When Ellis Island opened in 1892, a Pennsylvanian by the name of Augustus F. Sherman began working there as a clerk. Sherman's 33 years at the immigration facility included its busiest period, from 1900 to 1914, when as many as 10,000 people would pass through Ellis Island every day.

The 'huddled masses': An Atlantic liner packed with immigrants approaches Ellis Island in 1906. | (Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo)

Sherman was also an amateur photographer. And, as he worked his way up the ranks, he was afforded increasing access to immigrants who were temporarily detained on the island or waiting for further inspection, money, travel tickets, or someone they knew.

During these moments of limbo, Sherman persuaded some of the immigrants, families and individuals alike, to let him take their photograph. He was interested in where they came from and encouraged them to dress in their favorite clothes from their native country, if they weren't already. Then, preparing to take their photo, he would set the travelers against a plain background so that they would be the focus.

From about 1905 until 1920, Sherman took more than 250 portraits. And this unique, historic collection, which has been made into a book and featured in several exhibitions, is a testament to America's rich tapestry of cultures, races, and personal histories. Below, take a look at the future Americans who once passed through Ellis Island on their way home.

German stowaway. | (Augustus Sherman | New York Public Library/Public Domain, CCO)

Three Dutch women. | (Augustus Sherman | New York Public Library/Public Domain, CCO)

A Hindu boy. | (Augustus Sherman | New York Public Library/Public Domain, CCO)

Children from Lapland. | (Augustus Sherman | New York Public Library/Public Domain, CCO)

Romanian shepherd. | (Augustus Sherman | New York Public Library/Public Domain, CCO)

Italian woman. | (Augustus Sherman | New York Public Library/Public Domain, CCO)

Algerian man. | (Augustus Sherman | New York Public Library/Public Domain, CCO)

Slovak woman and children. | (Augustus Sherman | New York Public Library/Public Domain, CCO)

Greek soldier. | (Augustus Sherman | New York Public Library/Public Domain, CCO)

Dutch children. | (Augustus Sherman | New York Public Library/Public Domain, CCO)