The street vendors who fed a growing city

Cupcake trucks, shawarma stands, dumpling carts—New York’s street grub has come a long way from the wares vendors pushed in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The potatoes for sale in this 1937 photo, at left, don’t look too appetizing. But it was the height of the Great Depression, and a hot spud for a nickel may not have been such a bad deal.

The lowly hot pretzel is still a popular street eat. But at least vendors no longer have to tote them around in wicker baskets, as this man is doing in a 1900 photo.

Here’s an early hot dog merchant, taken in 1936 by Berenice Abbott. She shot it at the corner of Moore and West Streets, the Lower West Side then but Tribeca today.

There must be a lot of ice in that rickety gizmo to keep the lemonade cold all day.

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9 Responses to “The street vendors who fed a growing city”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    In the early 1950s there was a pretzel seller on 14th St and 1st Ave who sold very tasty pretzels, my mouth watered every time I saw him. One day I saw some boys taunted him until they overthrew his basket sending the tasty morsels into the filthy garbage-filled street from which the old bearded Jewish man picked them up one by one, wiped them off, and replaced them to be sold from his basket. I lost my appetite and went on my way, the pretzels didn’t look so tasty after that.

  2. Nabe News: January 12 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] to know the street vendors of yore [Ephemeral […]

  3. Stephen Robertson Says:

    I just did a post on street vendors in 1920s Harlem:

  4. jimmyboi2 Says:

    My great-grandfather in RURAL Brooklyn was an ice man, and then a newspaper collector– complete with horse and wagon that he stabled behind his house on 72nd. Street between Fort Hamilton Parkway and Eighth Avenue in the McKinley Park neighborhood– that’s a small area that’s neither Bay Ridge nor Dyker Heights…

  5. Cathal Henry Says:

    Anyone know anything about Newspaper vendors in 96th st
    and Broadway,NY, 1920’ Martin “Sonny” Haran.

  6. A cider vender at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] vendors at the time were busy selling buttermilk, pretzels, potatoes, and lemonade. It looks like cider was a popular on-the-go beverage […]

  7. Laura4NYC Says:

    wow, the “lower west side”. amazing, I haven’t heard of that one yet.

  8. vincent kelly Says:

    please someone tell me how to make a pretzel like the ones they sold on a stick or with a vendor back in 50’s and 60’s the ones today you find on a street are only bagel dough with rock salt…the pretzels today are all the same …

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