Bibliography About History Of Times Square

Annotated Bibliography—Five Points

Anbinder, Tyler Five Points: The 19th Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum New York: Penguin Books, 2002.

This book details the history of Five Points from its origins in the 1800s through its transition into Chinatown and the Lower East Side at the end of the 19th century. Of particular use to me was the introduction and chapter one, which talk about some of the sources of Five Points’ poverty and negative reputation—in particular the neighborhood’s transition into dense residential area after the pollution of the Collect Pond, and the unprecedented influx of Irish immigrants.

Peter, Carla. “Black Gotham Stories.” The Black Gotham Archive. http://archive.blackgothamarchive.org/exhibits/show/stories/themakingofgotham. Accessed 2/28/18.

Carla Peterson’s website is a companion to her book Black Gotham, about her own family’s history in Lower Manhattan. The content on the page includes maps, primary sources, and her writings, and covers the 1800s through the 1870s-1880s. Under the tab “Black Gotham Stories” is a section called “The Making of Gotham,” which focuses on the entrepreneurs who prospered in the 1820s-1840s and whose investments helped create Five Points. She also features several important and prosperous members of the free black community in and around Five Points, such as Henry Highland Garnet, Thomas Downing, and Pierre Touissaint. These stories expand upon what’s in Tyler Anbinder’s book and also are an important reminder that Five Points was not purely a slum but was also an integrated neighborhood and a place that housed some important leaders and major institutions for the free black community, such as St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and the African Free School.

Unknown artist, after a print by George Catlin. “The Five Points,” ca. 1827. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/20891 .Accessed 2/28/18

This painting from the 1820s is useful because it highlights many of the prominent themes in how contemporary writers and New Yorkers looked at Five Points. Crime, prostitution, and fighting are all clearly visible, as are groceries, liquor stores, and street vendors. The density of the neighborhood and the newly built wooden building mentioned in Anbinder are featured prominently, and the chaos at the water pump relates back to several of our readings about the scarcity and difficulty of obtaining clean drinking water in this neighborhood. The painting is also useful because it shows a clear bias that was common at the time; the painter is fascinated by but also disgusted by Five Points, and this is particularly notable in his racist depictions of the black people in this painting.

“Statistics About Life in the Five Points.” HERB: Resources for Teachers. https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/files/original/statistics-about-life-in-the-five-points_1a1718cfb2.pdf Accessed 2/28/18.

The CUNY Social History Project compiled these sets of statistics about immigrant wages, mortality rates, rates of injury, and rates of skilled and unskilled labor. This source is useful in quantifying some of poverty and illness described in the other sources. It’s also notable because it specifically compares Irish and German immigrants, and suggests that experiences differed considerably for these two groups. Unfortunately, free black community statistics are not offered alongside the ones listed, but the information given is still useful when thinking about the difficulty Irish immigrants faced in obtaining food and housing.

Margaret McCarthy, “An Irish Emigrant to New York Writes Home,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/689  Accessed 3/2/18.

This letter from a young woman to her family back home in Ireland is a rare and valuable resource because it’s an opportunity to hear directly from a person living in Five Points, rather than the far more common tendency of people from outside the neighborhood to write about Five Points. McCarthy gives some indication of the advantages of life in America, particularly when it comes to the availability of food. She also mentions that she’s including $20 in her letter, which is useful to contextualize the statistics about wages from the previous source. She does, however, also have warnings for her family and specific instructions for how they can best prepare to come to America.