Augustus Frederick Sherman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Augustus Frederick Sherman
Born (1865-07-09)July 9, 1865
Lynn, Pennsylvania
Died February 16, 1925(1925-02-16)
New York, New York, New York
Occupation photographer

Augustus Frederick Sherman worked as a clerk at Ellis Island in the years 1892-1925. He was an untrained, yet highly gifted photographer who created hundreds of images documenting the new arrivals to America. Fascinated by the diverse origins and cultural backgrounds of his subjects, Sherman created a riveting series of portraits, offering viewers a compelling perspective on this dynamic period in American history.

Very little is known about Sherman. Born on July 9, 1865, in Lynn, Pennsylvania, he was a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Hired by the Bureau of Immigration to work as a clerk at Ellis Island in 1892, eight years after having moved to New York, he rose through the clerical ranks. Considering the state of the art of photography in that era, with long exposures and huge box cameras, the fact he was able to capture so many images during his working life is amazing.

For many, Ellis Island is the ultimate symbol of American immigration and the immigrant experience. On July 4, 2008, the Minnesota History Center opened a new exhibit celebrating the human story of the more than twelve million immigrants who entered the United States through the federal immigration station.[1]

The exhibit features 75 framed black-and-white photographs reflecting the cultural and ethnic diversity of people arriving at the beginning of the 20th century. Sherman took photographs of families, groups, and individuals who were being detained either for medical reasons or for further interrogation.[2] In many cases, the subjects were fleeing poverty, natural disaster, and political and religious persecution. And sometimes, after being detained, the immigrant was deported. Over the course of his career at Ellis Island, Sherman took more than 200 pictures, often encouraging his subjects to open their suitcases and put on their elaborate national costumes or folk dress. He captured images of Romanian shepherds, German stowaways, circus performers and women from Guadeloupe.


  1. ^ "EXHIBIT TO OPEN JULY 4TH CELEBRATES HISTORY OF NEW ARRIVALS TO AMERICA". June 4, 2008. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  2. ^ Shattuck, Kathryn (August 6, 2005). "When Old and New World Met in a Camera Flash". The New York Times. Retrieved October 16, 2010.