Under The Williamsburg Bridge 1905 – Where New York’s Poor Shopped
Looking at this 1905 stereoview photograph of the market located under the Williamsburg Bridge, the one thing that jumps out at you is the number of children present among the throng of humanity.
In the foreground of the photograph the children are looking directly at the photographer who must have set up his camera at least 10 feet above the crowd to get this extraordinary view.
The Williamsburg Bridge terminus in Manhattan is at Delancey Street, in the heart of the lower east side. As New York’s ever growing immigrant population flooded into the lower east side at the turn of the century, the area was steeped in poverty.
Many vendors sold their wares in the open streets, crammed onto pushcarts overfilled with fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, pots, candles and rags. Everything you could imagine was sold from these pushcarts.
To the residents of the neighborhood the pushcarts offered necessities for a reasonable sum. For the vendors, the pushcarts offered a meager living. For the city the pushcarts represented a nuisance, selling goods of questionable quality and safety, clogging traffic and dirtying the streets.
Before the bridge was officially opened on December 19, 1903, a market was set up under the bridge to move some of the vendors off the crowded streets.
The first group of vendors to set up in the market were the fish dealers who opened for business on March 30, 1903. Continue reading