THE TENEMENT MUSEUM HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2017

The Tenement Museum has a wide array of books, housewares, gifts, knick-knacks, and memorabilia to make your holiday season one for the history books! Everyone likes getting gifts, but is there anything better than being known among your friends and family as the person who gets everyone the perfect present? We’re here to help your claim that title, my friend, with our unique collection of gifts for all the HOSTS, NEW YORKERS, TRAVELERS, and KIDS in your life!
 
 
 
 
For the HOST…

Whether you’re having friends and family over, or you want to thank a loved one for opening up their home, we have the perfect items to make hosting a breeze.

  • Click to purchase: Little Book of Jewish Appetizers, $18.95

 
 
 
For the NEW YORKER…


Stuff you won’t find at an airport gift shop! We at the Tenement Museum know there’s no such thing as a singular type of New Yorker. You don’t have to be born here to love this city, or these gifts.

  • Click to purchase: Brownstone Candle, $34.99

 
 
 
 
For the TRAVELER…


Here are all the basic necessities to help your wanderlust-filled loved ones set out on new adventures and craft new memories in 2018.

  • Click to purchase: See The World 2018 Planner, $14.99

 
 
 

For the KIDS…


We don’t have Tenement Museum fidget spinners (though keep an eye out for the 2018 Holiday Gift Guide!) but hopefully this collection of books, toys, and activities will keep the kids entertained for at least 30 minutes.

  • Click to purchase: This Book is a Planetarium, $40

 
 

Happy shopping, and happy holidays from the Tenement Museum!

 

The Gunfight at Rivington Street

On a warm Tuesday night in 1903, the Levine family was most likely settling in for a much-needed night’s rest. If you’ve taken our “Sweatshop Workers” tour, you’ll know that Harris Levine ran a sweatshop out of his tiny apartment at 97 Orchard Street. His wife, Jenny, spent her long days cooking, cleaning, and caring for their five children, one of whom, Fay, had only just recently been born. This is a family that needed their sleep, but one can imagine that on the night of September 15, 1903, their dreams were interrupted by the thunderous sound of gunfire and destruction only a block away. 

For on Rivington Street and Allen Street, a bloody gang shootout was in full-swing between the Lower East Side’s Eastman Gang and the rival Five Points Gang. The battle lasted for hours, a culmination of conflict between the two gangs over territory and criminal opportunities. There’s no doubt that, if Harris and Jenny were jarred awake that night, they would have known exactly who was causing all that trouble. 

Edward “Monk” Eastman ran his Jewish-American gang beginning in the 1890s. The 1,200 or so “Eastmans” ran brothels, protection rackets, and drug rings on the Lower East Side, as well as murder-for-hire. They were associated with the corrupt politicians at Tammany Hall, who would turn a blind eye to their criminal activities in exchange for their services.  

The Five Points Gang was run by an Italian-American named Paul Kelly, formed out of the remnants of earlier 19th century gangs like the Dead Rabbits and the Whyos. They were an army of about 1,500, entrenched in robberies, racketeering, prostitution rings, and also worked as strong-arm men for Tammany Hall. When they finally waned in 1910, they helped train the next generation of mob bosses, such as Johnny Torrio, Lucky Luciano, and Al Capone. 

September 15th was a hot day, a busy day. It was Election Day, and a ceasefire had been issued across New York City. Both gangs had been instructed by Tammany Hall to help secure their votes, by whatever means necessary. This typically entailed intimidation and voter fraud – submitting voting slips for people who didn’t exist, or who weren’t able to vote.  

After fulfilling their “civic duty”, these Bowery toughs were looking to unwind. The first fight started when about 40 of Eastman’s men entered Livingston’s saloon on 1st Avenue and 1st Street. Immediately, they got into altercations with some men already inside, resulting in one man, Anton Bernhauer, being shot through both cheeks by an Eastman gang member. According to The Evening World paper which came out the following day, Bernhauer had been trying to leave when he’d caught the bullet, and had been “spitting out his teeth as he ran” all the way to the Bellevue Hospital. 

The fighting spilled out into the streets and over blocks, fueled by previous aggressions and probably a lot of liquor. The worst occurred just before midnight, when about six members of the Eastman gang stumbled upon an equal number of Five Pointers, getting ready to rob an Eastman-run card game beneath the elevated subway on Allen Street.  

