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View from the Brooklyn Tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, 1909

View from the Brooklyn Tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, 1909

Remember the opening of Welcome Back Kotter with the shot of the sign that reads, "Brooklyn, 4th Largest City in America"? Well, what was true in the 1970s was also true in the turn of the Twentieth Century. Seen from the top of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1909, Brooklyn is clearly a thriving industrial metropolis, a worthy companion to her sister across the river. Had the five boroughs not consolidated into Greater New York in 1898 and remained independent cities, Brooklyn would today be the largest of them.

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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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East 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue, 1901

East 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue, 1901

In 1901, the great crossroads of 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway had not yet taken its final form. The Flatiron Building, also known as the Fuller Building, was just beginning construction. In this black and white turn of the century image, the only sign of the iconic skyscraper is the fence around the construction site. The Heinz 57 ad on the side of the Cumberland Hotel was about to be hidden forever.

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