Pity the tenement dwellers outside on a sweltering summer night in 1883

Take a look at this illustration, and you can feel the distress—the relentless nighttime heat that wraps you like a blanket, the airless alley stinking of garbage, and the irritability that comes with spending the night on your tenement roof surrounded by equally miserable neighbors.

Last month I posted an illustration that captured the suffering in the tenements during the heat wave of 1882. This image by illustrator W. A. Rogers, “New York: Heat Wave, 1883,” brings us the same conditions in a different tenement during a different heat wave a year later.

Studying the conditions in the illustration—and the faces, especially of the old woman on the balcony with the fan, and the young mother spread out surrounded by her children—and you’ll really appreciate having an A/C unit or a fan, at the very least!

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12 Responses to “Pity the tenement dwellers outside on a sweltering summer night in 1883”

  1. Tom B Says:

    I remember visiting NYC in July when it was a record high and our air conditioner didn’t work very well at the Metropolitan. We still walked around the City. It didn’t seem so bad as oppose to our home in Florida. It’s not the heat, but the humidity, LOL.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I guess if you’re used to Florida heat and humidity, New York during a heat wave isn’t all that bad!

  2. thomas williams sr. Says:

    always the roof – some relief

  3. tom Says:

    How anyone can love the summer is beyond me

  4. beth Says:


  5. Bobby Says:

    People Stop complaining about Summer in the City. Try living in South Florida where the heat is pathetically oppressive in the months of : JUNE, JULY, AUGUST, SEPTEMBER. Not withstanding the HUMIDITY. I live there on Marco Island and can’t wait to get out of there.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      This is why I can’t join the move-to-Florida trend, among other reasons. But South Florida in the wintertime is actually quite pleasant!

  6. Who can sleep in this heat? – This isnt happiness Says:

    […] Who can sleep in this heat? […]

  7. velovixen Says:

    Like Bobby and ephemeral, I simply can’t imagine myself living in Florida. After my parents moved there, I made two summer visits, mainly because that’s when I had the time. Fortunately, I was able to get work that allowed me to go in January–after the holiday rush.

  8. Glenn MacDonald Says:

    Thanks! Yes even though AC is more carbon, I LOVE IT. I am now going straight to hell. Cheers, Geebo

  9. countrypaul Says:

    Visiting a friend in Miami, he said, “Come out and play with our work softball team.” “It’s August in Florida!” “Yes, but we play early when it’s cool.” So I dragged my tail out of bed for a 6 AM start – at 99 degrees!!! Florida? None for me, thanks – I can live without it!

  10. nhu876 Says:

    My mother lived through the brutal NYC heat wave of July, 1936. It reached 106°F on 07/09/1936, NYC’s hottest day ever.

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