New York City ghetto fish market in 1903 was a very busy place

The New York City ghetto fish market was bustling with activity on this day as the film taken by Thomas Edison company in 1903 reveals.

The streets are crowded

The view, photographed from an elevated camera position, looks down on a very crowded New York City street market. Rows of pushcarts and street vendors’ vehicles can be seen. The precise location is difficult to ascertain, but it is certainly on the Lower East Side, probably on or near Hester Street, which at the turn of the century was the center of commerce for New York’s Jewish ghetto.

Predominantly Russian

Located south of Houston Street and east of the Bowery, the ghetto population was predominantly Russian, but included immigrants from Austria, Germany, Rumania and Turkey.

According to a description in a 1901 newspaper, an estimated 1,500 pushcart peddlers were licensed to sell wares (primarily fish) in the vicinity of Hester Street. At one point the film seems to follow three official looking men (one in a uniform) as they walk among the crowd. They may be New York City health inspectors, who apparently monitored the fish vendors closely.

SOURCE

  1. Edison Film Company, Library of Congress

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