Newcomers and resident Others

The geographic and ethnic scope of the photos assembled for this twenty-year period (1904-1925) is broad and gives some much needed, unfiltered visibility to the lives of immigrants and migrants—particularly those of non-European descent. While a comparatively small amount of photographs from the pre-WWI era are examined, they too reflect a surprising diversity, albeit a diversity that requires lengthy footnotes. Most of the photos from the WWI and post-WWI era are sourced from U.S. Passport applications representing multiple layers of citizenry and primarily include: immigrants (i.e. visiting aliens), naturalized citizens, U.S. born citizens, U.S. born citizens of foreign parentage, transnational and return migrants, along with foreign nationals from Insular Areas. A small amount of material comes from consular documents and non-US issued passports. No matter which category an individual might fall into—and the lines are frequently blurry—the photos visually capture a century of shifting nationalities, of global migration...a century on the move.

See the full collection in media-only format on Flickr

After observing that U.S. consulates abroad predominantly attracted U.S. citizens who had a geographic or ethnic connection to the area where the consulates were located, a unique opportunity presented itself: to visually group an enormous amount and range of immigrant and migrant photos along quasi ethnic/national lines during the 1904-1925 time period. Such an endeavor is not feasible with applications submitted through the State Department on the U.S. mainland and quite possibly with any other currently available source material. Nearly all the photos used in this project were extracted from emergency passport applications submitted at U.S. Consular Posts around the world.

Although over 50 countries are represented, restrictive U.S. immigration policies prevailing at the time prohibit a truly comprehensive view; a number of regions (e.g. Latin America, Africa, Asia) are therefore poorly represented in the photo collections. There are, however, some exceptions due to naturalizations granted through marriage and the changing requirements for residents of U.S. insular areas in 1917. The full ethnic/national composition represented in the photo collections is indicated in the table below.

Caught in the cauldron

1904-1925 was of course a tumultuous period in world history and some of that tumult is reflected in the collections, which include photos of:

  • Naturalized U.S. citizens from nearly every country in Europe and beyond: over 50 countries in total and dozens more ethnicities; WWI both hastened and delayed departure
  • Armenian and Assyrian Genocide survivors & deportees
  • Greek deportees fleeing the destruction of Smyrna (İzmir) in 1922
  • African Americans traveling back to the U.S. from Ghana and Liberia in 1914 as part of an ill-fated, early Back-to-Africa movement
  • African Americans who lived and worked abroad as musicians, theatrical artists, vaudeville performers but also in skilled professions or as missionaries, military servicemen and entrepreneurs
  • Thousands of Puerto Rican migrants, who became U.S. citizens in 1917, traveling back from Dominican Republic; most worked in US-owned sugar industries
  • Filipino migrants who became U.S. nationals in 1917; a number of ethnic Chinese are included because of their residence in the Philippines
  • Chinese, Japanese, and Indian emigrants who managed to circumvent restrictions placed on immigration from the Asiatic Barred Zone
  • French WWI "war brides" brought to the states by US servicemen. Many provided a ‘certificat de bonne vie et moeurs’ with their applications
  • "Native-born" missionaries, relief workers, journalists, nurses & physicians, teachers, engineers, merchants and tourists

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the photos that contain a more traumatic historical backdrop also happen to be some of the most visually poignant. In many of the photos, a palpable sense of what Robert Frank called the "humanity of the moment" is evident.

Photos from U.S. Passport Applications, 1914-1925

U.S. Consulate in /
photo album(s) 
Primary ethnic groups or nationalitiesDate range   No. of Photos
AlbaniaAlbanian19151925      14
Austria: 1, 2, 3Austrian, Bohemian, Czech, Hungarian,
Ruthenian, Ukrainian
BelgiumBelgian, Dutch19151919142
Costa RicaCosta Rican1916192291
Czechoslovakia: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Bohemian, German191919251413
Denmark: 1, 2, 3Danish, Swedish19151919553
Dominican Republic: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7     Puerto Rican, Dominican, Haitian1917-19222826
EgyptEgyptian, Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian,
Jewish (Sephardic & Ashkenazi)
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Russia & Ukraine: 1, 2
Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Russian, Ukrainian19201925591
FinlandFinnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian19191925289
Georgia & RussiaArmenian, Assyrian (from Turkey)1915192343
Greece: 1, 2, 3, 4Greek, Turkish191519241095
Germany: 1, 2German19161921650
Hungary: 1, 2, 3Hungarian, Slovakian, Czech, Romanian,
Ruthenian, Croatian, Serbian
Italy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8Italian191419252056
Iran (Persia)Assyrian, Armenian, Iranian, Turkish19151924105
Iraq [Baqubah refugee camp] Assyrian, Armenian, Iranian, Turkish1915192534
Japan: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6Japanese19171922578
Lebanon & Syria: 1, 2, 3Lebanese, Syrian, Armenian, Turkish, Palestinian,
MoroccoMoroccan, Jewish (Sephardic)191519258
Norway: 1, 2Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish19151919728
Poland: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5Polish, Ruthenian, Jewish, Russian191919241680
PhilippinesFilipino, Spanish1922
PortugalPortuguese, Spanish1915192566
Portugal (Açores)Portuguese1922
Puerto RicoPuerto Rican19151916299
Romania: 1, 2, 3Romanian, Hungarian, German, Russian, Moldovan, Bessarabian, Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Jewish19141924993
Sweden: 123Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian191519221200
Turkey: 12, 3, 4Turkish, Armenian, Greek19141925788
United KingdomEnglish, Scottish, Welsh, Irish1916
Yugoslavia: 1, 2, 3Bosnian, Croatian, Hungarian, Kosovar, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Serbian, Slovenian19151925830
U.S. “Insular Areas”Filipino, Puerto Rican, Japanese, Chinese19171919123
Americans Abroad-19141925835
African Americans Abroad-19141925152
African Americans in Liberia & Ghana-1915192178
Americans in India-19141818367
Americans in Sri Lanka-1915192568
Americans in Myanmar-1914192263
Americans in China-19151917402
VariousBrazilian, Ecuadorian, Haitian, Hawaiian, Honduran, Korean, Madagascan, Nicaraguan, Peruvian, Salvadoran, Venezuelan, also Canary Islands (Portugal), Virgin Islands (U.S.)1914192556
Totals  23680*

*approximately 300 photos are shared in multiple albums and a number of textual documents are also included, so the total number of photos is slightly lower than stated.  However, many photos include multiple individuals...making the total number of people portrayed hundreds more than the total number of photos.

This page has paths: