Slideshow

11 Portraits of Ellis Island Immigrants You Haven’t Seen Before

They’re startling fragments of history.

May 2, 2014, 1 a.m.

This week, the Amer­ic­an Mu­seum of Nat­ur­al His­tory pub­lished a treas­ure trove of his­tor­ic­al pho­to­graphs from its ex­tens­ive lib­rary. The Di­git­al Spe­cial Col­lec­tions con­tain start­ling frag­ments of his­tory, and their web­site is well worth pok­ing around more ex­tens­ively.

The Lan­tern col­lec­tion, which was ori­gin­ally used to il­lus­trate pub­lic lec­tures at the mu­seum, con­tains pho­to­graphs of im­mig­rants freshly landed on Amer­ic­an soil. The pho­tos, taken at El­lis Is­land, doc­u­ment im­mig­rants from across Europe and Rus­sia, from Tur­key to the Neth­er­lands. The dates of the pho­tos are un­known, but are likely from some­time in the early 1900s. The hand-col­or­ized slides are strik­ing, es­pe­cially for de­pict­ing the tra­di­tion­al dress from each coun­try, and serve as a poignant re­mind­er of Amer­ic­ans’ di­verse an­ces­try.

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