Here are just a handful of the 12 million men, women, and children who arrived at Ellis Island, New York, between 1892 and 1954 to start a new life in the USA, often dressed in their finest clothes. The portraits show immigrants wearing the national dress of their country of origin, including military uniforms from Albania, bonnets from the Netherlands, and clothing of Sámi people from the Arctic regions.
The photographs were taken between 1906 and 1914 by amateur photographer Augustus Francis Sherman, the chief registry clerk at Ellis Island, then the country’s busiest immigration station. In 1907 some of the photos were published by National Geographic.
These images show some of the diverse cultural backgrounds of turn-of-the-century American immigrants. The formal clothing that represents the folk cultures that they came from hint at the massive cultural shift that these immigrants must have experienced upon arriving to the United States. These photos of migrants wearing clothing representing their Old World lives right as they are about to culturally assimilate (or acculturate) into the New World are pictures I find quite poignant and personal.