The Lower East Side ghetto on market day

I don’t know exactly when this postcard was created or even what street it depicts. Rivington or Stanton are my guesses.

What’s remarkable is that the Lower East Side of the turn of the last century was commonly known as “The Ghetto”—a term that today sounds so loaded and inflammatory, though back then may have simply described the heavily Jewish part of any large American or European city.

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3 Responses to “The Lower East Side ghetto on market day”

  1. T.J. Connick Says:

    A view of Hester Street, looking west from, but not showing, Norfolk. The entire block facing Hester (ending at the 3-story white building at the corner of Essex) would in several years become the gargantuan P.S. 62.

    Drawn from a photograph (c. 1898) by the Byron Company. Find it at Museum of the City of New York’s site; their “accession number” for the shot is

    “Ghetto” wasn’t, strictly — or even loosely — speaking, the proper term for the neighborhood, as many contemporaries were well aware. But it stuck for some time, and was probably at high water at the time of the photo.

  2. Nathan Says:

    I’ll take T.J.’s word for it, but my first reaction was that I didn’t see anybody (or anything) in the picture that seemed distinctly Jewish. In fact, I was leaning toward thinking it was an Italian neighborhood. Unless it’s a particularly homely woman, the guy in red on the extreme left of the frame looks like Catholic clergy to me.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks TJ and Nathan. I too wasn’t sure it was a Jewish ghetto–but other documents and photos at the time seemed to use that word specifically to describe Jewish enclaves on the LES. But maybe it had a broader meaning?

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