Beneath the Allen St. subway, by Berenice Abbott

Nowadays, Allen Street is a flowery, sunny, wide street with winding bike and pedestrian paths, and benches and tables to stop and take it all in. But in 1903, Allen was known as “the street of perpetual shadow,” both because of the constant darkness beneath the elevated railroad tracks and for all the crime and prostitution that went on there.  

As soon as the gangs saw each other, weapons were drawn and the firefight began, shots firing indiscriminately. More gangsters hightailed it to the battle, so that by the time the first cops tried to intervene, there were roughly fifty men all shooting at each other (though they did take a quick break to shoot at the first two cops instead). The gangs had turned out the streetlamps, and in the shadows the only lights were the sparks of bullets ricocheting off the ironworks.  

By midnight, the number had raised to 100 gang members, firing at each other beneath the train tracks and stretching out over several blocks. At one point, Monk Eastman himself arrived and began directing the shooting like an army officer (some foreshadowing, as Monk would later enlist in the armed forces and become something of a war hero during WWI), and though Paul Kelly had not been recorded as being there, it’s unlikely that he’d miss such an event. Finally, reserves from several police stations arrived, banded together like an army themselves, and stormed Rivington Street. For a good fifteen minutes, there was nothing but the sound of shooting. Men were even reported on the rooftops, throwing bricks down at police officers.  

Eventually, the gang members dispersed and only a few were arrested, including Monk Eastman. He claimed he’d just been a bystander passing through, and with no one willing to bear witness to the event, he was set free, along with most of the other members of his gang. In the end, only two men died from the event, both Five Pointers: John Carroll, who was shot by a detective, and Michael Donovan, who had been shot in the stomach and refused to identify the man who shot him, saying, “I know who shot me, and when I get out, I’ll fix em.” Several more were injured, including one of Eastman’s chief lieutenants, George “Lolly” Meyers. Meyers had been one of the few arrested, and hadn’t said anything about the bullets lodged in both legs as he was moved around from place to place and examined by policemen and lawyers. His injuries were only discovered a full 24-hours later, when the pain was too much for him to bear silently any longer.  

The next morning, the residents of the Lower East Side, including the Levines, could see the evidence of the night’s previous battle. Many of the windows of nearby tenements had been broken, and there was clear damage to the ironworks of the subway track and to the trains that ran overhead as the fighting went on. Public outrage over the incident made it difficult for politicians to keep turning a blind eye to the goings-on of their criminal allies, and a city-wide crackdown was issued against all gang members, including the Eastmans and the Five Pointers. But crime never truly lessened because of it, and when the Levines finally moved out of 97 Orchard the following year, the safety of their family was likely one crucial factor to finding a new home.  

Rivington and Allen Streets in 2017

An Updated History of the Undocumented Immigrant

This is the small boat of the Immigration Service which carried aliens from the pier to Ellis Island. Sometimes the number of immigrants waiting was so great, that they waited for several days and nights before the little ferry boat could bring them to the island. Photo-study by Lewis W. Hine

by Lewis Hine

Immigration is very much on everyone’s mind this week with the announcement of the Trump Administration’s decision to end President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. It’s a decision that puts the future of 800,000 immigrants in jeopardy, as it affects their homes, their education, and their jobs. The threat of deportation is very real for these 800,000 young people, who have only ever known America as their home. Government policy has a longstanding history in the United States of both embracing and keeping out immigrants, of both reuniting families and tearing them apart. But an understanding of this history is the only way in which to learn from it, which is why we strive every day to tell this story.

When we talk about immigrants at the Tenement Museum, our intent is to find a common understanding of the American Dream, whether that dream was realized in 1874 or 2017. We seek to inform our visitors with the stories of everyday immigrants trying to make a life for themselves. We hope that by learning of their dreams and the trials they overcame, our visitors might come to a conclusion themselves for a question we often pose on our tours: What does it mean to be American?

A group of Slavic immigrants register many shades of emotion. The baby salutes his new home - quite a family group. Photo-study by Lewis W. Hine

by Lewis Hine

Because the families we talk about only lived at 97 Orchard from 1863 to1935, we typically reserve the legal facts to the immigration laws that might have affected them specifically. We might discuss how, before the late 1800s, the U.S. had few immigration policies. The American Immigration Council (AIC) points out that it is impossible to judge where someone’s ancestors who came here at that time did so “legally,” as there was a period when there were not many ways to immigrate here “illegally.” As the AIC notes, “most of our ancestors would not have qualified under today’s immigration laws.”

