People and Professions

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.

Memorial Day in the Bronx, circa 1890

Memorial Day in the Bronx, circa 1890

Memorial Day began in both the North and the South, following the Civil War, as a day to honor soldiers who had died in military service. Initially, the holiday was called Decoration Day, after the practice of decorating the graves of the fallen soldiers, but in 1882, not long before this photograph was taken, the name of the holiday was changed to Memorial Day. In this picture, we see the remaining members of Union Regiment 73 taking part in a Memorial Day Parade on Tremont Avenue in the Bronx.

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You've Come a Long Way, Baby, Since 1930!

You've Come a Long Way, Baby, Since 1930!

Around 1930, the Women's International Smoking Club hosted its first "smoker." These two women can be seen enjoying a smoke and furthering the cause. Unfortunately, their efforts toward putting women on more equal footing with men, who had been enjoying "smokers" for quite some time, had some unforeseen consequences.

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Showgirls Charleston Down Fifth Avenue, c. 1924

Showgirls Charleston Down Fifth Avenue, c. 1924

It could be a scene out of a Fitzgerald novel. Seven showgirls in furs, one of them toting balloons, dance the Charleston down Fifth Avenue, while pedestrians watch. The dance was popularized by the Broadway show, Runnin' Wild, which ran from October 1923 through June 1924. Although the show ran only briefly, the dance continued to gain popularity and even today brings to mind Flappers and the Roaring Twenties.

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Immigrants Awaiting Examination, Ellis Island, c. 1910

Immigrants Awaiting Examination, Ellis Island, c. 1910

This crowd of immigrants waits in line at Ellis Island to be examined before being admitted to the United States. Their clothing bespeaks their relative wealth, compared to many others who passed through this way-station. Regardless of their economic means, these were incredible people, willling to leave everything behind in search of a better life.

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Joe Dimaggio Takes Batting Practice, 1938

Joe Dimaggio Takes Batting Practice, 1938

Joltin' Joe Dimaggio takes a swing for the photographer during batting practice. 1938, the year of this photo, would be the Yankee Clipper's third year with the team and would be his third World Series. Coincidence?

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Shoeshine Boys in Little Italy, c. 1900

Shoeshine Boys in Little Italy, c. 1900

In this photo from the turn of the last century, shoeshine boys gather in Columbus Park, in what used to be Little Italy, to play marbles. While their poverty is evident -- one of the boys has no shoes -- they seem like pretty normal kids. Some of them smile charmingly at the camera, while others eye it with suspicion. 

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A Walk in the Rain, 1938

A Walk in the Rain, 1938

In this sweet old picture from the late 1930s, a mother and daughter walk hand in hand down a Manhattan avenue during a rain shower. The mother holds an umbrella overhead; the daugher holds a rose in her hand, oblivious to the rain.

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Photographing New York City, 1905

Photographing New York City, 1905

In this black and white photograph taken in 1905, a man with a camera perches on a steel girder at East 19th Street and Fifth Avenue. The viewer looks north, towards the Flatiron Building, while photographer shoots west. Lord & Taylor can be seen between the girder and the photographer's dangling leg. Lord & Taylor, which is the oldest upscale retail department store in the United States, moved to the Ladies' Mile location you see here in 1870, more than three decades before the construction of the Flatiron Building three blocks north.

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A Crowd of Men Ogles Enormous Breasts in Times Square, 1948

A Crowd of Men Ogles Enormous Breasts in Times Square, 1948
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Erecting a Skyscraper, 1907

Erecting a Skyscraper, 1907

Three iron workers take a break from constructing the Singer Building on a girder high above Liberty Street. The Singer Building was the headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine Company and, from its completion in 1908 until the completion of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower in 1909, was the tallest building in the world. Thanks to fearless men like this that was a record that was continually broken during the early part of the Twentieth Century.  The Singer Building was demolished in 1968 and is now the site of 1 Liberty Plaza.

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