At the time, the area was among the most impoverished and crime-ridden in the entire city. This image comes from photographer and journalist Jacob Riis' work How The Other Half Lives, which helped reveal the blight among New York's immigrant neighborhoods. Library of Congress 10 of 52 Refuse piles up at the entrance to the tenements at 53 to 59 MacDougal Street, February In the late s and early s, New York City's trash problem reached epic proportions.
January 7, Sherry Hochbaum In the 19th and 20th centuries, millions of immigrants from around the world arrived in the United States to begin a new life in a new world.
Moving into cramped tenement buildings, families shared a few small rooms that often served both as living and work space for as many as 10 family members and their boarders.
Each apartment represents a different family, living in a different era. Each apartment represents, with a breathtaking level of detail, the lives of the actual families who lived in the building throughout its history.
Back in the s, museum founders Ruth Abram and Anita Jacobson were looking to rent a storefront on the Lower East Side from which to operate city tours. In a city where space was at a premium, finding a well-preserved tenement from the turn of the century was proving impossible.
She was let out into the entry hallway, and knew immediately it was perfect. Built init had been uninhabited since The building, when Abram and Jacobson purchased it, was in ruins. Using New York census data, factory reports, and other city records, researchers began piecing together the story of the building, finding the names of its former residents.
They tracked down remaining family members, in some cases finding people who had lived in the building in its later years. From the research and oral histories collected, they began rebuilding the lives of six families.
We start with a mention of somebody or some family in a particular document that places them at 97 Orchard and work our way in both directions, but really, primarily, forward. There was a desire, on the part of the museum, to explore what was a really important history of work in tenement apartments.
So not only is the first job, for many Eastern European Jewish immigrants, in the garment industry, but the ways in which home manufacturing kind of shaped all kinds of things—not only the day-to-day lives of individuals, but debates about the place of immigration in the United States.
People like Harris Levine worked as subcontractors: A manufacturer would provide fabric and designs, while subcontractors provided the necessary labor. The Rogarshevsky family, whose kitchen is shown above, squeezed a large family into three small rooms in the s.
Mom and dad had the back bedroom, they slept in a bed there. The two sisters shared a cot in the kitchen, and the four brothers used the sofa in the parlor as a headboard, put stools in front as the footboard, then balanced planks of wood and bedding on top to create a bed.
According to Favaloro, dime novels like the Western pictured above were popular among young immigrant women in the s. Women like Bessie Rogarshevsky, who was a factory sewing machine operator, would have given the majority of their wages to their parents.
But what they saved was often spent on cheap literature. So we used that to tell that story. But the popular folk music of the time also encapsulated some of the discrimination Irish immigrants habitually faced. The apartments, he explains, are designed to look as though their residents could return at any minute: That wasn't the case for the museum, though.
In other cases, artifacts were donated by the real families whose lives are depicted by the museum. Descendants of the Baldessis, the family of Italian immigrants who lived in the tenement up until it was condemned in the s, are in frequent contact with the Tenement Museum.
Before passing away in the late s, Josephine provided the museum with extensive family oral histories; she also donated the photographs above. That type of lighting became standard at that point, and inexpensive enough that it made sense to replace. Others, meanwhile, were made to compete with the landlords of neighboring buildings.
Or how can you charge a few cents more in rent? All photos courtesy of Sherry Hochbaum.The Customs lists did not have as much information about passengers as did the Immigration lists, and the fire is the reason that the New York Immigration passenger lists begin with arrivals on June 16, , instead of with arrivals.
It provides context for the Jewish immigrant experience in that period and introduces students to the different types of characters they will be meeting during game play (workers, activists, and manufacturers, to name a few).
Jewish Women's Archive. SPOILER ALERT: Many settled on New York City’s Lower East Side, where they lived in.
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