants' First Pictures

German Stowaway

Immigrants' First Pictures

Romanian Woman

Immigrants' First Pictures

Children From Lapland

Immigrants' First PicturesUkrainian Woman

Immigrants' First Pictures

Finnish Children

Immigrants' First Pictures

Kids From The Netherlands

Immigrants' First Pictures

German Man

Immigrants' First Pictures

These images show a Mixture of pain, confusion, and triumph that’s unique to those who adopt new identities.

Woman From The West Indies

Immigrants' First Pictures

Dutch Women

Immigrants' First Pictures

Boy From India

Immigrants' First Pictures

If you traced lines between Ellis Island and each nation that was represented by the immigrants who arrived there decades ago, you could easily cover an entire map.

Slovakian Mother And Child

Immigrants' First Pictures

Shepherd From Romania

Immigrants' First Pictures

Soldier From Greece

Immigrants' First Pictures

Finnish Woman

Immigrants' First Pictures

And even after so many years, this country is still emblematic of hope and opportunity. America rests in the hearts and minds of people around the world who dream of leading better lives.

While Ellis Island’s heyday seems like something from a bygone era, the reality is that people from nations around the world see America as a symbol of freedom to this day. We should all be proud of this legacy, and it’s important that we keep it alive for as long as we can.

Via: New York Public Library &

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  1. Reblogged this on Eliza Waters and commented:

    All these beautiful individuals passed through Ellis Island and went on to build America through their hopes and dreams. All of us in the US are descended from immigrants; let’s not forget that we have them to thank for planting the seeds of the harvest we enjoy today.

    Liked by 1 person

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