ANTI-IMMIGRANT RHETORIC HAS GOTTEN pretty heated this election season, but historically, this is nothing new to America. Though we pride ourselves on being a melting pot, we also have a tendency to go through periods of xenophobia and jingoism. There was a time, though, when our ancestors were arriving in this country, and we don’t always have a window into their experience.

But the New York Public Library has curated this collection of photos taken mostly by Augustus Sherman on Ellis Island in the early 20th century. What it shows us about our immigrant past is both haunting and beautiful — even those from European countries seem incredibly foreign by modern standards.

1

German man

Sherman notes that this man was a stowaway, and was deported in May of 1911. All photos are taken by Augustus Sherman. Notes are provided where Sherman gave them.

2

Italian woman

3

Guadeloupean woman

Guadeloupe is a part of the French Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean.

4

Laplander

Identified in Sherman's notes as 'Sami woman from Finland.'

5

Danish man

Identified in Sherman's notes as "Peter Meyer -- 57, Denmark. [SS] 'Mauretania' Apr. 30 -- '09' from Svendberg."

6

Cossack man from the steppes of Russia

7

Bavarian man

Identified in Sherman's notes as Wilhelm Schleich.

8

Girl from Rattvik, province of Dalarna, Sweden.

9

Ruthenian woman

"Ruthenian" is an ethnic term that can (roughly) be equated to today's ethnic Ukrainians, though it is also used to refer to other Slavic peoples in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

10

Romanian shepherd

11

Albanian soldier

12

Hindu boy

From Sherman's notes: "Thumbu Sammy, aged 17, Hindoo ex SS 'Adriatic', April 14, 1911."

13

Greek woman

14

Greek-Orthodox priest

Identified in Sherman's notes as Rev. Joseph Vasilon.

15

Italian woman

16

Algerian man

17

Lapland children

18

Turkish man

From Sherman's notes: 'Turkish bank guard John Postantzis, Feb 9, 1912'.

19

Three Dutch women

In Sherman's notes: 'Mother and her two daughters from Zuid-Beveland, province of Zeeland, The Netherlands.'

20

Romanian woman

21

Girl from Alsace-Lorraine

Identified in Sherman's notes as "Girl from the Kochersberg region near Strasbourg, Alsace."

Sherman was a clerk while working on Ellis Island, and the pictures he took give us a glimpse into the humanity of immigrants from all time periods. Immigrants could look scared, proud, out-of-place, or totally at peace. Immigrants are humans, and they carry all of the complicated baggage being a human entails.

The full album is available on Flickr.

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