Given the enormous amount of paperwork that needed to be done at Ellis Island, it comes as no surprise that dozens and dozens of clerks and stenographers were employed there. The clerks - both male and female - kept a running tabulation of the number of immigrants flowing to the island for inspection each day, the disposal of their cases and their subsequent departures. Clerks stored away the steamship passenger manifests, completed detention and deportation cards, wrote reports and dossiers, and filed away and retrieved warrant case records. Meanwhile, the island's stenographers - each of them an expert in writing shorthand script and using the typewriter - were essential participants during immigration hearings of the various boards of special inquiry.
National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM
Known for the striking photographs he took of detained immigrants, the talented amateur photographer Augustus Sherman also occupied the highly responsible post of chief clerk of Ellis Island. A native of northeastern Pennsylvania, Augustus joined his elder brother in New York City in 1889. By the 1890s, the brothers were both working as clerks at Ellis Island. After his brother quit to become a lawyer, Augustus climbed up the clerical ranks at the station, eventually becoming chief clerk.
Wilhelm Schleich, a Bavarian Miner, photographed outside of the Main Immigration Building c. 1920.
An Asian woman photographed outside the Main Immigration Building c. 1920
Did You Know?
Although Ellis Island is federal property and has always been historically considered in New York, the U.S. Supreme Court appointed a "Special Master" to mediate. The ruling in 1998 determined that the original island belongs to New York and the rest of the island, added after 1834, belongs to New Jersey.