Important Official Reports

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XI (5) start of chapter

The Commissioners of the Metropolitan Board of Health, in their Report for 1866, say:—

The first, and at all times the most prolific cause of disease, was found to be the insalubrious condition of most of the tenement houses in the cities of New York and Brooklyn. These houses are generally built without any reference to the health or comfort of the occupant, but simply with a view to economy and profit to the owner. The provision for ventilation and light is very insufficient, and the arrangement of water-closets or privies could hardly be worse if actually intended to produce disease. These houses were almost invariably crowded, and ill-ventilated to such a degree as to render the air within them continually impure and offensive. . . . The basements were often entirely below ground, the ceiling being a foot or two below the level of the street, and was necessarily far more damp, dark, and ill-ventilated than the remainder of the house. The cellars, when unoccupied, were frequently flooded to the depth of several inches with stagnant water, and were made the receptacles of garbage and refuse matter of every description. ... In many cases, the cellars were constantly occupied, and sometimes used as lodging-houses, where there was no ventilation save by the entrance, and in which the occupants were entirely dependent upon artificial light by day as well as by night. Such was the character of a vast number of the tenement houses in the lower parts of the city of New York, and along its eastern and western borders. Disease, especially in the form of fevers of a typhoid character, was constantly present in these dwellings, and every now and then became in more than one of them epidemic. It was found that in one of these twenty cases of typhus had occurred during the previous year.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America