Incredible colorized photographs show the immigrants who passed through Ellis Island 100 years ago

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

In the early 1900s, Ellis Island served as the United States’ largest immigration station, processing up to 12 million immigrants between the years 1892 and 1954.

One amateur photographer by the name of Augustus Sherman, who served as Ellis Island’s chief registry clerk sometime between 1906 and 1917, photographed a handful of immigrants who passed through. According to the New York Public Library, his subjects were most likely asked to wear their best holiday finery or national dress.

These stunning portraits, originally published in National Geographic in 1907, have now been brought back to life and colorized by Jordan Lloyd of Dynamichrome. Lloyd’s technique includes historical research for accuracy, as well as retouching at an expert level. His book “The Paper Time Machine,” includes these portraits, and is currently raising funds to be published.

All captions are by Dynamichrome.


“Gákti is the traditional costume of the Sámi people inhabiting 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 contrasting colored banding of plaits, brooches and jewelry.”

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1910, Laplander
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“The decorations are region-specific and the gákti is used in ceremonial contexts such as weddings, or signified whether or not one was single or married, but also served as working dress when herding reindeer.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“Hailing from the Germanic-speaking region of Alsace now in modern day France, the large bow known as a schlupfkàpp was worn by single women.”

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1906, Alsace-Lorraine girl
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“The bows signified the bearer’s religion: black for Protestants whilst Catholics favored brightly colored bows.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public LibraryDynamichrome

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

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1906, Ruthenian woman
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“The sleeveless jacket is constructed from panels of sheepskin.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“The Cossacks were famed soldiers that by the time this photograph was taken had evolved into a military class that numerously served as border guards or police. A Cossack soldier was required to provide their own arms, horses and uniform at their own expense.”

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Cossack man
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“The gentleman here is most likely from the Ussuri Cossack Host, characterized by his papakha, the lamb wool hat and the green cherkesska coat accented in yellow. The coat features a number of pouches to house gazyri, traditionally metal powder tubes for early firearms.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“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 were generally extended to below the knee, which could be used as a pillow when sleeping outdoors.”

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1906, Romanian shepherd
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“Sheepskin was also used to make the shepherd’s cojoc, an embroidered sleeved coat that had tassels, leather strips and other small decorative elements added. This particular example given the ornamentation wasn’t likely used for practical purposes given the amount of decoration adorning it.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“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 and colors and materials were usually regional.”

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1910, Italian woman
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“Shawls and veils were also a common feature, and an apron decorated with floral brocades were used for special occasions such as weddings.”

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1910, Italian woman
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“The topi (a word to denote ‘cap’) is worn all over the indian subcontinent with many regional variations and cultural significance, and especially popular in Muslim communities where it is known as a taqiyah.”

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1911, Hindoo boy
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“Both the cotton khadi and the prayer shawl are most likely handspun on a charkha, and was used all year round.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“The elaborate tartan headpiece worn by 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 exported and used as headwraps was eventually influenced by the Scottish in colonial India, leading to a Madras inspired tartan known as ‘Madrasi checks,’ which in the colonial empires made its way to the French occupied Caribbean.”

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191, Guadeloupean Woman
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“Like many of the traditional costumes from all over the world, the headpiece decoration in many cases was indicative of the married status of the wearer.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“The truncated brimless felt cap is known as a qeleshe, whose shape was largely determined by region and moulded to one’s head. The vest, known as a jelek or xhamadan was decorated with embroidered braids of silk or cotton, its colour and decoration denoted the region where the wearer was from and their social rank.”

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1910, Albanian soldier
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“Most likely, this soldier is from the northeastern regions of Albania judging by the cut and color of his outfit.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“The traditional dress of Germany is known as the trachten, 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.”

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1910, Bavarian man
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“The grey jacket, known as a trachtenjanker, is made from fulled wool and decorated with horn buttons, often used by hunters in the region.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“The vestments of the Greek Orthodox church have remained largely unchanged.”

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1910, Rev. Joseph Vasilon, Greek-Orthodox priest
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“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 amaniko, a type of cassock vest is sometimes worn, over which the black outer cassock known as a exorason is worn. The stiff cylindrical hat is called a kalimavkion worn during services.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“The large bonnet which arguably is 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.”

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1910, Dutch woman
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“The square stukken and golden pins denoted her marital status and that she was a Protestant. The rest of the costume, again like so many others came in distinctly regional variations were made from cotton, linen or wool, decorated with embroidered floral patterns.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“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 from wool and flax, which were warm and relatively easy to acquire.”

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1909, Danish man
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“Cuts and patterns were largely regional with a limited palette derived from vegetable dye. Men often wore several shirts underneath their jackets, and the addition of silver buttons on the jacket and other decorative details indicated an individual’s wealth and origin.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“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.”

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1910, Romanian piper
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“The waistcoat, known as a pieptar is worn by both men and women, and smaller waistcoats were made from lambskin.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“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.”

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1910, Algerian man
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“The kaftan tunic has been worn by many cultures and was often made of wool, silk or cotton — though the cloak, known as a burnous was made from woolen fabric and came with a hood and was either white to a dark brown depending on the region.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

“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 wool, though silk or other imported material was available.”

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Norwegian woman
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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library

“Decoration was elaborate or sparse depending on the region, or whether or not the dress was considered Sunday best. In much of rural Norway, women often covered their hair as a sign they were married.”

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Augustus Francis Sherman/New York Public Library/Dynamichrome

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THE FLATIRON BUILDING UNDER CONSTRUCTION (#wip detail), c.1902 #NewYork, United States by the Detroit Publishing Company. Courtesy of Interim Archives/Getty Images. Day 2 working on this immense photograph (though, not the most complicated photograph in the book by a long way!), with the eastern facade on #Broadway looking south more or less completed. Many of the buildings on this side of Broadway still exist with minimal changes to their facade. This image appears in our upcoming book The Paper Time Machine co-authoured by Wolfgang Wild of @Retronaut and Dynamichrome’s Jordan Lloyd, in collaboration with Getty and @Unbounders. Find out more about the book and make a pledge at unbound.co.uk/books/paper-time-machine #1910s #NYC #Retronaut #ThePaperTimeMachine #colorized

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