The Tenement Houses of New York

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XI (4) start of chapter

As stated on official authority, there are 16,000 tenement houses in New York, and in these there dwell more than half a million of people! This astounding fact is of itself so suggestive of misery and evil that it scarcely requires to be enlarged upon; but some details will best exhibit the mischievous consequences of overcrowding—not by the class who, at home in Ireland, have lived in cities, and been accustomed to city-life and city pursuits, but by a class the majority of whom rarely if ever entered a city in the old country until they were on their way to the port of embarkation—by those whose right place in America is the country, and whose natural pursuit is the cultivation of the land. Let the reader glance at the tenement houses—those houses and 'cellars' in which the working masses of New York swarm—those delightful abodes for which so many of the hardy peasantry of Ireland madly surrender the roomy log-cabin of the clearing, and the frame house of a few years after, together with almost certain independence and prosperity. I have entered several of these tenement houses, in company with one to whom their inmates were well known; I have spoken to the tenants of the different flats, and have minutely examined everything that could enlighten me as to their real condition; but I deem it well to rely rather on official statements, which are based on the most accurate knowledge, and are above the suspicion of exaggeration.

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