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Breaking Point: 1912

New York, February 1912. "The breaking point. A heavy load for an old woman. Lafayette Street below Astor Place." Photo by Lewis Hine. View full size.

New York, February 1912. "The breaking point. A heavy load for an old woman. Lafayette Street below Astor Place." Photo by Lewis Hine. View full size.


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Below is the same view from June of 2009.

Quite a load

Wish someone had the presence of mind to help her. That being said, she's crazy strong for an old lady.


Fondest memory I have of Lafayette Street is from the early 1950s, going to visit the offices of MAD Comics and buying back issues issues of both MAD and PANIC. Still wish my mom hadn't thrown them out.

Warm Tone Image

Dave, this image has a wonderful warm tone on my computer monitor. If your source for this is a digital file from a scan of the original negative, did you "tweak" the file to add the warmth?

[This is a resaturated version of the reference image, which was made from a paper print that is quite yellow. - Dave]

More details

Building on the far right with the arched windows is the Devinne Press (Astor Wine & Spirits).

Tall white building in the distance that seems to be pushing out into the street is the extension of Wanamaker's department store built in 1902 (KMart).

Barely visible up the block on the left is Colonnade Row (Blue Man Group/Indochine) and up the block on the right is Astor Library (Joseph Papp Public Theatre).

What a window into the Lower East Side (East Village).

Building Appearance

Many of the older buildings in the cities look nicer and newer since they stopped burning soft coal and cleaned their exteriors. I remember going into Boston in the 60's and the buildings were mostly gray and black. Things look much nicer now.


How do you know she is old? Because she has a shawl? The men are all wearing coats, so it must be cold.

[Because Lewis Hine's caption says she's old. He was there to take the picture, so he should know. - Dave]


That old (immigrant) woman was probably used to far heavier loads back in the Old Country.


Pictures like this make me want to burn every book Jack "Oh weren't things SOOO much better back in the Good Old Days" Finney ever wrote. Every copy of "Time and Again" should have this picture as a frontispiece.


It's astounding how many of those buildings are still there. As interesting, they actually look older in the earlier photo than they do today.

The Woman and the Horse

The horse to seems to have a better deal. He's resting and having lunch.

Then and Now

This stretch of street (Lafayette at East Fourth) looks remarkably the same today. The building on the left with the arched windows houses a wine store, and the large building in the distance has a K-Mart at street level. There are lots of trendy restaurants on Lafayette, where Blue Man Group "Tubes" started (and is still playing) at the Astor Place Theater, just a couple of blocks north.

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