We talk about how the agents at Ellis Island, which opened in 1892, were more concerned about immigrants arriving free of disease, and that they had enough cash so as not to be a “drain on the tax dollars.” We talk about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which is the first time the government prohibited specific ethnic groups from entering. We talk about the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which strengthened restrictions on Chinese immigrants, as well as Southern and Eastern Europeans, Japanese, Indian, and other Asian peoples.

Rosaria Baldizzi, mother of two, who entered the U.S. in the 1930s as an undocumented immigrant from Italy

We also might talk about Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor in the 1930s and 1940s, who worked on procedures to help those struggling against these tight immigration prohibitions. She would encourage undocumented immigrants to take a day-trip up to Canada, only to re-enter the United States as a legal permanent resident. We know Rosaria Baldizzi, one of the matriarchs on our Hard Times tour, likely took advantage of this loophole.

With the addition of our upcoming exhibit, Under One Roof, we are able to keep the history of American immigration moving. We’ll soon be able to discuss in context the Immigration Act of 1965. Signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, this Act (also known as the Hart-Celler Act) abolished the national-origins quota system of the Johnson-Reed Act, eliminating the discriminatory practice of denying immigration to the U.S. based on race, ancestry, or national origin. This Act resulted in a new wave of immigrants coming to our country from all over, but especially from China. One of our new families, the Wongs, were able to make it to the United States because of the Hart-Celler Act.

Mrs. Wong, who was able to immigrate to the United States after the passing of the Hart-Celler Act

We may even find a way to discuss the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). This law, signed by President Ronald Reagan, sanctioned and fined employers for “knowingly” hiring undocumented immigrants. But the Act also provided amnesty to nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants. Although in hindsight, the law is not considered a success, the amnesty is provided is seen today as one of the few benefits. A former Reagan speechwriter named Peter Robinson said, “It was in Ronald Reagan’s bones — it was part of his understanding of America — that the country was fundamentally open to those who wanted to join us here.”

We could also mention the Immigration Act of the 1990s, which raised the annual cap on immigration and revised the political ideological grounds for exclusion and deportation. It also allowed people coming from countries afflicted by natural disasters or armed conflict to be granted “temporary protected status.” By the turn of the century, immigration had become heavily linked to national security. Several programs and laws were passed singling out foreign-born Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians, as well as mandated improvements and tamper-resistant documents for entry, the prevention of obtaining a driver’s license without proof of citizenship, and the building of an additional 850 miles of fences along the Mexico border.

Tenement Museum educator Raj Varma was naturalized in 2013 at a ceremony held at the Tenement Museum

By looking at the scope of our immigration history, we can see that it has moved like a pendulum, both for the benefit of and the disadvantage of immigrants. Our history is one of inclusion and exclusion. With all this knowledge, we then become better suited to answer the question: What does it mean to be an American, and who gets to make that decision for the nation? At one point does an immigrant truly become an American, the day of their naturalization ceremony or their first day of school? The day they arrived or the first day they start thinking of this country as “home”?

This is an updated version “A History of the Undocumented Immigrant” first posted on the Tenement Museum blog in 2013.

Stitching the Seams Between Past & Present: A Conversation with a Modern NYC Garment Shop

Photo by Lafayette 148 New York

It’s impossible to talk about New York City’s Chinatown and the Lower East Side in the middle of the 20th century without talking about the garment industry. So when the Tenement Museum knew we would be telling the story of Chinese immigration in the 1960s and 70s in our exhibit Under One Roof, we began to look at ways of incorporating this important aspect into the story we wanted to tell. And since we’re all about our neighborhood, we called on the designers at Lafayette 148 New York to help bring this story to life. 

Since the garment industry is vital to the story of Chinese immigration to New York, we knew we had to incorporate it into our new exhibit, in a way unlike anything we’ve ever done before. To properly share this integral part of Mrs. Wong’s life, we have built an interactive garment shop inside 103 Orchard Street. Visitors will have the opportunity to sit down at sewing machines like the ones Mrs. Wong used, and learn about the daily lives of these women who worked tirelessly to provide for their families, who joined the International Ladies Garment Workers Union to bolster their community, and whose work ethic and determination are deserving of recognition and admiration. 

Photo by Lafayette 148 New York

And that’s where Lafayette 148 comes in. A local garment shop and fashion boutique in the heart of Chinatown, their story resonates with the one we will be telling at 103 Orchard Street.  They’ve generously donated some of the materials that will be viewed in our recreated garment factory, helping us to share this unsung story with everyone. These reproduced 1980s style jumpsuits will help us demonstrate how production of these garments sold all over the world went from assembly to finished product. 

