Realities: Manhattan 1880s

There were indeed rich women who loved cats so much that they made hats out of them. Kate Fearing wore this cat-hat (I assume it came out of a taxidermist’s shop) to the Vanderbilt costume ball in March 1883.

Kate Fearing and Puss
Kate Fearing and Puss

Poverty was deep and pervasive and heartbreaking.*

destitute mother child

Prostitution was another fact of life. It was illegal, but tolerated to the degree that women told the census taker what they did for a living.

101 Forsyth Street. 1880 Census for Mary Brown, Keeper of a House of Ill Repute, and the nine prostitutes in her employ.
101 Forsyth Street. 1880 Census for Mary Brown, Keeper of a House of Ill Repute, and the nine prostitutes in her employ.

 

For those of you who have read The Gilded Hour and were wondering about the Mezzanotte florist shop, here’s a postcard that gives you an idea of the kind of thing you would find in Manhattan:

 

Florist at Fifth Avenue and 36th Street, Manhattan, ca 1890

I’ll be adding to this list now and then. 


*Usually I keep notes about images I come across, but not in this case. If you recognize the photo, please let me know.

 

2 Replies to “Realities: Manhattan 1880s”

  1. That cat hat is giving me the creeps. And the photograph and census page remind me that poverty is always with us. Unfortunately.

    1. Nobody forgets about poverty, because everybody is afraid of it. We all know about it in theoretical terms and we’re still shocked when we come across it.

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