January 1st, 1892 was the first time that Ellis Island was used as an entrance for immigrants looking for a better life in America. Over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island from the day it opened until 1954. So many people passed through that almost 40% of Americans today can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island!
Augustus Sherman was the chief registry clerk on Ellis Island from 1892 until 1925. But Sherman wasn’t only a clerk; he was also an amateur photographer. So as the immigrants arrived and went through customs, Sherman took photographs of some of them in their traditional clothing. Now the photographs are kept in the New York Public Library. They serve as a poignant reminder of America’s diverse past.