NEW YORK by Allon Schoener


An Illustrated History of the People
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A brisk, often fascinating tour of five centuries of life in New York City, as displayed in some 800 prints and photographs. Schoener has compiled several more narrowly focused visual archives of city life (Harlem on My Mind; The Lower East Side); this time out, he aims for a broad overview, but retains an emphasis on the lives and labors of the anonymous masses who were drawn to the city, and who made it a dominant presence in American life. Most of the illustrations deal with the modest realities of everyday life: portraits and parties, street fairs and urban scenes, parades and home life, workshops and neighborhoods. Four of the five chronological chapters use the experiences of particular ethnic groups (the chapter on the period from 1825—80 deals with the waves of Irish and German immigrants; the chapter on the turbulent period from 1881—1914 explores the lives of Jewish and Italian immigrants and their impact on the city) to suggest the continual making and remaking of the city, its industries, and its neighborhoods. Each chapter in turn is broken into discrete two-page spreads (such as —Street Kids,— —The Immigrant Worker’s Life,— and —The Black Bourgeoisie— in the chapter dealing with the late 19th century). Schoener provides a terse narrative, accompanied by period quotes from letters, newspapers, and books. He has uncovered large numbers of unfamiliar and often powerful photographs, and they—re reproduced here with exceptional clarity. A handsome, lively, and useful addition to the lengthy shelf of studies of the city’s vigorous, complex ethnic history.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-393-04581-1
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998


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