Students have read about the arrival of millions of immigrants in American cities
during the late 1800s. In this activity they will discover what life was like
for those immigrants who settled in the cities' tenements.
Students will use information from the Lower East Side Tenement Museum Web site
to learn about tenement life during the late 1800s. They will read about the
living conditions in the tenements, the neighborhood of 97 Orchard Street, and
some of the challenges that immigrants faced in the United States. Students
will also see photos of some of the tenants of 97 Orchard Street, read their
stories, and view 360 degrees panoramic views of the apartments. They will then
answer four questions and apply this information by imagining they are reporters
interviewing an immigrant resident of 97 Orchard Street.
- Students will define the lifestyle of most urban immigrants in the late
- Students will be able to use this knowledge to write an interview with an
immigrant resident of a tenement in the 1870s.
Student Web Activity Answers
- The neighborhood of 97 Orchard Street, called Kleindeutschland, was crowded
with German immigrants during the mid-1800s. "Little Germany" was
America’s first sizable foreign language enclave, filled with several
different ethnic groups and religious affiliations. The residents formed regionally-based
lodges and societies. The tenement at 97 Orchard Street had no indoor toilets
and no running water. Residents had access to water and outhouses in the building’s
backyard. While the outhouses of 97 Orchard Street hooked up to sewage lines,
many tenement privies of the time did not. Those residents endured filthy
sanitation conditions every time they collected water.
- Each apartment in the tenement has a similar layout. Each consists of three rooms, including a small back room generally used as a bedroom and two larger roomsa kitchen in the middle and a living room in the front. The apartments are, in general, sparsely furnished, with hardwood floors and large pieces of functional furniture. The living rooms have two large windows stretching almost from floor to ceiling, while the back rooms lead out into the common hallway of the tenement.
- When her husband left the family, Mrs. Gumpertz had to find a means
of support. She converted her front room into a workshop and became a dressmaker.
In the late 1800s, dressmaking provided single women some of the highest fees
earned by female workers. Additionally, it was an occupation that was easy
to set up in the home, and installment plans made purchasing sewing machines
- Many immigrant children worked to provide necessary income for the family.
The positions filled by children were often in sweatshops and tenement flats,
doing home-based piecework or shining shoes and hawking newspapers. Children
in the 1800s labored long hours under poor conditions for paltry pay.
- Students’ interviews will vary.
Go To Student Web Activity