Picturing the City: New York in the 19th and 20th Century

 Anthony Punch 111385471

 

Photographs in Digital Archive
 

New York in the 19th century was a burgeoning city of commerce, industry and finance. Between 1800 and 1900, the population rose drastically in the city and many new experiences and practices developed for the urban population at this time. Methods of communication were improved and with the growth of railways and steam ships in the late 19th century, the other side of the world wasn’t as unreachable as before. The city began to modernize itself and through regulations which control, the people became disciplined. Actions such as queuing for a bus were new, as was being put on hold on the telephone, over the course of these two centuries. Modernity led to the re-orientation of public experiences, and the remaking of spatial practices.

New York City 1918 Evidence of how New York was considered exceptional, and it is easy to see how people would have been amazed by the growth of this city. Lighting, transport, and general hustle and bustle

New York: The Wonder City 1918
Evidence of how New York was considered exceptional, and it is easy to see how people would have been amazed by the growth of this city. Lighting, transport, and general hustle and bustle. What effect would this have had on people?? Walter Benjamin said that ‘Metropolis intensified emotional life.’ We take things such as instant communication, electricity, and transport for granted today but it is important to remember that these were all new experience for the urban population of the 19th century.

 

Along with this modernisation came increased immigration and more new experiences for locals. Mulberry Street 1900 was now an economic centre, and more discipline would have been learned. Downsides included the increasing amount of slums

Mulberry Street, New York City 1900

Mulberry Street, New York City 1900 (308×255)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Immigrants would compete with each other (English, Irish, Dutch etc.) and more recent arrivals(Jewish, Russian) for space and economic opportunity. This is an example of the reconfiguration of public spaces, with a street becoming an economic centre for these people. The population of New York was still booming in 1900 and would grow further.

 

New York became a city characterized by extremes in wealth and poverty. The progress being made, commercially, industrially and technologically in these centuries was massive but this gap was becoming a problem, with the amount of slums, and homeless people particularly children, a big issue.

 

Index

New York City at night (1934)                                                                                                                A beautiful image of the lit up city. Rewind 100 years, who would have imagined this?? The appeal of the city was growing, quality of life and conditions were improving for a large number of people. technology was playing a part in people’s lives, society was changing, and an Urban Transformation was taking place.

 

One person who captured these new experiences on camera was Jacob A. Riis, a Danish immigrant who came to New York as a journalist in 1870. He took many photos of the big slums which had developed and he highlighted many young homeless people. Of all the new experiences and practices for urban people in these two centuries, I think the increase in poverty levels is by far the most striking, and we can see this in the following photograph.

 

Homeless children, beggars  A sharp contrast to the glamorous city portrayed in the above photo, and the same contrast still existed towards the end of the 20th century New York, 1870 A sharp contrast even to the immigrant economy photo above, and especiialy to the glamorous nighlights photo.

Homeless children, beggars. Three young boys, hungry and miserable.
A sharp contrast to the glamorous city portrayed in the above photo, and the same contrast still existed towards the end of the 20th century
New York, 1870

Towards the end of the 20th century, New York was one of the leading cities globally, the population was over 7.5 million and the economy was thriving. (Census 1990) No doubt, city life has changed, many new experiences and practices then, now define the lives of people. A simple phone call, trip to the cinema, a photo, street lighting, text messages, were all introduced over these two centuries and we would feel stranded without them today but still many people don’t get to experience these new practices very often.

Is it all worth it?

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Donosh, M, 1998. Those "Gorgeous Incongruities": Polite Politics and Public Space on the Streets of 19th Century New York. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 88 No.2, 209-226.

 

Online
NYPL Digital Collections. 2014. NYPL. [ONLINE] Available at: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/. [Accessed 05 November 14].
New York Health. 1999. Census New York. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.health.ny.gov/statistics/vital_statistics/1999/table02.htm. [Accessed 06 November 14].
PetaPixel. 2013. Riis Photography: How the Other Half Lives: Photographs of NYC’s Underbelly in the 1890s. [ONLINE] Available at: http://petapixel.com/2013/06/16/how-the-other-half-lives-photographs-of-nycs-underbelly-in-the-1890s/. [Accessed 04 November 14].
World Digital Library. 2014. Digital Photo Archive. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.wdl.org/en/search/?q=new+york&ddc=9&time_periods=1950-2010&qla=en. [Accessed 05 November 14].
National Archives. 2014. Pictures of theAmerican City. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.archives.gov/research/american-cities/. [Accessed 05 November 14].
Vincze Miklos. 2014. Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age. [ONLINE] Available at: http://io9.com/slum-life-in-new-york-city-during-the-nineteenth-centu-1584688488. [Accessed 06 November 14].
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