Tour NYC's Lower East Side in a 1940s Archival Film

"Anyone can get a taste of traveling around the world in the one place where the world's nations sit side by side!" 

From the Prelinger Archives comes a remarkable promotional short for New York, "the town where," according to the narrator, "east meets west amidst the babble of a hundred tongues.” The film, which features shots of various ethnic enclaves in the Lower East Side and Chinatown, highlights changing immigration patterns in the 20th-century United States.

Following the opening of Ellis Island in 1892, African Americans were rapidly displaced by incoming Chinese, Irish, Italian, Polish, and Puerto Rican workers and their families in select pockets around the city. The film’s narrator eagerly depicts downtown New York as the quintessential melting pot, and though the script is a bit cheesy, it provides a fascinating window into the city at the time. From Chinese children playing jump rope in the street to their Puerto Rican counterparts enjoying a game of baseball, everyone’s a Yankee. As the narrator says, you can find “all this is New York City, where you can make a trip around the world in the shadows of the skyscrapers.”

For more films from the Prelinger Archive, visit http://www.archive.org/details/prelinger.

Alessandra Ram is a former writer and producer for The Atlantic Video Channel. Her work has also appeared in Foreign Policy.

Our Incredible, Microscopic World

Highlights from Nikon's Small World in Motion competition, featuring zebrafish embryos, killer T cells attacking cancer, and much more

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."

Video

What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.

Video

Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.

Video

How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Video

Just In