Posts Tagged ‘New York City ghetto’

“The Ghetto” on a 1926 Manhattan map

February 12, 2013

I wonder when “ghetto” went from being a perfectly acceptable name for a Jewish enclave in a big city to a word that feels derogatory, almost slanderous?

This 87-year-old map doesn’t use the word as a term of reproach, and countless newspaper articles and postcards from the late 19th and early 20th century refer to the then–heavily Jewish Lower East Side as New York’s Jewish Ghetto.


To contemporary readers, though, it can be jarring to see it on a reproduction of an innocuous map like this one.

Published by Fuessle & Colman, it depicts “the wondrous isle of Manhattan,” with the scale “all askew,” as the legend on the bottom right-hand side proudly states.

The Lower East Side ghetto on market day

July 20, 2011

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.