A book of “tenement tales” on the city’s poor

When I first came across this vintage ad (or part of a cover?) for J.W. Sullivan’s 1895 book Tenement Tales of New York, I wasn’t sure if it was serious-minded fiction or pulpy stories filled with stereotypes and lurid drama.

Apparently it’s the former—a slim volume chronicling with sensitivity the lives of street kids, factory girls, and immigrant laborers.


James W. Sullivan was a journalist and union organizer active in the growing labor movement of the late 19th century.

His Tenement Tales, one of many books Sullivan wrote about the city’s slum dwellers, “constitute a landmark literary achievement,” stated a chapter in The Irish Voice in America, edited by Charles Fanning.

Amazingly, Tenement Tales of New York is a free download available here. (Its “companion volume, 1895’s Slum Stories of London, is online too.)

[Ad: NYPL Digital Collection]

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11 Responses to “A book of “tenement tales” on the city’s poor”

  1. Bruce R. Gilson Says:

    Anything published prior to 1921 is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. And even books published from 1921 onward (till a date I’m not certain of) needed to be renewed after 28 years if copyright was to continue, so there are more recent books that are out of copyright. A lot of these expired-copyright books are available online and even in print.

  2. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Cool, just downloaded and have an afternoons read. Thanks 😉

  3. Julia Benjamin Says:


  4. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I enjoyed Tenement Tales of New York, see my review: http://mydem.blogspot.com/2014/02/tenement-tales-of-new-york.html

  5. P. Gavan Says:

    Thank you for this link — can’t wait to check it out!

  6. Juliane Biro Says:

    Thanks for this link to an interesting contemporary historical record.

  7. Bookpod Says:

    What a great find. Thank you.

  8. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    You’re welcome!

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