The pushcarts and peddlers of Houston Street

George Luks’ 1916 “Houston Street” shows a fiery, frenzied scene of buying and selling.

In a review of Luks’ work, a 1916 New York Times article gives kudos to some recent paintings, including this one of Houston Street, “blazing with Oriental color,” according to the Times.

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6 Responses to “The pushcarts and peddlers of Houston Street”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Another street that had pushcarts was Avenue C. When I was a kid about 5 years old or so my mother used to drag me to Ave C and do her shopping there. The avenue was lined with pushcarts with people shopping on both sides of the street. One time saw a man swallow a pickle before the pushcart owner saw him and just stroll away. I was amazed by that. I can still see the crowds of people and the overcast day it was. Something out of “Call It Sleep” by Henry Roth.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks for reminding me about Call It Sleep! I haven’t read it since high school but liked it then. Time to revisit it.

  3. Fran Says:

    Does anyone know when the pushcarts on Avenue C were removed.

  4. pete peterson Says:

    Like that you made the past look as it mite be agin ! At least one street in N.Y. mite stay as it was to help the New Yorker’s get what they need!

  5. Lexi Says:

    The Pushcarts and Peddlers of Houston Street brings to mind a way of life on the Lower East Side in the early twentieth century. By 1915 the Lower East Side had become a Jewish neighborhood filled with residents who had immigrated to the US from Russia, Austria, Germany, Romania, Poland, Italy and China. The streets were filled with their children, most of who were born here. The men were trying to earn a living in a country and city that did not have proper employment for them. So, many turned to pushcarts where they would sell things to the people who lived there. These Jewish pushcart entrepreneurs, like immigrants today, worked long hours and knew their customers well. These customers were their neighbors. This often created a pushcart owner-customer relationship that was much more personal than the types of relationships we see in New York today. They often knew each other and knew each other’s families. Some owners would sell something and if the customer could not pay that day, they would allow the customer to pay when they could. No paperwork or credit cards were required. All that they needed was an understanding or a handshake. Push-cart peddlers sold a variety of products such as bandanas, tin cups, pickles, fruits and vegetables, and more! One of the most interesting next generation products was ice. Although ice couldn’t be sold in a pushcart because it had to be kept frozen, it was sold in these neighborhoods too. The iceman would deliver chunks of ice up the stairs to the freezers in the homes of the people who lived on the Lower East Side.

    Tags: Lower East Side, Houston Street, Push Carts, Peddlers, Jewish neighborhood, Ice

  6. A nighttime view of Bleecker and Carmine Streets | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Ashcan School artist and Greenwich Villager George Luks is the painter, and he often depicted immigrant crowds on city street corners. […]

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