The great New York tradition of slumming it

Of course, there’s nothing new about the rich and privileged partying it up in poor sections of the city: It’s been a popular activity since at least 1884.

That’s when The New York Times (arguably in one of its first Styles section–type pieces) wrote about this latest rage.

“Slumming in This Town,” the Times headline read. “A fashionable London mania reaches New-York.”

“‘Slumming,’ the latest fashionable idiosyncrasy in London—i.e. the visiting of the slums of the great city by parties of ladies and gentlemen for sightseeing—is mildly practiced here by our foreign visitors by a tour of the Bowery, winding up with a visit to an opium joint or Harry Hill’s.”

Harry Hill’s, (above sketch from the NYPL digital collection), was a renowned East Houston Street saloon that featured theater and bare-knuckle boxing.

“It is safe to conclude under the circumstances that “slumming” will become a form of fashionable dissapation this winter among our belles, as our foreign cousins will always be ready to lead the way.”

[Above, a photo from Valentine’s City of New York guidebook of the East Side’s “Italian Quarter”]

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5 Responses to “The great New York tradition of slumming it”

  1. michael Says:

    I’d like to jump on the bandwagon but no one ever wants to take day trips with me to East New York and Brownsville.

  2. Nabe News: October 20 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] styles piece in the Times: “‘Slumming,’ the latest fashionable idiosyncrasy in London—i.e. the visiting […]

  3. Mr.J Says:

    This is depicted in Gangs of New York…kinda sorta…I think………….maybe…

  4. Slumming it with the 1898 Bowery Burlesquers | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] we could go back in time and buy tickets for this musical theater number, which poked fun at the new pastime of slumming—upper class New York curiosity seekers checking out the Bowery and other down-and-out city […]

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