The true dynamic of early-1900 New York City is illustrated best by the people who lived, worked and played there. And as far back as 1876, our authentic photo collection shows New Yorkers—immigrants to America arriving through New York Harbor, laborers, professionals, children and street vendors—and a street life like no other.
In this black and white photograph, taken on the Lower East Side around 1910, a pushcart vendor and his customer enjoy a chat. In some ways, this scene is not very different from one you would see today.
In this photo from 1867, this part of the East Village looked pretty rural. Now there's not a tree to be found at this intersection, but two years after the end of the Civil War there were plenty. Here we can see several several horses and carriages, a few pedestrians, a pair of young boys, a few street lamps, and a wrought iron fence surrounding a large house.
This photograph, taken on October 3, 1915, shows the northwest corner of Broadway and West 40th Street. The picture focuses on the shop of Mitchell the Tailor (from Boston), whose store was located at 1431 Broadway. Also included in the photo are the Green Cars, New York City sightseeing tours. A Nygard store occupies the location now, and an entrance to the subway is around the corner.
In this black and white photograph, taken around 1910, we see the entire company of Engine 72, located at 22 East 12th Street, at the site of what is now Cinema Village. Manhattan Engine 72 was organized and disbanded several times between July 1, 1900 and May 1, 1918, when it was permanently disbanded. This photo shows 11 of New York's Bravest standing atop their High Pressure engine.
In this black and white photo, a messenger on the rooftop overlooks the curbmarket activity in Broad Street. This market handled stocks of companies too small to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and eventually grew up to be the American Stock Exchange. At the time of this photo, they were known at the New York Curb Market, and shortly after this photo was taken, they moved indoors to a site on Greenwich Street.
On March 24, 1900, in front of City Hall, Mayor Robert A. Van Wyck broke ground with a silver spade for the Underground Rapid Transit Road. Two days later, the first actual work on the subway was begun at the intersection of Bleecker and Greene Streets, by William Barclay Parsons, the Chief Engineer, and James Pilkington, the contractor who would reroute the sewers. Here we see Parsons take a pickax to the pavement, surrounded by a crowd of onlookers.
Back when the South Street Seaport had yet to be turned into a tourist attraction and mall, carts like this could be found selling their wares along the pier. This Oyster Seller is offering free ice water to all -- although it probably tastes a little fishy.
The residents of Chinatown were nothing if not patriotic in 1905. Here we see Doyers Street, looking north toward Pell Street, festooned with 48-star American Flags. The photographer and the three boys are standing around the midpoint of the street at a location known as the bloody angle. This location, largely due to Chinese gang wars, which lasted from the early 1900s through the end of the 1930s, is reputed to be site of more violent deaths than any other intersection in the U.S.
Women freight-handlers at the docks of the Bush Terminal, Brooklyn. During World War II, male laborers places at the Brooklyn wharves were being filled by women. Here, instead of Rosie the Riveter, we have the "Longshoregirls."
In this very grainy photo from before the turn of the Twentieth Century, we see a man selling ice cream outside of 185 East Broadway, the offices of the Jewish Daily News or Yiddishe Tageblatt. At the time of this photograph the Jewish Daily News had a circulation of 13,400, and published in both Yiddish and English. It was one of many Jewish newspapers published in New York City at this time. Across the street from the ice cream vendor, out of the frame of the photo, was a condemned property belonging to the Ludlow Street Jail.