William Williams (1862-1947) collected these photographs while Commissioner of Immigration for the Port of New York at Ellis Island, 1902-5 and 1909-13. The collection includes images of immigrants and views of buildings and grounds, as well as views of the New York harbor and skyline. 33 images are by commercial photographer Edwin Levick (1869-1929), one is by Augustus F. Sherman (1869-1925), the Ellis Island Chief Registry Clerk, and the rest by unidentified photographer(s). Photographs include multiple prints and/or copy prints of some images. Prints were mounted on green card stock by the Local History and Geneology Division and bear NYPL and LH&G stamps on verso. Items numbered on mounts.
Source note: Titles supplied by "A calendar of the William Williams collection of photographs of Ellis Island."
Acquisition: Originally part of the William Williams Collection; transferred to the Milstein Division of US, Local History and Genealogy; later transferred to the Photography Collection.
Biographical/historical: The Ellis Island immigration station opened in New York harbor in 1900, just in time for the huge upswing in immigration to the United States that took place in the years leading up to World War I. In 1907, the peak year of immigration, 3,000 to 5,000 newcomers a day were examined at Ellis Island as they sought permanent entry to the country. Many photographers, such as Edwin Levick, who specialized in maritime subjects, were drawn to Ellis Island by the general human interest and newsworthiness of the scene; others, such as pioneering social photographer Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940), responded to the individual humanity of the immigrants. One amateur photographer, Augustus Sherman (1869-1925), the Ellis Island Chief Registry Clerk, had special access to potential subjects for his camera. It is possible, for example, that Commissioner Williams requested that he photograph specific individuals and groups.