Saturday, August 28, 2010

Life in New York City, c. 1920

City life compared to country life

The following paragraphs are excerpted from World Geographies: Second Book, Kentucky Edition (p. 74) by Ralph S. Tarr and Frank M. McMurry, published in New York by the MacMillan Company in 1922.

Life in the Great City

"Heart of New York City," about 1908.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division,

Detroit Publishing Company Collection
"Heart of New York City," about 1908.
City Hall Park in foreground
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division,
Detroit Publishing Company Collection
The contrast between life in New York City and upon a farm is striking. On some of the streets scarcely anything but stores can be seen for ten or twelve miles, many of them being small, but some occupying enormous buildings, and employing many hundreds of clerks.

Families whose homes are in the city do not usually occupy a whole house, but often hundreds of people live in one building. Such a structure, called an apartment building, may be from six to eight stories high, and some are from fifteen to twenty. They are so arranged that one family occupies only a small part of one floor, called an apartment, or flat. Other families live above and below, as well as on each side, being separated by only a few inches of brick or boards. Since land is so valuable, sometimes costing scores of dollars a square foot, there is usually neither front nor back yard.

In the poorer sections of the city the people are even more densely crowded. Some of the children have never seen the country, and scarcely any birds, trees, or grass, except possibly in one of the city parks. In these crowded sections, there are many foreigners from all the nations of the earth.

To escape such a crowded city life, tens of thousands of men live in suburban towns, or country homes, from ten to forty miles from their places of business. Every day they spend from one to three hours traveling back and forth. Some ride upon elevated railways built in the street, two, three, and four stories above the ground and supported by iron columns. Others go by train in the subway, which extends for many miles underground, and even crosses under the rivers to Brooklyn, Jersey City, and Hoboken.

How different all this is from the country, where only two or three houses may be seen at a time! Where sunlight and fresh air enter one's home from all sides of the building! Where there is plenty of room to play, with green grass, large trees, and singing birds in the yard! No wonder that people living in great cities are anxious to visit the country, the mountains, the lakes, and the seashore, during a few weeks in the summer.

Monday washday in New York City tenements, c. 1910.
Library of Congress, Prints &Photographs Division,
Detroit Publishing Company Collection


RunAwayImagination said...

It's interesting to note that commuting to work today can take one to 3 hours in major cities. Progress?

Genevieve said...

I noticed that, also. Some things haven't changed as much as you might expect!

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.