In Sweatshop Workers, another Tenement Museum tour, we show how one family, the Levines, ran a small garment shop from their home in 97 Orchard at the turn of the century. The garment factory Mrs. Wong worked in decades later differed drastically in size, with new technologies increasing the scale and speed of the garment productions. So, too, does Lafayette 148 differ from the factories of the garment industry in its heyday. Their shop is 11-stories tall, designed to be bright and open to inspire creativity among their team, who not only manufacture the clothes but design them, too. Similar to how the industry operated in Mrs. Wong’s day, the operation at Lafayette 148 is just as large, with a quick turnaround rate. But they’re also capable of producing special order and custom fits, which has more in common with Mr. Levine’s sweatshop, or even Nathalie Gumpertz’s seamstress business, seen on our Hard Times tour.  

We sat down with Deidre Quinn, CEO of Lafayette 148, to share the company’s story, and how their history and mission coincides seamlessly with that of the Tenement Museum. 

Photo by Lafayette 148 New York

Tenement Museum: What about the Museum’s mission, and our new exhibition Under One Roof, speaks to your brand? 

Deirdre Quinn: The story of immigrants coming to the United States from China to open a factory and support other immigrant families by providing jobs is a direct reflection of our history as a company. Our founder Mr. Siu, brought his family to the United States and opened a factory in Chinatown. For many years before we became Lafayette 148 New York, we were a garment factory producing clothes for some of the best-known companies in the fashion industry.  

Photo by Lafayette 148 New York

TM: How did the garment factory culture of the 1960s & 70s influence the modern Lafayette 148 New York?  

DQ: Founded in 1996 by Shun Yen Siu, Ida Siu, and myself, Lafayette 148 New York fuses the energy of its cosmopolitan New York roots with strong Chinese heritage. Our namesake Manhattan street address is home to our company’s headquarters, where our design studio, showroom, merchandising, brand communication, and sales departments thrive together under one roof. Our New York team works seamlessly with our talented team of artisans in Shantou, China resulting in an alluring combination of craftsmanship with our modern, minimal designs.  

TM: What kind of other work do you do with education nonprofits, and why do you think this work is important? 

DQ: Education is at the core of Lafayette 148 New York’s philanthropic ventures. In 2007, our founder, Shun Yen Siu, provided excellent employment to migrant workers with the creation of the company’s state-of-the-art design and manufacturing facility. When he realized that many of the children in his hometown of Shantou, China, had difficulty entering good schools to obtain a proper education, he felt an overwhelming urge to help the next generation and sponsored a local school which we call the School of Dreams. The School of Dreams is 100% supported by Lafayette 148 New York, and each season, the company holds multiple events to raise funds.  

TM: What do you hope people will come away with after viewing Under One Roof, many of whom might be learning about the garment industry for the first time? 

DQ: We hope that people will be reminded of the American Dream, and that when you work hard to pursue your dreams, you can achieve anything. We also believe in the importance in giving back to the community, so to be able to support the Tenement Museum and its’ efforts to preserve the history of Chinatown.  

Photo by Lafayette 148 New York

Sharing a Journey on the Ave. of Immigrants

photo from Patch.com

Peeking around the corner of Allen and Delancey Streets is a lone figure. Standing seven-stories high, it has no gender, no age, no race or religion, and so it encompasses them all. The only thing one can tell by looking at it is the feeling of anxiousness and anticipation. It is both seeking something in front of it and apprehensive about what it might find.  

It is “Migrant,” the latest mural painted by British street artist Stik. This is Stik’s third mural in New York City, and they all draw on the city’s rich history. His piece “Liberty” in Tompkins Square shows solidarity with the workers riots of 1874, as well as the 1988 housing riots. The mural in Union Square on a water tower, of people joined hand in hand, is a symbol of unity with the men and women who marched in the first Labor Day Parade in 1882.  

Stik came to the Lower East Side to paint, and became inspired by the diverse and vibrant history of the neighborhood, after discovering that Allen Street is also known as the “Avenue of the Immigrants.” He recently donated the proceeds from his gallery showing at Fat Free Art to the Tenement Museum, and took a Shared Journeys tour of the museum. Shared Journeys is a free program we offer to not-for-profit ESOL classes, which creates unique connections between past and present immigrants. The tour offers an important contextual level which really resonated for Stik. 

