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

By Alessandra Ram

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2013/03/tour-nycs-lower-east-side-in-a-1940s-archival-film/274108/