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Published on Feb 26, 2009
Photographed May 1, 1903. Thomas A. Edison, Inc. Camera: James Blair Smith
This scene is possibly between Clinton St. and Ridge St. At the turn of the century, this area was the center of commerce for New York's Jewish and Eastern European ghetto. According to a description in a 1901 newspaper, an estimated 1,500 pushcart peddlers were licensed to sell wares (primarily fish) in the vicinity of Hester Street. At one point the camera seems to follow three official looking men (one in a uniform) as they walk among the crowd. They may be New York City health inspectors, who apparently monitored the fish vendors closely.
Lower East Side Neighborhood in Manhattan, bounded to the north by 14th Street, to the east by the East River, to the south by Fulton and Franklin streets, and to the west by Pearl Street and Broadway; it comprehends the East Village, Chinatown, Little Italy, Tompkins Square, Astor Place, and the housing development Knickerbocker Village. The first tenements in the city were erected near Corlear's Hook in 1833, and Irish immigrants settled in the northern section along the Bowery. Kleindeutschland developed north of Houston Street in the 1840s. The 1880s saw an influx of Italians, Jews from Eastern Europe, Russians, Romanians, Hungarians, Ukranians, Slovaks, Greeks, and Poles. One of the largest ethnic enclaves was a Jewish one that in 1920 had a population of 400,000. Pushcart vendors sold inexpensive clothing and ethnic food on Orchard Street, and household items on Grand Street. - (excerpts) Graham Hodges / Encyclopedia of New York City - Edited by Kenneth T. Jackson
New York City in 1903: The Coney Island Polar Bears Club is founded / Jamaica Race Track opens on April 27 / St. Vincent's Hospital opens on Staten Island / The New York Stock Exchange moves to 8 Broad St. on April 22 / The first permanent municipal playground in the country opens in Manhattan's Seward Park / On October 24th, 10 workers died in the IRT's worst construction disaster when the roof of the Fort George Tunnel collapsed. A total of 54 workers died building the IRT
Recommended reading: The Lower East Side Remembered & Revisited - Joyce Mendelsohn Portal to America: The Lower East Side 1870-1925 - Allon Schoener