An Italian immigrant family on New York’s Lower East Side, ca. 1910, photographed by Jessie Tarbox Beals (American, 1870-1942). Beals was an American photographer, the first published female photojournalist in the United States and the first female night photographer.
The family shown here is living in an “old-law” tenement. The apartments in these buildings were not required to have ventilation in each room. The window facing the kitchen appears to look into a smaller room or closet. More than 100,000 immigrants lived in rear apartments (behind other buildings) that were wholly unfit for human habitation. In a room not thirteen feet either way slept twelve men and women, two or three in bunks set in a sort of alcove, the rest on the floor. In the summer months 3-4 babies would suffocate in the airless tenements every night.