Back to school on the Lower East Side, 1890

Journalist and social reformer Jacob Riis took these photos of Lower East Side kids crammed into a desk-less, crowded, all-boy classroom at the Essex Market School.


This school appears to have been a public school holding classes in the Essex Street jail-court complex, which was slated for demolition in 1905.


“Indeed, the jail filled the title role in the educational cast of that day,” wrote Riis in 1902’s The Battle With the Slum.

“Its inmates were well lodged and cared for, while the sanitary authorities twice condemned the Essex Market school across the way as wholly unfit for children to be in, but failed to catch the ear of the politician who ran things unhindered.”

[Photos: MCNY Collections Portal]

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4 Responses to “Back to school on the Lower East Side, 1890”

  1. Ryann Warnecke Says:

    I can not subscribe for your channel

  2. Tom B Says:

    Can you imagine trying to help and teach the poor kids of today using those strict methods of being quiet and listening to the teacher?

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