35 Ellis Island Immigration Photos That Capture American Diversity from Between 1905-1914

Ellis Island is a federally-owned island in New York Harbor that was the busiest immigrant inspection station in the United States. From 1892 to 1954, nearly 12 million immigrants arriving at the Port of New York and New Jersey were processed there under federal law. Today, it is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and is accessible to the public only by ferry. The north side of the island is the site of the main building, now a national museum of immigration. The south side of the island, including the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, is open to the public only through guided tours.

In the 19th century, Ellis Island was the site of Fort Gibson and later became a naval magazine. The first inspection station opened in 1892 and was destroyed by fire in 1897. The second station opened in 1900 and housed facilities for medical quarantines and processing immigrants. After 1924, Ellis Island was used primarily as a detention center for migrants. During both World War I and World War II, its facilities were also used by the US military to detain prisoners of war. After the immigration station’s closure, the buildings languished for several years until they were partially reopened in 1976. The main building and adjacent structures were completely renovated in 1990.

The 27.5-acre (11.1 ha) island was greatly expanded by land reclamation between the late 1890s and the 1930s. Jurisdictional disputes between New Jersey and New York State persisted until the 1998 US Supreme Court ruling in New Jersey v. New York. (Wikipedia)

An Albanian soldier.
Some hopeful immigrants could be held on Ellis Island for days, or even weeks, before being approved or deported.
An Algerian man in traditional apparel.
Immigrants were given free meals upon arriving — in most cases introducing them to new foods such as bananas and ice cream.
Girl from the Kochersberg region near Strasbourg, Alsace, 1905
Wilhelm Schleich, a miner from Hohenpeissenberg, Bavaria, 1905
Cossack man from the steppes of Russia.
With the U.S. attitude toward becoming increasingly negative, World War I marked the end of mass immigration to America.
Peter Meyer from Svendberg, Denmark, age 57. April 30, 1909.
Three Dutch protestant women identified as “Mother and her two daughters from Zuid-Beveland, province of Zeeland, The Netherlands” (circa 1905).
Identified as “Dutch siblings from the Island of Marken, holding religious tracts” (circa 1905).
Photo identified as “Protestant woman from Zuid-Beveland, province of Zeeland, The Netherlands.”
Three women from Guadeloupe in fancy dress.
A tattooed German stowaway allegedly deported in May 1911.
Rev. Joseph Vasilon, a Greek-Orthodox priest, 1905
A Greek evzone, which is a member of a light infantry unit in the Greek army.
A Greek woman in June 1909.
A Guadeloupean woman, 1911.
About 700 immigrants passed through on the very first day of Ellis Island’s operation, January 1, 1892.
A Romani family.
A young Italian woman, 1906.
Eighty percent of immigrants were processed and approved in just a number of hours.
An Italian woman.
The highest number of immigrants to arrive on Ellis Island in a single day was 11,747, on April 17, 1907.
Swedish children in Lapland costume.
Originally titled “Swedish woman,” the title was changed when it was noticed that the woman’s clothing originated from the west coast of Norway.
A young Swedish girl from the Rattvik providence of Dalarna.
A Romanian immigrant poses with his instrument.
Romanian shepherd, 1906.
As opposed to wealthier arrivals, poor passengers were detained on the island for physical inspections and further legal questioning.
Two Romanian women.
Russian Cossacks, armed and in full dress.
A traditionally dressed Ruthenian woman, who would now be known as Ukrainian.
A Laplander woman from Finland, 1905.
Three young Scottish boys.
Captioned “Hungarian Gypsies all of whom were deported,” this photo appeared in The New York Times on February 12, 1905.
Romanian shepherds, one proudly posing with his pipe.
A Slovak woman with her children.
Three Slovakian women.
It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of U.S. citizens can trace at least one ancestor back to Ellis Island.
Three Russian Cossacks.
Many famous people were processed at Ellis Island, including Charlie Chaplin, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Charles Atlas, and Irving Berlin.
“Turkish bank guard John Postantzis, Feb 9, 1912.”
The last person to pass through Ellis Island was a Norwegian merchant seaman by the name of Arne Peterssen in 1954.
A print of this image reads, “Thumbu Sammy, aged 17, Hindoo ex SS ‘Adriatic’, April 14, 1911.”

All photos taken by Augustus Sherman (ca. 1905-1914)

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