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Stunning Colorized Portraits of Ellis Island Immigrants (1906-1911)

From 1892 to 1954, more than 12 million immigrants came to Ellis Island in New York Harbor. It was the biggest immigrant inspection station in the United States. Immigrants were brought into Ellis Island by boat and had to go through several procedures, including medical checkup and their loyalty to the United States. Today, it is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and is accessible to the public only by ferry. These colored photos show the immigrants that came to Ellis Island. They were taken between 1906 to 1914 by amateur photographer Augustus Sherman.

Sherman documented the immigrants from different countries that arrived in the United States. He was fascinated by the diverse origins and cultural backgrounds of his subjects. Sherman created a riveting series of portraits, offering viewers a compelling perspective on this dynamic period in American history.

#1 Ruthenian woman.” Historically inhabiting the kingdom of the Rus ranging from parts of modern-day Slavic-speaking countries, this example of Ruthenian traditional dress consisted of a shirt and underskirt made from linen which was embroidered with traditional floral-based patterns. The sleeveless ja

#2 Algerian man.” It is noted that Algerian identity is shaped by its indigenous Berber, Arab, African and Mediterranean cultures. The kufiya is a square of fabric folded into a triangle and set upon the head by an ‘iqual – a circlet of camel hair. The kaftan tunic has been worn by many cultures and wa

#3 Norwegian woman.” Bunad is the umbrella term encompassing Norwegian traditional dress that is distinctly Norwegian, though the costumes themselves like so many others are influenced by region, tradition, and available material. In rural Norway, clothes were often made at home and typically made from

#4 Romanian piper.” This particular cojoc, an embroidered sleeved sheepskin coat, is much plainer than the shepherd’s version, making it a more practical, work-oriented coat, suggesting that the subject is of the working class given the lack of decoration and the straw hat. The waistcoat, known as a pi

#5 Danish man.” Evolving since the 1750s, the Danish dressed simply, with more decorated attire for special occasions such as weddings or Sunday church. As with many nations before mass industrialization, much of the clothing was homespun by Danish women or a professional weaver and were usually made f

#6 Dutch woman.” The large bonnet, which is arguably one of the most recognizable aspects of Dutch traditional dress, was usually made of white cotton or lace and sometimes had flaps or wings, and often came with a cap. The rest of the costume, like so many others, came in distinctly regional variation

#7 Rev. Joseph Vasilon, Greek-Orthodox priest.” The vestments of the Greek Orthodox church have remained largely unchanged. In this photograph, the priest wears an anteri, an ankle-length cassock (from the Turkish quzzak, from which the term ‘Cossack’ also derives) worn by all clergymen over which an a

#8 Albanian soldier.” The truncated brimless felt cap is known as a qeleshe, whose shape was largely determined by region and molded to one’s head. The vest, known as a jelek or xhamadan, was decorated with embroidered braids of silk or cotton. Its color and decoration denoted the region where the wear

#9 Bavarian man.” The traditional dress of Germany is known as the trachten, and like so many others has regional variations. In the alpine regions of Germany like Bavaria, leather breeches known as Lederhosen were worn regularly by rural folk, though in modern-day Germany, most people associate the ga

#10 Guadeloupean Woman.” The elaborate tartan headpiece worn by this Guadeloupean woman can be traced back to the Middle Ages, where the eastern Indian city of Madras was famed for its cotton making. First plain, then striped and then with increasingly elaborate patterns, the Madras fabric that was expo

#11 Hindoo boy.” The topi (a word to denote “cap”) is worn all over the Indian subcontinent with many regional variations and cultural significance, and is especially popular in Muslim communities, where it is known as a taqiyah. Both the cotton khadi and the prayer shawl are most likely handspun on a c

#12 Italian woman.” This traditional dress was most likely homespun and consisted of a long, wide dress to cover the ankles. Above, a bodice and sleeves were tied in such a way to expose portions of the linen blouse. Colors and materials were usually regional. Shawls and veils were also a common feature

#13 Romanian shepherd.” Dominating the photograph is a traditional shepherd’s cloak known as sarică, made from three or four sheepskins sewn together with the fleece facing outwards and generally extended to below the knee, which could be used as a pillow when sleeping outdoors. Sheepskin was also used

#14 Cossack man.” The Cossacks were famed soldiers that, by the time of this photograph, had evolved into a military class that served as border guards or police. A Cossack soldier was required to provide his own arms, horses and uniform at his own expense. This man is most likely from the Ussuri Cossac

#15 Alsace-Lorraine girl.” This girl hails from the Germanic speaking region of Alsace, now in modern day France. The large bow, known as a schlupfkàpp, was worn by single women, and signified the wearer’s religion: Protestants wore black while Catholics favored brightly colored bows. 1906.

#16 Laplander.” Gákti is the traditional costume of the Sámi people, who inhabit the Arctic regions spanning from northern Norway to the Kola peninsula in Russia. Traditionally made from reindeer leather and wool, velvet and silks are also used, with the (typically blue) pullover being supplemented by c

Written by Jacob Aberto

Sincere, friendly, curious, ambitious, enthusiast. I'm a content crafter and social media expert. I love Classic Movies because their dialogue, scenery and stories are awesome.

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