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.

Girls on the Parachute Jump, 1955

Girls on the Parachute Jump, 1955

Two young women hang suspended above Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn.  The beach and boardwalk below them are crowded with men and women strolling or sunbathing.  The Parachute Jump, originally built for the 1939 World's Fair, is an icon of Coney Island.  Although it ceased operating in 1968, the structure is in the United States Register of Historic Places, and still stands today.

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Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1932

Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1932

The beach and boardwalk is crowded on this summer day in 1932.  Notice how many of the men and women strolling along the boardwalk are wearing hats and jackets, despite the warmth evidenced by other men in short-sleeved shirts and the abundance of sunbathers.  Aside from the mode of dress, Coney Island wouldn't look much different in the summer today.

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Columbus Circle at Night, c. 1920

Columbus Circle at Night, c. 1920

The silhouetted hansom cab and driver look like they could be cruising for a fare in Victorian London, but this is a rainy night in post-war (the Great War, that is) New York.  The driver, parked along a slick, deserted Central Park South, looks west toward the bustle and lights of Eight Avenue and Columbus Circle.  The dark monument to Columbus stands in sharp contrast to the luminance of the surrounding commerce.

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Pretzel seller at Broadway and Beaver St, 1961

Pretzel seller at Broadway and Beaver St, 1961

The street vendor is a great New York City tradition.  Here, a couple of Wall Streeters grab a quick snack at lunch hour from a pretzel vendor at the corner of Broadway and Beaver St.

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Construction of Streetcar Tracks, 1900

Construction of Streetcar Tracks, 1900
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Zookeeper and Chimps, c. 1910

Zookeeper and Chimps, c. 1910
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Shadows on the Avenue, c. 1930

Shadows on the Avenue, c. 1930

People walk along Fifth Avenue, casting long shadows, in the low sun of a winter's day, c. 1930.  Those who know contemporary New York will be surprised to see Fifth Avenue as a two way street.  Since 1966, Fifth Avenue below 135th Street has been southbound only.  Aside from the style of dress, however, pedestrian traffic along the avenue remains largely unchanged.

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Ironworker Rides the Chains, 1912

Ironworker Rides the Chains, 1912

An ironworker, erecting a skyscraper, rides the chains, 800 feet above Broadway, 1912.

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Children and Toy Horse on Ellis Island, 1920

Children and Toy Horse on Ellis Island, 1920

Immigrant child rides a toy horse on Ellis Island, while other children look on, 1920.

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The Ritter Painless Dental Company, 1905

Ritter the Painless Dentist, 1905

View of the Ritter Dental building at Third Avenue and Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, 1905.  The Ritter Painless Dental Company specialized in cut-rate dental care.  The "It Didn't Hurt A Bit" Kid on the billboard outside was an early pre-cursor to Alfred E. Neuman, the face of MAD Magazine.  And for those whose literary tastes are a bit more serious, take a look on the right past the Dental Building to the optometrist's office across the street.  Anyone reminded of The Great Gatsby?

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