When did you start painting, and why? 

I started painting my simple stick figures on the street back about 15 years ago in the East-End of London, as a way of making me and my community visible in the city. The figures have no mouths, which represent the people who live in the area making their presence felt, and humanising the changing city as a gentle form of resistance. People from the neighbourhood started to invite me to paint their walls, and so I had more freedom to create larger murals. Years later I am invited to paint with communities all over the world. 

 How did you come to paint a mural on the Lower East Side? 

The Lower East Side is going through a similar change to my own neighbourhood, and I feel a special resonance with the people who call it home. I was invited to paint by my friends at Fat Free Art, and you can see the working drawings for the mural at their gallery on Allen Street.  

What inspired you to paint “Migrant”? 

When I arrived to start painting, I sat in the café opposite [where the mural would be] and saw a signpost reading ‘Avenue of the Immigrants’. Nobody seemed to know about it, so I asked at the Tenement Museum, who gave me a potted history of why Allen Street is dubbed ‘Avenue of the Immigrants’ and the history of migration in the area. I decided there and then to make this the theme of the mural.  

Did you visit the Tenement Museum before you began work on “Migrant”? 

I knew about the museum and had seen the tour groups passing by the wall, but it wasn’t until I started digging that I found out how important the place actually is. They were helpful with my research into the history of the area I was painting in, and gave me a lot of their time. 

How did our mission to tell America’s story through the history of immigration through the personal experiences of the generations of newcomers who settled in and built lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, affect what you decided to paint? 

The Tenement Museum is so positive and pro-active, I was inspired to paint something that reflected that. The classical architecture and shape of the building was also a challenge that dramatically shaped the finished piece. 

The proceeds of your work are supporting the Tenement Museum’s “Shared Journeys” program, which offers free classes for English Language Learners. You recently had the opportunity to sit in on a “Shared Journeys” class, join them for a tour, and talk to them about your work. Tell us about your experience. What did you discover about immigration history or about your fellow tour members you hadn’t previously known?  

The Shared Journey’s tour opened my eyes to how people struggled to settle here in the past and the challenges they still face, their stories often tragic but told candidly and with humour. Taking the tour with a group of people who are going through that exact same process right now, and being an outsider myself, was a moving experience. I’m happy to have been able to support the project. 

What kinds of emotions are you hoping to evoke with “Migrant”? 

The giant figure is nervously looking around the corner, emerging into an unknown city but with hope in his chest and eyes cast upwards towards a brighter future. The figure is simple, an everyman transcending gender, religion and race, symbolising our universal wish to be accepted as human beings. 

 

Joys and Sorrows: Lewis Hine at Ellis Island

All photos courtesy of the New York Public Library

Lewis Hine was a social photographer, whose work literally changed the world. His most famous work captured, with great risk to his own safety, the invisible child laborers who worked difficult and dangerous jobs at the turn of the century. The newness of the photography medium combined with Hine’s beautiful and haunting portraits of working children led to fundamental changes in child labor laws in the United States.

But a few years before he began his work for the National Child Labor Committee, he worked at the Ethical Culture School in New York City as a teacher and school photographer. His first assignment was to photograph contemporary immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. Some of these photos are available to view in the New York Public Library’s digital collections. Many of these photos were taken between 1905 to 1909, but Hine also returned to Ellis Island in 1926 to take pictures, after immigration quotas were implemented.

 

As he did later with his child laborer photos, Hine made sure to photograph his subjects with respect and dignity. Because of the limitations on photography equipment at this time, candid pictures in this collection are few and far between. Hine’s photos are more like modeled portraits, his subjects posed but no less authentic and honest. Not to mention, getting permission from these immigrants would have been exceptionally difficult, considering both the many language barriers between Hine and his subjects, as well as the magnitude of people passing through Ellis Island at the time (about 5,000 immigrants per day at its peak).

Not unlike today, popular opinion of immigrants at the time wasn’t the most flattering. Hine’s work didn’t set out to reproduce the same old stereotypes of the day, nor create a spectacle of the “foreign” or “exotic.” He wanted to show immigrants as everyday people, just like “you and me,” trying to work hard and provide a better life for their families. His hope was for people to look upon his photos and feel, as Hine himself said, “the same regard for contemporary immigrants as they have for Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock.”

His photos emphasize the relatability of his subjects, whether they’re front-facing portraits or grouped family photos, whether they’re dealing with the tireless bureaucratic processes or the unending wait. Like the Tenement Museum, Hine sought to humanize immigrants, to make their journeys, their wants, their struggles indistinguishable from any American.

