Film History Science

The original IMAX: Jacob Riis and his magic lantern

Jacob Riis changed the world with “How The Other Half Lives.” By using the new technology of flash photography, Riis was able to capture the squalid conditions of Manhattan tenements in a way no mere paragraph, drawing or sermon could. The startling photographs contained in this book did not originate there, however. Riis debuted them… 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

Newspapers and Newsies

Jacob A. Riis: The Power of the Flash

The daredevil antics of Nellie Bly (subject of our last podcast) proved that investigative journalism could prove a benefit to society while also selling stacks of newspapers (specifically, those of Joseph Pullitzer’s New York World). A few months after Bly’s trip to Blackwell’s Island, Jacob Riis published his first investigation for the New York Sun, revealing the wretched… Read More


Gotham Court and the lost neighborhood of Cherry Hill

Yesterday I went searching for remnants of the old Cherry Hill neighborhood. There are none, as far as I could tell. It’s not the first New York City neighborhood to entirely vanish in the rush of progress — is it, Robert Moses ? — however it may be the one that began with the most… Read More

Notes from the podcast (#140) Rockaway Beach

Behold the insanity: (Above) A lithograph of the Rockaway Beach Hotel, one of the most notorious failures in American history A Song About Brooklyn: I gave you a little taste of a poem about the Rockaways by balladeer Henry John Sharpe. Yes, that’s right, this is actually a song, with music by Henry Russell. Click… Read More

Park life: The anniversary of a name change in Chinatown

Next week begins ‘ghost stories’ week on the blog, but I need to make one more trip to Chinatown, the topic of the last podcast. As I just wrote about Columbus Day last week, I would be remiss if I skipped this very coincidental date in history. It was exactly one hundred years ago yesterday… Read More

Podcast Rewind: The Fate of Five Points

How did the city’s worst neighborhood become this park?A special illustrated version of our podcast ‘Five Points Part 2: The Fate of Five Points” is now available on our NYC History Archive feed. In our second podcast on the notorious Five Points neighborhood, we see how the district changed with the influx of new immigrants… Read More


Jacob Riis’ Not-so-Rockin’ ‘Sane’ New Years Celebration

Social reformer Jacob Riis is one of the most important men to New York City history, exposing the ghastly living conditions of city tenements and using his connections to enact change that affected thousands of New York’s poorest residents. In spreading the word, he wrote a social history masterpiece ‘How The Other Half Lives’ and… Read More

Two East Village cemeteries open their gates

From the New York City Marble Cemetery Two rarely seen artifacts of the East Village swung open their iron gates this weekend for Open House NY, New York’s two oldest cemeteries — the New York Marble Cemetery and the New York City Marble Cemetery. (Yes, you read that right.) In a few respects they are… Read More

Dandies of New York: the dapper Cherry Hill Gang

Above: Another local gang of the Lower East Side, the Shirt Tails of Corlear’s Hook, most likely fought with the Cherry Hill gang, the Batavia Street gang, or maybe even both (circa 1889 pic from courtesy of Irishinnyc) We’re finally stepping away from the grime of the late 19th century, but not before giving a… Read More


PODCAST: The Fate of Five Points

Part two of our “Five Points” podcast. Join us as we explore the “wicked” neighborhood’s clean up, fall from grace, and eventual destruction. Listen to it for free on iTunes or other podcasting services. Or you can download or listen to it HERE Sleeping quarters An Italian family newly arrived in New York. An Italian… Read More