The photographs were taken by an immigration official named Augustus Frederick Sherman. He took photographs of immigrants who were being detained for further interrogation, whether for medical or other reasons. Some would be permitted to stay while others would be forced to return to the homes they risked so much to leave.
Sherman requested that his subjects open their trunks and wear the traditional dress of their homelands, resulting in more than 200 striking photographs of Guadeloupeans, Bavarians, Romanians and Laplanders—men and women whose chief similarity was their wish to become Americans.
To help bring out the vitality of these historic images, TIME commissioned freelance photo editor Sanna Dullaway to colorize a selection of them.