Hine would later go on to photograph the living and working conditions of immigrants, but his Ellis Island work serves to preserve a specific moment, and capture the spirit of migration. Everyone photographed had already endured an arduous journey to arrive at Ellis Island, but their odyssey was far from finished. Hine was able to focus on those complicated and human feelings of anxiety and hope, exhaustion and anticipation, as these men, women, and children stood at the way station between their old world and a new one.

 

The Life of a City: Early Films of New York City

A young man tosses an apple in the air as he chats with a vendor. Pushcarts are piled high with wares. Children in blouses and pantaloons rush into the busy street. Women subtly hitch their skirts up, just enough to stay modest while keeping dirt off their hems. An elevated train bustling in the background. A cartoonish policeman swings his baton around, trying to keep the peace.

In the last century, film has become an American institution. From being seen as just a novelty at its inception, movies are now considered high art, or at the very least respectable form of pop culture (okay, and some of them are still very much just a novelty). Laying the groundwork for motion pictures to become what is it today, were artists, inventors, and engineers, perfecting the art all over the world.

Two production companies, Thomas A. Edison, Inc. and American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, were based in New York City at the turn of the century. A collection of their films dated from 1898 to 1906 are available to everyone on the Library of Congress online archive, from the Paper Print Collection. These films were called “actualities” or what we know of today as documentary films. Typically, they’re only a couple minutes long, but they are filled with a wealth of fascinating information. They might have been used as newsreel footage that became a popular way to spread the news after the advent of moving pictures, or later used as stock footage as movies because longer and more narrative-driven. We at the Tenement Museum love to recreate life on the Lower East Side as it used to be, and these actualities offer us a real two-minute window into the everyday.

We’re familiar with scenes like the one above, recreated in movies, retold in stories, captured in grainy photographs. Described on a Tenement Museum tour. City life at the turn of the century. This “actuality” from the Thomas A. Edison, Inc., dated October 27, 1903, presents a sight likely familiar to all the residents of 97 Orchard – crowded streets, overflowing pushcarts run by Jewish and Italian vendors, and policemen attempting to keep order. It’s nice to know, even a hundred years ago, New Yorkers were not bothering to obey traffic laws.

Along with the scene above, which is just an average day in the lives of New Yorkers at the time, they also produced films that hold more significant value, even if they might not have realized it at the time. Actualities that this one featured below, titled “Emigrants [i.e. immigrants] landing at Ellis Island” provide real historical context for the journey to becoming Americans, to be witnessed by people over a hundred years later.

Some of the films were also produced by the Biograph Company. Biograph, in operation from 1895 to 1916, switched their focus in 1903 from actualities to narrative-driven works. Even so, in 1906, they were also capturing the moments of immigrants landing in America, like the one shown below. Much like the Edison film three years earlier, the people are ladened with heavy bags, luggage, and children – all struggling to stand upright with the weight of everything they value. In both moving pictures, the newly arrived immigrants are lining up, waiting for instructions, crowding together, looking for the right places to go.

Perhaps the fact that there is no recorded sound is what makes these people seem both stressful and hopeful. We know from history that these captured moments are the first time they are stepping foot on American grounds, after travelling for weeks in an overwhelming crowded and dirty ship. They’re stretching their legs for the first time in a long time, breathing in fresh American air. Yes, only the first part of their journey is finished – the hard part, building a life for themselves, is just beginning, and nothing is guaranteed even after arriving. But even with the confusion and doubt, they still made it here.

The earliest films couldn’t tell a story, not the way we’re used to now. Watching these two-minute movies is literally the way to watch history unfold. Not only are the subjects illuminating a long-gone time, but the motivations of the men behind the camera is fascinating to contemplate. Could they ever imagine they were developing techniques and equipment that would one day lead to a billion dollar film industry? Did they foresee the historical treasure they were capturing as they filmed their surroundings, did they know even back then that their era was worth preserving for future generations? And what’s more, were they aware of how beautiful, how awe-inspiring their everyday was, deserving of being seen for years to come?

The Tenement Museum Summer 2017 Reading List

DSC_0914

School may be out for summer (and, for some of you, forever), but that’s no reason to slack on your summer reading! Here are our book recommendations that are perfect for any occasion that pops up this hot and hazy summer, available at our widely popular Tenement Museum bookstore and gift shop.

