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25 Photos That Show How Much The Lower East Side Sucked

For those who miss Max Fish: it was way worse.

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Jacob Riis was a journalist and reformer around the turn of the century in New York. He published a book of his photographs and descriptions of the harsh conditions of life in the Lower East Side tenements, How the Other Half Lives, in 1890.

Many of these cramped indoor spaces and dark alleys had never been captured on film, and allowed many people to see the homes of the mostly immigrant populations for the first time. Riis advocated for the city to improve the drinking water supply and other reforms to poor neighborhoods. There are several parks and buildings named after him across the city today.

These photos are from How the Other Half Lives, which is now in the public domain (the ebook version $0.99 if you want to check it out).


5. A weirdly hot peddler who sleeps in the cellar of 11 Ludlow St. This is like a hot guy who you discover has a really gross single bed. This is still happening on Ludlow St. It still sucks.


7. This is the home of an Italian immigrant ragpicker. That was a real job: ragpicker. And you thought your unpaid internship sucked? THIS REALLY SUCKED YOU JUST PICK RAGS.


15. A black-and-tan (meaning integrated) dive bar in "Little Africa." Chilling on a giant barrell of whiskey looks pretty cool, but check out how miserable they all look. It SUCKED.


17. Remember when you could smoke in bars? Yeah, that was the real New York, man, when the city was real and dirty. Oh wait, you also had children working their fingers to the bone in a tobacco shop. IT SUCKED.


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