Little

Mulberry Street, 1905, looking north toward Canal Street

Mulberry Street, 1905, looking north toward Canal Street

Those who have read The Godfather or seen The Godfather II will recognize these as the environs of the young Vito Corleone. A hundred years ago, this part of the Lower East Side was Little Italy, teeming with Italian immigrants looking for a better life. Today the immigrants come from a bit further east than Italy -- China, Viet Nam, Thailand -- but it is still a vibrant home for brave souls seeking opportunity and freedom.

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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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