Nearly 1 million migrants and refugees arrived in Europe last year, fleeing inhospitable conditions in their home countries. That number roughly matches the number of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island in 1907, the year the immigration center’s intake peaked. During that year, and the several that preceded and followed it, an immigration official named Augustus Frederick Sherman used the moments when he wasn’t on duty to document the faces of the men, women and children newly arrived on American shores.
Sherman, a self-taught photographer about whom little is known, took photographs of immigrants who were being detained for further interrogation, whether for medical or other reasons. Some would be permitted to stay while others would be forced to return to the homes they risked so much to leave. Sherman requested that his subjects open their trunks and wear the traditional dress of their homelands, resulting in more than 200 striking photographs of Guadeloupeans, Bavarians, Romanians and Laplanders—men and women whose chief similarity was their wish to become Americans.
To help bring out the vitality of these iconic images, TIME commissioned freelance photo editor Sanna Dullaway to colorize a selection of them.
Sanna Dullaway is a photo editor based in Sweden and the host of a new monthly column on TIME LightBox on colorized photography. See more of her work here.