Coming to America: Immigrant portraits

The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, welcoming people from all corners of the Earth, of every faith and background. This heritage is evident in photographs of newcomers arriving on U.S. shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

These portraits emerged from New York’s Ellis Island, a historic site that is now part of the National Park Service. Between 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island served as a processing station for millions of immigrants coming to America in search of better lives. As the park service marks its 100th anniversary in 2016, we look back at a particular 33-year span of the peopling of America, as captured through the lens of Augustus Sherman. He worked as a clerk at Ellis Island from 1892 until his death in 1925 and documented the people making a leap from familiar territory to the unknown.

Left, young black woman in 19th-century dress, and right, three boys in kilts (NPS Photos)
A young woman from Guadeloupe, left, and three Scottish boys, right, who were probably brothers (NPS Photos)
Man in caftan, left, and woman with two children in native dress, right (NPS Photos)
An Algerian man wearing a djelaba, or caftan, left, and a Slovak woman and children, right (NPS Photos)
Elderly man, woman seated with baby, small boy, and a man (NPS Photo)
Three generations of a German family who arrived from Eastern Europe (NPS Photo)
Left, a man with tattoos, and right, two children in native dress (NPS Photos)
A tattooed German stowaway in 1911, left, and Lapland children, possibly from Sweden, right (NPS Photos)
Man in lederhosen, left, and woman in Dutch native dress, right (NPS Photos)
Wilhelm Schleich, a miner from Bavaria, left, and a Protestant woman from The Netherlands, right (NPS Photos)
Woman in native dress, left, and man in native dress, right (NPS Photos)
A Sami woman from Finland, left, and a Georgian rider who arrived to perform with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, right (NPS Photos)
Family of 13 individuals (NPS Photo)
A Scottish immigrant family posing for a picture before heading to Alabama in September 1905 (NPS Photo)
Two young children in native dress, left, and a man in uniform, right (NPS Photos)
Dutch siblings holding religious tracts, left, and Peter Meyer, age 57, from Svendberg, Denmark, in 1909 (NPS Photos)
A young man, left, and a young woman, right (NPS Photos)
A Hindu boy, ‘Thumbu Sammy,’ age 17, in 1911, left, and an Italian woman, right (NPS Photos)
Woman with children (NPS Photo)
A Polish mother and her nine children, photographed inside Augustus Sherman’s office (NPS Photo)

Staff writer Lauren Monsen contributed to this article.