Ellis Island Immigrants in Color

Augustus Frederick Sherman was a clerk at Ellis Island from 1892 to 1925. He was also a gifted amateur photographer. Beginning in 1904, he took portraits of some of the immigrants who were detained for further examination. Sherman would ask them to dress in the traditional clothing of their country, then he set them front of a plain background. The 250 or so portraits he took are a national treasure a hundred years later. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum has a selection of Sherman’s photographs at Flickr, and the New York Public Library has more

Jordan Lloyd of Dynamichrome colorized some of the original sepia portraits to show us what they would have looked like to observers of the day, in a collaboration with Retronaut that will eventually be a book. The caption for the 1906 photograph above says,

"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 jacket is constructed from panels of sheepskin.  

See the pictures in all their colorful glory at Retronaut. Even more can be seen in a slideshow at Time. And Buzzfeed has a gallery with sliders so that you can see the difference in colorization.

(Image credit: Augustus F. Sherman/New York Public Library/Jordan Lloyd/Dynamichrome)

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