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Tenement Ec: 1908

Tenement Ec: 1908

New York circa 1908. "Class in Practical Housekeeping -- Congestion Exhibit." 8x10 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.


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The Congestion Exhibition

This unusual and influential exhibition was organized by the American Museum of Natural History, and ran from March 9 through March 22, 1908. Many social welfare organizations, including city departments and private charities, participated in this attempt to document and expose the complex social and public health issues associated with the massive overcrowding of New York's poor into tenement neighborhoods. This photo documents the model two-room apartment exhibit built by the Association of Practical Housekeeping Centres, to demonstrate the classes they offered to working class women and girls on how to cope with their overcrowded living spaces. Other architectural installations included a facsimile East Side sweatshop, which displayed its "uncleanness and wretchedness." The exhibition was well publicized and very well attended by New Yorkers from both up and down the social ladder, from the Duchess of Marlborough (the former Consuelo Vanderbilt), to the East Side tenement dwellers themselves, including a girl who told a reporter that she was astonished to see a photograph of herself at work in a sweatshop. The New York Times archive retains many news articles about this exhibition, among them "Exhibit Will Tell All About New York," published March 1, 1908.

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