What is This Site?
This site is intended to provide a detailed image of working-class
life in one small part of urban America in the mid nineteenth century,
using documents ("primary sources") from the time.
The Fourth Ward was a working-class district
by the East River waterfront of lower Manhattan. The area, which is
now bisected by the approaches to the Brooklyn Bridge, was a rough,
poor, unhealthy neighborhood in the 1860s. Some of the worst slums in
New York stood there, within a stone's throw of City Hall and the offices
of the major metropolitan newspapers. As in other parts of the city,
people who filled the tenements and boarding houses struggled with a
host of problems brought on by rapid urban growth and industrialization.
Some managed to cope. Some didn't.
These problems and the tensions stirred
up by the Civil War exploded in the summer of 1863 in a frenzy of violence
called the New York Draft Riot, which was fought mostly in other parts
of the city but which spilled over into the Fourth Ward. The riot called
attention to deeper social conflict between rich and poor, black and
white. It alerted prosperous New Yorkers to how little they understood
the poorer people of their city. It prompted some affluent people to
study and try to alleviate the difficulties faced by the less fortunate.
It made others fear that the future would bring even more savage uprisings.
The maps, magazine
articles, newspaper articles, book excerpts, images and other documents
that compose this site reveal many different aspects of life in the
Fourth Ward. You may, for instance, choose to learn about the atrocious
health conditions in the crowded neighborhoods, about the hard-drinking
life of sailors on shore, or about the racial violence that forced African
Americans out of the Fourth Ward in 1863.
How Do I Navigate?
have your choice of two main ways to navigate this site. The documents
and images may be accessed directly from a central image map, a digitized
and hyperlinked version of an extraordinary Sanitary
Map and Social Chart that
provided information about every building in 1865. Hotspots will appear
as you drag your cursor over the map, inviting you to connect to other
parts of the site. This method of navigating is intended to provide
a spatial understanding of the neighborhood -- of its crowding, its
intimate scale, and the close proximity of homes and stables, prominent
printing houses and seedy saloons. Alternatively, you can explore particular
topics by clicking on any of the red, underlined words in the table
of contents above