 

Bowery-Boys-Book-Cover4Book to read at the beach/pool/lake/soaking in a cold bathThe Bowery Boys: Adventures in Old New York: An Unconventional Exploration of Manhattan’s Historic Neighborhoods, Secret Spots and Colorful Characters by Greg Young & Tom Meyers.

The official companion to their award-winning podcast, Young and Meyers provide an in-depth and exclusive look into the New York City of yesterday. In between cooling off with dips in the body of water of your choice, become absorbed in these strange and memorable guides through Hell’s Kitchen, Columbus Circle, The Bowery, Astor Place, Foley Square, Little Italy, Chinatown, and more. So stay hydrated: quench that thirst for fascinating urban history, and also drink plenty of water if you’re going to be in the sun for too long.

Also recommendManhattan Mafia Guide by Eric Ferrara

 

upintheoldhotel_webBook to read when the inevitable afternoon thunderstorm traps you inside for the rest of the dayUp in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell, David Remnick

This anthology of essays written in the 1940s and 50s by Mitchell for The New Yorker offers a peek into the lives of some of New York’s most interesting and colorful characters. A bearded lady, street preachers, gypsies, saloon-keepers, steel-walking Mohawks – all will keep you riveted as the storm rolls overhead. Mitchell’s darkly humorous but respectful observations create the perfect tone to portray the city in all its oddness.

Also recommend –  City of Dreams by Tyler Anbinder

 

waterfront_1Book to read when you’re stuck underground in a sweaty, delayed train car for over an hourWaterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Philip Lopate

If you can’t just get out and walk already, let Lopate describe the city you’re missing as he walks over every inch of it – East Side, West Side, from the Little Red Lighthouse to Battery Park City. Explore the city you can’t see underground, as he shows you the history of each spot, while appraising today’s developers and environmental activists. If yet another signal problem doesn’t encourage you to walk part of your commute, perhaps these stories of Captain Kidd and Robert Moses will.

Also recommendMole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City by Jennifer Toth

 

brisket_1Book to make you the STAR of your next barbecue or neighborhood potluck – The Brisket Book by Stephanie Pierson

Hotdogs and hamburgers? Those guys are fine, sure, whatever. But delicious brisket will have a line forming at your grill for miles. Pierson provides more than just your average cookbook. She offers color photos, cooking tips, chef interviews, illustrations, graphics and butcher wisdom, all aimed to ensure your best brisket ever. Some of the recipes include Barbecue Brisket Sandwiches with Firecracker Sauce, Scandinavian Aquavit Brisket, and a 100% Foolproof Bride’s Brisket. Get cooking!

Also recommendThe Meatball Shop Cookbook by Daniel Holzman, Michael Chernow and Lauren Deen.

 

citizenshipquiz_1Book to read if you want to be extra patriotic this Fourth of JulyThe Great American Citizenship Quiz by Solomon M. Skolnick.

Civics, geography, history – the best of middle school social studies all come together to compile the official USCIS citizenship quiz. Though they ask you to study over 100 facts about America, you’re only expected to answer, verbally, six out of ten randomly chosen questions. This is a great addition to any Independence Day party. I can say from experience, having had to study for the real test only a couple years ago, there’s nothing more entertaining than watching native-born citizens trying to answer these after having a few drinks in them.

Also recommendMachine Made: Tammany Hall and The Creation of Modern American Politics by Terry Golway

 

howtobeanexploreroftheworld_1Book to read if you want to keep your kid busy for more than five minutes – How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith.

This isn’t your average activity book. It’s a portable life museum, and the mission is simple, “Document and observe the world around you. As if you’ve never seen it before.” Kids will be instructed to take notes, collect things, document findings, notice patterns, copy, trace, focus, record. They’ll acted as scientists, researchers, artists, and historians with interactive, beautiful presented prompts. It’s never too early to encourage wonder at the world around you.

Also recommendLet’s Make Some Great Art by Marion Deuchars

 

Your purchases help support the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. And great books help support yourself. Take advantage of those extra daylight hours, and get reading!

The Millennials Are Our Future

Group

Millennials are the most frequent and most loyal attendees to cultural institutions, according to recent data from the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study. Engaging and cultivating this audience into future museum members is why the Tenement Museum founded the Lower East Siders Circle, a new way for young professionals to participate with everything the Tenement Museum has to offer.

Melissa Stone, Membership and Events Associate at the Tenement Museum, discusses our young professionals program, and how Millennials can serve as ambassadors to the community, advisers to the museums, and cultural leaders in supporting the arts and the political issues that are more important than ever.

