As a die-hard Major League Baseball fan – as well as a former American History major – the idea of potentially seeing the Chicago Cubs in the World Series for the first time has me giddy with excitement. I know, I know, one step at a time. There is no need to rush. But the reality is, if the Cubbies can somehow make it pass the Los Angeles Dodgers – whom are led by their brilliant ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw – we will be watching potential American history unfold. You see, for all of you non-baseball fans out there, the Cubs haven’t actually been to a World Series since 1945. More significantly – and relevant to why I am writing this blog for the Tenement Museum, the Chicago Cubs haven’t actually won a World Series since 1908.
There is no denying the fact that 1908 was a long time ago. That was so long ago, that residents were still living in 97 Orchard Street. That was so long ago, that the Baldizzi family (one of the two families whose story we share on our daily Hard Times tour) are still almost twenty-years away from moving into the building! I mean forget the Baldizzi family, we estimated that the Rogarshevsky family whose story we share on our daily Sweatshop Workers tour had just moved into 97 Orchard Street circa 1907 (the Cubs won the World Series that year too). Even our Meet Victoria Confino tour, which features a costume interpreter playing 14-year old Victoria Confino, takes place in 1916, almost a full decade after the Cubs won a World Championship (the Confino family didn’t actually move into 97 Orchard Street until 1913). So we are potentially on the precipice of making some contemporary American history here.
If the Cubs do in fact make it to the World Series (and I am fully aware that this blog could be jinxing them, though then again I don’t believe in jinxes, just dominate pitching beating dominate hitting in the postseason), there will be a lot of articles written about life in the United States in 1908. There have already been several. However, I was curious about what life looked like here at 97 Orchard Street and in the Lower East Side at this time. This is a crucial time period in the history of this building and one that we spend much time discussing the several tours we offer.
The residents that lived at 97 Orchard Street wouldn’t have heard about the phenomenal Game Five complete game, three-hit shutout by Cubs starter Orval Overall (yes, that was his name, check out the box score here) that clinched the 1908 World Championship until the next day in the newspaper. You have to remember; they didn’t have radios or televisions or even phones in 97 Orchard Street. It was good old fashion print media that caught folks up on the daily events.
A lot of people at 97 Orchard Street would have found out about the news of the Cubs winning the World Series because according to records, the building reached its peak population by this time, with approximately 110 people living in the building. Keep in mind, that is five stories, four apartments each floor. The Lower East Side at this point in time was the most densely populated place in the world. It had transitioned itself from the German dominated immigrant neighborhood of Kleindeutschland in the late 19th Century to a predominately Eastern European Jewish immigrant community.
To say that the world has changed significantly since 1908 is an understatement. Cubs fans have had to hear about this their whole lives. But perhaps – hopefully – in a few weeks, blogs like this will no longer have to be written. Perhaps…
- Post by Jon Pace, Communications Manager at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum