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About the Photos

Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE CITY OF RUINS AND ROSES, c. 1930

Little Italy: 1905

Little Italy: 1905

New York circa 1905. "Mulberry Street. Italian neighborhood with street market." 5x7 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

Today - 107 years later

Levatrice

The most prominent sign on the right side of the picture, other than "Liquor," is for Nicoletta Gargano, Levatrice. She's a midwife. Given the teeming life presented in the picture, she must have been quite busy.

Where are the wires?

I've gotten so used to street scenes from this era being festooned with dozens of overhead lines that this one looks naked without them.

[They'd been underground since the 1890s. - tterrace]

Grew up in this nabe

The view is from the old P.S. 23 school building (far right), on the northeast corner of Mulberry and Bayard Streets, looking north towards Canal Street.

This building is still there, but now houses part of MoCA, Museum of Chinese in America. The buildings have hardly changed, but now all have Chinese store signs.

Even with this block of Mulberry being Italian, just one block to the east, Mott Street, was the main street of Old Chinatown.

My family lived at Mott and Grand Streets, only a 5-10 minute walk from this scene. Even in the 1960s that was still Little Italy, and Chinatown grew north of there only later.

During the 1960s and 1970s, when there were few Italian residents or businesses left on the block pictured here, my parents still shopped at the Italian butcher Castaldo's, and I hung out with an Italian-American grammar school buddy who lived at the top of #91 Mulberry, located just about in the center of the picture.

Little Hong Kong, now

Mulberry Street today is part of New York City's Chinatown, with nary a horse cart to be seen, unless it's got tourists in it.

The Godfather - Part II

This could be the basis of a scene out of "The Godfather Part II".

Only 5 Years Earlier

A previous Shorpy Post titled "Little Italy 1900" showed almost the same scene. At that time the 88 Mulberry Street address was claimed by Signor Malzone who among other things was a Banker and Theatrical Producer. Today it's Chinatown, Jake.

The dog and the art lover

In the lower right corner of this fabulous photo, under the "liquors" sign, independent young Vito is swiftly thumbing through the many pictures suitable for framing, trying to find one he'd like to have. The mangy stray mutt, crossing the street, out of all the hundreds of bustling people and certainly enticing food smells, appears to have chosen and is headed for that same little boy. Most of the people in this picture are making decisions about what they will or will not purchase. The theme, if there is one, is about making choices. Of course this shot is reminiscent of the opening scene of The Godfather but there are still today a few fabulous Italian restaurants on Mulberry that will take you back to the old country. I'm still drawn to the boy and the dog who have managed to secure their own space on a very busy and crowded street.

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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