March’s Visitor of the Month
March 27, 2014

Our visitors are what make the Tenement Museum the thriving and growing place that it is today. Since we appreciate our visitors very much, every month, we’ll give a shout out to a special visitor (or visitors) to the Tenement Museum! It’s our Visitor of the Month. If you’d like to be one of our Visitors of the Month, just ask your friendly Tenement Museum Staff Member!

Meet Wayne and Pam Steadman of Asbury Park, NJ. They are members of the Tenement Museum who came to take our Irish Outsiders tour in January.

Wayne and Pam Steadman in our Visitors Center at 103 Orchard.

Wayne is a retired engineer for Mobil Oil (now ExxonMobil) and Pam is a retired teacher who is currently working as a playwright; she wants to write a play about someone who comes to a museum.

They became members after taking their first tour, Shop Life. Wayne thought it was fascinating to learn how the Orchard Street business district has changed so many times, from being filled with lager beer saloons to being filled with discount underwear stores. Pam was impressed at Caroline Schneider’s ability to take care of her family, run a business, and cook for all of their guests while living in such a small apartment.

The Schneider kitchen in the recreated apartment in the Museum.

They said they love the museum because it really allows you to put yourselves in the immigrants’ shoes.

The Irish Outsiders tour left both Wayne and Pam with lasting impressions. The Irish wake most effected Pam; her grandmother, who was Irish, never talked about death or went to funerals at all. Wayne was struck by the similarities between Irish immigrants in the 19th Century and Hispanic immigrants to the United States today, “The issues on immigrants haven’t changed at all,” he said, “because people don’t change.” He went on to quote president Harry Truman: “‘There’s nothing new in the world except for the history you haven’t read.'”

An advertisement for the American Citizen, a Nativist Newspaper, circa 1852. The paper claims to be opposed to "being taxed for the support of Foreign paupers millions of dollars yearly." This was an often repeated idea that Irish immigrants would come to the United States and be a 'drain on tax dollars' by needing government assistance. Image courtesy the Library of Congress.

The Irish-controlled political machine known as Tammany Hall reminded him of a story his mother, who grew up on Avenue A, told him about greasing the wheels of New York City government; if she wanted to receive her driver’s license quickly, she should keep a $10 bill visibly sticking out of her pocket at the DMV. And it worked! The clerk took the money and gave her driver’s license.

After their tour, Pam and Wayne visited our bookstore where they bought two mugs and three books: Ellis Island, by Kate Kerrigan; 97 Orchard: An Edible History, by Jane Ziegelman, and Up from Orchard Street. They took them home in a Tenement tote bag.

Thanks for coming, Wayne and Pam!

– Posted by Colin Kennedy