As we’ve learned in rehearsal, there’s a lot to tackle in Ragtime’s multi-part numbers. I thought it might be helpful to give you all some portraits of the various groups and sub-groups introduced in the Opening: incoming Immigrants from multiple countries, New Rochelle residents, Harlem and its residents (though I will admit that Harlem photography doesn’t really take off until the mid 1910s and then explodes in the run-up and flourish of the Harlem Renaissance).

Look for other posts that will include images and details about other character groups invoked throughout the play. If there are further specifics that folks in the chorus want that would be helpful to your building of scenarios and characters for yourself, just let me know.

On the “ragships”

Perhaps the scene Father envisions in Scene 4, Journey On.

Arriving at Ellis Island

Filing off the boat at Ellis Island.

Entering the processing facility at Ellis Island.

Carrying all their worldly belongings with them.

The pens at Ellis Island, main hall, immigrants await further inspection.

Immigrants from the Caribbean

A photo "Guadalupe Women" from the Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits 1905–1920

Immigrants from Italy

Lewis Hines' 1905 photograph of an Italian family searching for their luggage at Ellis Island.

Italians at Ellis Island, Lewis Hine, 1905.

Italian family on ferry boat, leaving Ellis Island, Lewis Hine, 1905.

Asian Immigrants

Group of Chinese immigrant students, New York City, 1910.

Japanese immigrant students (San Francisco), circa 1905.

Jewish Immigrants (Eastern Europe)

"Russian Jew at Ellis Island," Lewis Hine, 1905.

Photo by Lewis Hine, 1905.

Inspections by Immigration Officials

Papers and rolls examined at Ellis Island, circa 1900.

Physical inspections of immigrants, Ellis Island.

Non-medical personal at Ellis Island conduct an eye inspection for trachoma.

Families like our “New Rochelle family”

The Squires Family, 1910.

The Moon Family (Seattle), 1910.

Metivier-Lee Family 1911

"Grand Prix at Longchamp, After the Races," Edward Steichen, 1907.

British tennis party, circa 1907.

Men's tennis club, U of Washington, circa 1907.

Montgomery Place, a New Rochelle home in 1909 (top) and 2011 (bottom).

And just to remind us that even New Rochelle wasn’t an homogenous enclave, here’s a image of an Italian family celebrating their new country in 1906 New Rochelle

Period portraits of African-Americans

FYI, there’s a fantastic slideshow from a 2011 issue of The Root magazine about Weeksville, a vibrant African-American community within Brooklyn now known as Bedford-Stuyvesant. Also a wonderful Flickr gallery titled “African-American Portraits” from Alvan S. Harper Collection (1884-1910) has images from right about the turn of the twentieth century.

Couple, 1912.

Port Washington, NY couple, 1910.

Heavyweight Boxing champion Jack Johnson with girlfriend, 1904 (California).

George Walker, Aida Overton Walker and Egbert Austin Williams, vaudeville comedy performers, 1908.

James Reese Europe's Clef Club Band, 1914.

Harlem storefront circa 1905.


Hamilton Bank, Harlem, circa 1900.

369th Infantry Regiment, WWI known as the Harlem Hellfighters. 1919 portrait.