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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Ghetto: 1909

The Ghetto: 1909

New York circa 1909. "The ghetto, Lower East Side." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5


At the top of this great photo, above the lamp pole and slightly to the right, that left spire is leaning, precariously, it looks.

(This photo reminds me, among others, of a favorite movie, "Hester Street," now on the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.)

150 Hand Laundry

The sign on the right side says:"150 Hand Laundry 150 " and on the next is:"Русско-Польская"-"Russian-Polish Laundry"
( 150 Orchard Street ).


This is definitely looking north along Orchard Street from Rivington. As Kablemodem stated, the windows are the key. From the left there are two, then 15 evenly spaced windows. Then, the next building has arched windows, but only on the second, third, and fifth floors. The buildings at the far end of the street were demolished when E. Houston St. was widened in the 1930s.

Hebrew Language

As far as I am aware Hebrew was a "dead" language up to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. It was used only for religious services rather as Latin was used by the Roman Catholic Church.

Following 1948 Israel sought a language with a national identity, so Hebrew was resurrected as a modern language, with many words needing to be invented to suit modern society.

Yiddish (Judisch), which was of course of German base, was written in Hebrew characters. This sign would therefore be in Yiddish, and the language heard would be Yiddish.

Hebrew vs. Yiddish

The sign for the Rev. L. Friedman contains only Hebrew words (except for his name and the transliterated English abbreviation "Rev."), although these particular words would be written exactly the same in Yiddish. The sign below it for the M. Seidman Realty Co. is in Yiddish, but it's hard to read because of the foreshortened perspective. Yiddish words are usually longer than Hebrew words, because written Yiddish contains vowels as well as consonants; Hebrew is traditionally written with consonants but no vowels.

Multi Lingual

As a pretty good rule of thumb, Hebrew was restricted to worship. These signs are in Yiddish, English, and I see a bit of Russian as well.

Rav Friedman's sign is written in a mélange of English, Yiddish, and Aramaic. In this case, the single Aramaic word is a cognate in both Hebrew and Yiddish so I'm sure that everyone accepted it as being a Yiddish term. (Rav is an honorific used much the same way that we use The Honorable in modern American usage.)

[The sign says Rev, not Rav. - Dave]

True, but in the original Yiddish at the top of the sign it is Rav which probably became Rev when transliterated.

The companion to this image shows two more signs that are just out of frame here. These signs include something that I've seen in other places the transliteration of English words into Yiddish text so that someone capable of reading Yiddish would be able to say the English words.

Hanging out

What a great place to just hang out. Reminds me a bit of Maxwell and Halsted in Chicago during the 50s, although Maxwell Street was nowhere near as intense as the posted image. I can’t even imagine being bored in this community.

Third Floor

Rev. L. Friedman, Mohel: weddings and circumcisions while you wait.

Rabbi of all trades

The Rev. Friedman's sign also says he is a hazzan (cantor) and performs marriage ceremonies. He's your one-stop rabbinic shop!

Rivington & Orchard Streets

The first building on the left looks like the one in the photo.

View Larger Map

The world in a city block

And you can get just about everything you need, from Real Estate to Dental work (isn't that a big molar hanging in the foreground?), to wedding dresses, legal work, smokes, clothes washed, probably everything to eat you could want (Kosher, anyway), and even have your baby circumcised (the Mohel).

I love these pictures of NYC at the turn of the century. The streets were alive with life and the business of living, when living was not taken for granted. So much life and human interaction. Makes me a little sad, sitting here at my computer living vicariously in that moment while I pour over every last detail I can glean from the picture.


Can't help but be confused by the sign for the mohel L Friedman.
A mohel is a clergyman who does circumcisions.
What confuses me is the abbreviation Rev for reverend.
That's a Christian designation for a clergy member, not a Jewish one.

That suggests that Friedman did not speak English and had someone else translate what he needed to say in English for the sign painter.

Which makes me curious if the sign is in Hebrew or Yiddish. They are written using the same alphabet.

Anybody here know?

[The honorific "Reverend" is used for Jews as well as Gentiles. A frequent occurrence in the pages of the New York Times. - Dave]

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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