Wednesday, July 18, 2012

1940s New York

The 1940 U.S. Census records were recently released by the National Archives. With a little work you can find any street (that existed in 1940) and see the census forms. They tell you the names, ages, occupations, salaries and state or country of birth for all residents. I was able to locate my mother and her family in South Philly. My father grew up in the Bronx and though I couldn't find him (his parents briefly lived in New Rochelle, NY), I was able to track down other members of the family at the apartment we used to visit in my youth.
The Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York (CUNY) has placed a 1943 market analysis of New York City online to give context to these census records. The page, Welcome to 1940's New York, has interactive maps and profiles for each neighborhood in the city.

Above is Highbridge, my father's neighborhood in the Bronx. The colors give an indication of wealth (based on rent and other expenditures) with the blues and greens at the low end and the oranges and reds at the high end. My dad's block is green, at the lower end of the spectrum.

The descriptions are also worth a read. "Highbridge is a heavily populated and good residential district." The "new and better buildings" are along the Grand Concourse, and the retail outlets "while small, are of a good class...." It makes me wonder how they would describe the African Movies Mall.

In the case of neighborhoods with a greater diversity of wealth, such as Greenwich Village, they added purple and yellow to the top of the wealth chart.

The description of Greenwich Village as "not a neighborhood of artists and writers" where "remodeling has changed many of the bohemian haunts" and it's popularity among "business couples" makes for an interesting early take on gentrification.

The interactive map overlays the demographic profile for every neighborhood, giving an overall impression of the geographic patterns of wealth and poverty, much of that unchanged today.


Michael5000 said...


Michael5000 said...

Man, it took a long time to find my house. But it's nice to know that in 1940 it was owned by the best-paid dude in the neighborhood. It was also the most expensive house on the page by a good $100!