A Visit to the New Jewish Market – Lower East Side, New York, 1900

Jewish Market - Lower East Side

New York in 1900 was a city of immigrants, the gateway for immigration from Europe. Newcomers tended to settle in neighborhoods where they could preserve some of the customs and traditions of their homelands. So there were neighborhoods that were primarily Polish and east European, others that were primarily Italian. The lower east side was home to a predominantly Jewish population. Each of these cultures and nationalities contributed to the vibrant mosaic of New York City, but they also formed little cities within the great City.


Journey back in time today on this market day and browse the stalls. Look at the clothes and groceries for sale in this open air market that goes all the way down the street. Hunt for bargains and try to get the best deal on the latest gadget for the home, or delicacy. Imagine the vibrant sounds, the laughter of happy people, and the haggling of merchants and customers.


Look closely at this color photograph from 1900 and see the life of a great city flowing by:


Shoppers at the Market

A closeup showing greater detail of the street scene. We can make out the kids scampering around the stalls, the women in pretty dresses shopping for deals, and the well dressed men, all captured in a moment in time this beautiful day in 1900 New York.

Now look at the buildings on each side of the street. Some are finely constructed, while others seem run down. The housing conditions for new immigrants, in crowded, expensive New York were not always ideal.


New York apartments

View of the apartment buildings along the street. Colorful awnings and drapes can be seen.

So now it is time to end our tour of 1900 New York and this lovely market. I hope that you found what you were looking for.



The Iceman Cometh

blocks of ice

Two happy girls are delivering large blocks of ice.


What better way to keep cool in than with these giant blocks of ice, delivered by two smiling girls. It is 1918 and since you don’t have a refrigerator, you will need to order ice and fill your icebox or cellar with it. Every time your block of ice melts, you will need to order some more. It certainly makes you appreciate modern refrigerators, even though the old system was a lot more environmentally friendly since it avoided using the freon and other gases that make today’s refrigerators work.

In the old days, ice would be cut during the winter and then kept in a warehouse, packed in hay to insulate it to keep it from melting.


cutting ice

This is a picture of men cutting blocks of ice on the lake. The photo was taken in the 1800s but the methods had not changes much over the years. The ice harvested in this way would be the iceman’s inventory which he would deliver on a regular schedule to his customers, in much the same way that the milkman would deliver bottles. In this case, though, there is no iceman but two girls lifting the huge blocks of ice. This is because it is World War 1 and the men are off to fight, so women are filling the jobs that they traditionally did. It looks like the one on the left is especially enjoying her job.


Wartime labour shortages led to women joining the workforce in unprecedented numbers. We often think of World War 2’s Rosy the Riveter as the typical woman entering the work force during the war years. And while it is true that many women were hired to work in factories, they were also needed to work on farms, in stores and in physically demanding jobs like delivering chunks of ice.

World War 1 was the first time that women in Canada, Britain and the United States entered the paid work force outside of the home in significant numbers. After the war, many of these women had to give up their jobs when the men they had replaced returned from the war. However their experience in the workforce led to redefining the role of women and contributed to women gaining the right to vote.

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