 

What is the Lower East Siders Circle?

MS: The Lower East Siders Circle is a patron group of young professionals who support the mission of the Museum. They have programmatic opportunities beyond our regular tours to engage with Lower East Side history and actively fundraise to support the work of the Museum.

How does the LES Circle differ from other young professionals clubs?

MS: While it is similar in some ways, as LES Circle offers networking opportunities and social components to the programming, the group remains focused in the mission of the Museum. The members are excited by the stories we tell and appreciate the work of the Museum to present the important contributions immigrants have made to the United States.

Why is it important for young people to engage with the Tenement Museum, or institutions like the TM?

MS: It is important for young people to engage with the Tenement Museum, and arts and cultural institutions in general, in order for them to understand the important work of these institutions. These institutions preserve and interpret art, history, and cultural anthropology. They are a source of public education on topics ranging from science and math, to music and dance. Supporting the arts brings fulfillment and offers opportunity for personal growth through self-reflection. The Tenement Museums and institutions like it serve the public good and it is important for Millennials to engage and support this work.

Conversely, why is it important for the Museum to have an organization of young people dedicated to it?

MS: It is important for the Tenement museum to have an organization dedicated to young professionals, as they are the future of the Museum. These patrons will be the champions of our work, help us grow and expand our opportunities, and financially support us in the near future. It is important for the Tenement Museum to keep this audience in mind as new programs and exhibitions are planned and make sure we engage them in our presentation. It is mutually beneficial for us to engage Millennials and for Millennials to engage with us. This is how we can continue to present America’s story to future generations.

What kinds of events do members get to do that others might not?

MS: LES Circle member events expand on regular programming. In March, the members toured the Schneider’s Saloon in 97 and then came back to a reception that featured a Germanic Beer flight hosted by Top Hops. The programs are experiential in design. The next event will be July 26, and the LES Circle members will have the opportunity to participate in Snapshot. This exclusive tour allows photography inside the 97 Orchard Street building, something that is not allowed on general tours. Additionally, LES Circle members will have a series of programming going behind the scenes that will offer them the opportunity to learn more about the operational aspects of the Tenement Museum. They will come away with greater knowledge of the complexities of Museum work in general and the importance of supporting it.

What other benefits do members receive?

MS: Depending on the level of membership, LES Circle members receive an Individual or Dual membership to the Museum, reserved seating at Tenement Talks, and discounts on tickets to Tenement After Dark: Gala After Party. Patron level LES Circle members receive a ticket to Tenement After Dark: gala After Party with their membership.

Head here to learn more about joining the Lower East Siders Circle!

Becky, Melis, Tatyana, Francesca

Evenings at the Tenement: This Land is Made for You and Me

DSC_0551

We tell the stories of the everyday people who made their way on Orchard Street, but we’re always encouraging visitors to create their own memorable experiences here, and one of the best ways to do so is by holding your own event at the Tenement Museum!

On May 4, the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) hosted a fundraising event for Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Over a hundred guests enjoyed The Guthrie Sessions Live, with fantastic performances from star of NBC’s The Voice Brendan Fletcher, New Jersey singer/songwriter Bryan Hansen. and Brooklyn-native Lizzie No.

Along with the live musical performances, guests at the event were treated to a variety of Tenement Museum tours after-hours, food from some of the Lower East Side’s favorite restaurants, and a preview of Her Mother’s Daughter, a documentary produced by the HDSA to spread awareness and understanding of Huntington’s Disease. The guests were also invited to bid on exciting auction items, and by the end of the night, the event had raised almost $40,000 towards their cause.

The evening ended with a beautiful performance of the Woody Guthrie classic “This Land is Your Land.” It was led by Woody’s daughter Nora and Helen Jean Russell from the show Woody Sez, along with the other artists in attendance, right in the Museum shop. It was absolutely a moment to remember, and not just because I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the last couple weeks.

Whether it’s a nonprofit, corporate, alumni event, or a social occasion, make it one for the history books by taking advantage of everything the Museum has to offer.

Not only do you have use of our beautiful event spaces, but your guests can also enjoy private tours of our historic tenement buildings, as well as top notch catering services from several local dining establishments. We work with you to create vibrant, long-lasting memories your guests will be talking about for years to come.

Book your special event at the Tenement Museum, and ensure that your occasion leaves an impression as enduring and unforgettable as a classic American folk song.