Finding Pietro

One of you may be related to Pietro, the boy in the picture. He was one of thousands of Italian immigrants who arrived in New York in the 1870s-80s. He seems to have been intelligent and even exceptional, weathering a set of truly dreary circumstances that would have defeated most men. Pietro was not yet 13 years old… Read More

Health and Living

Open-air schools and sitting-out bags: Keeping children safe during tuberculosis scares

This is a sitting-out bag. No child ever wore one because he wanted to impress his friends. But this awkward example of outdoor wear was created to save lives and keep students educated during one very concerning health crisis. Teaching children during perilous moments of disease spread had been a challenge since the invention of… Read More

The Alienist

The harsh lives of New York City street kids, captured — in a flash — by Jacob Riis

HISTORY BEHIND THE SCENE What’s the real story behind that historical scene from your favorite TV show or feature film? A semi-regular feature on the Bowery Boys blog, we will be reviving this series as we follow along with TNT’s limited series The Alienist. Look for other articles here about other historically themed television shows (Mad Men, The… Read More


Photographs of wonder from the American Museum of Natural History

One hundred years ago, the American Museum of Natural History received a massive visitor, one so mighty that the doors of the museum’s delivery room “had to be removed and [the] partition openings enlarged” in order to accommodate it. Was it a dinosaur? A meteorite? Perhaps the remains of a great whale? No, the new… Read More

American History

Life in New York City 1935-1945: Heavenly images from Yale University

Yale University has sprung a beautiful present onto the Internet — a searchable database of over 170,000 public-domain photographs created by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information, documenting the aftermath of America of the Great Depression and World War II. The photos, dating from between the years 1935 to 1945, include of… Read More

Health and Living

History in the Making 7/21: Summer Baby Edition

A special new podcast is on the way for this Friday. It’s extra challenging so the blog will be a little quiet until then. Stay tuned! In the meantime, enjoy a few pictures of small children keeping cool during a hot New York City summer over 100 years ago. Pictures courtesy the Library of Congress.  … Read More

Those Were The Days

Dollhouses, skully and puddles: Lower East Side children, actually having fun

Girls with a pretty amazing dollhouse at Seward Park playground.  Photo labeled August 1913 I’ll be traveling for the next few days so I’ll be posting here a bit less than normal. Next week I’ll re-post some interesting stories from the back catalog. Enjoy your weekend! I recently discovered this first image in a collection… Read More

Parks and Recreation

Never Too Cold: Crazy kids conquer Central Park on sleds

During one particular winter in the early 1910s, Central Park was invaded by an army of young sledders, tearing over the snow-covered terrain without thought to temperatures or bodily injury. Believe it or not, the city encouraged children to use the city parks for sledding, especially given that the alternatives were slicked-up city streets.  In… Read More

Dressed for success: The tradition of Thanksgiving masking, children in drag, begging for money!

Turkey anyone? Thanksgiving maskers, in New York, taken sometime between 1910-15. Whatever you do, don’t look the ‘lady’ directly in the eye! My new column for the Huffington Post is live, and the topic is a strange, forgotten holiday custom called Thanksgiving masking, popular among New York kids from the 1890s-1930s. Children dressed as exaggerated… Read More