The New Americans: Look into the faces of the immigrants of Ellis Island

PODCAST REWIND The epic tale of Ellis Island and the process by which millions of new immigrants entered the United States.

For millions of Americans, Ellis Island is the symbol of introduction, the immigrant depot that processed their ancestors and offered an opening into a new American life.

But for some, it would truly be an ‘Island of Tears’, a place where they would be excluded from that life.

How did an island with such humble beginnings — ‘Little Oyster Island’, barely a sliver of land in the New York harbor — become so crucial? Who is the ‘Ellis’ of Ellis Island?  And how did it survive decades of neglect to become one of New York’s most famous tourist attractions?

FEATURING our special guest Tanya Bielski-Braham who walks us through her own family’s immigration experience over a century ago — from Eastern Europe to America.

THIS SHOW WAS ORIGINALLY RELEASED ON JULY 31, 2009

THIS IS A SPECIAL ILLUSTRATED PODCAST — Chapter headings with images have been embedded in this show, so if your listening device is compatible with AAC/M4A files, just hit play and a variety of pictures should pop up.  The audio is superior than the original as well. (This will work as a normal audio file even if the images don’t appear.)

For this and our older episodes (Episodes #5-#87), subscribe to The Bowery Boys: NYC History Archive feed on iTunes or directly from our host page.

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Here’s a look at many of the faces of newly arriving immigrants from between the years 1906 and 1915, photos by Augustus Frederick Sherman, a clerk on Ellis Island.  Interestingly these are not ‘official’ photographs. Sherman himself was particularly interested in national costume and mostly chose subjects who happened to be wearing the most flamboyant apparel from their respective countries.   You can see more pictures from this series at the National Park Service website on Ellis Island.   The particular images below are courtesy New York Public Library

Dutch brother and sister from the island of Marken in the Zuiderzee.

NYPL
NYPL

A woman from Guadeloupe, Caribbean. 1911

Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) -- Photographer. [1911]
Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) — Photographer. [1911]

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Girl from the Kochersberg region near Strasbourg, Alsace, France.

NYPL, Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) -- Photographer. [ca. 1906]
NYPL, Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) — Photographer. [ca. 1906]
A shepherd from Romania, 1906/

Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) -- Photographer. [ca. 1906]
Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) — Photographer. [ca. 1906]
Boys from Scotland.

Courtesy NYPL. Augustus F. Sherman [ca. 1906-1914]
Courtesy NYPL. Augustus F. Sherman [ca. 1906-1914]

Romani people from Serbia, 1906.

Courtesy NYPL, Sherman, Augustus F. -- Photographer. [ca. 1906]
Courtesy NYPL, Sherman, Augustus F. — Photographer. [ca. 1906]

Sherman, Augustus F. -- Photographer. [ca. 1906]
Sherman, Augustus F. — Photographer. [ca. 1906]
An indigenous Sami woman from Finland.

NYPL -- Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits 1905
NYPL — Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits 1905

 

Russian Cossacks, 1906

NYPL, Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) -- Photographer. [ca. 1906]
NYPL, Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) — Photographer. [ca. 1906]

A Slovak woman with her children, 1906

NYPL Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) -- Photographer. [ca. 1906-1914]
NYPL Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) — Photographer. [ca. 1906-1914]

A Danish man named Peter Meyer, from Svendborg, 1905.

NYPL, 'Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits 1905-1920' (c1905)
NYPL, ‘Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits 1905-1920’ (c1905)

 

An Indian boy named Thumbu Sammy, aged 17, who came to America on the SS Adriatic, April 14, 1911.

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An Italian woman, her name and former home unknown, 1906.

Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) -- Photographer. [ca. 1906]
Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) — Photographer. [ca. 1906]

A merry piper from Romania.

Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) -- Photographer. [ca. 1906]
Sherman, Augustus F. (Augustus Francis) — Photographer. [ca. 1906]

Identified as a ‘Protestant woman from Zuid-Beveland, province of Zeeland, The Netherlands’

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Wilhelm Schleich, a miner from Hohenpeissenberg, Bavaria

NYPL
NYPL

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A gentleman from Algeria.

NYPL
NYPL

 

A Greek immigrant in his palace guard uniform from home.

NYPL
NYPL

“Lapland children, possibly from Sweden.”

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