OUT OF MULBERRY STREET by Jacob A. Riis
STORIES OF TENEMENT LIFE IN NEW YORK CITY
Imagine it’s 1880. The Lower East Side of New York City is the most densely populated place on earth…block after block of tenements house the working poor as well as unemployed immigrants of the city, including Italians, Irish, Germans, Jews, Czechs and Chinese. Imagine the darkness of an unlit hallway in one of those tenements, a hallway that’s lined with windowless rooms, 10 feet square, where entire families live and may even work…sewing, laundering, making hats, etc. At this time, 40% of New York City’s population is foreign born. (I think it’s about the same today.)
This is the backdrop for the written snapshots of life in the Lower Manhattan tenements of the 1800’s, as seen through the eyes of someone who was an immigrant …the author of this book. Although Riis’ writing style is different from our norm, it’s well worth the effort to read the different stories of the individuals who lived in this area. The lack of decent housing, medical care, education, sanitation and life’s basic comforts for these immigrants bordered on criminal. Most of the clips this journalist, reformer and photographer shares are sad…some are heartbreaking…all are factual.
*Please CLICK on each photo to enlarge.
Any reader whose ancestors immigrated to America through Ellis Island in New York City- whether they stayed in New York or passed through to other cities- should have a greater appreciation of what these people endured to provide for their families…and build a future for ours. While these Lower East Side neighborhoods that Jacob Riis documented have been transformed into fabulously lucrative real estate, his work still resonates on a global level. I really enjoyed the in-depth look at pieces of the lives my ancestors endured, but this book isn’t for everyone…only those who are curious about the beginnings of city life in big cities in the USA.