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|88 - 90 Sheriff Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan as a Microcosm of Little Germany (Kleindeutschland)|
Kleindeutschland and the Lower East Side
In the mid to late 1800s the population of much of what is now called The Lower East Side was predominately German immigrant (including Catholics, Protestants and Jews). Over time the population of the Lower East Side shifted from German immigrants to Eastern European Jewish immigrants. The Lower East Side was made famous by the scores of Jewish immigrants who arrived there from Eastern Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many books, movies, plays, etc. have been devoted to that cultural experience. Much has been done to preserve and celebrate the Jewishness of the Lower East Side. Less is remembered of the neighborhood when it was predominately German American.
Germans had been immigrating to America since 1608 when a small group of Germans joined the Jamestown colony in Virginia. Large numbers immigrated between 1680 and 1760; many settling in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. Between 1848 and 1918 nearly 6 million Germany immigrated to the US. While many of this immigrant group of Germans settled in farming communities, about half of them settled in cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago. New York City was one of the most popular destinations for this wave of German immigrants. There were German communities in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Neighboring Hoboken, New Jersey was over 40% German in the mid to late 1800s. Hoboken was the "port" for several German shipping lines in "New York Harbor".
In 2006 17% of Americans could claim a German ancestor.
Initially, the German community had strong cultural ties to "the old country". There were German newspapers, German clubs, and German festivals. The German beer halls and theater were popular. Church services were held in German; as were instructions in religious run schools.
Until 1871 Germany was not a united country but a series of city states, dukedoms, and principalities. German immigrants before the late 1880s associated with others from the same regions of Germany. Bavarian interacted with Bavarians, Prussians with Prussians, etc.
Assimilation occurred, as it does with most immigrant groups, when the younger generation showed a preference for English. When the US entered WWI against Germany many German Americans were obliged to show their loyalty to AMERICA. Many Americanized their names to avoid anti German hostilities. German instruction in schools and German language church services ended.
The situation in WWI may have contributed to the fact that little has been preserved, written or celebrated about the German immigrant population that inhabited the Lower East Side before the arrival of the Eastern European Jews. Both the German Christians and the German Jews who lived there seem to have drifted off to other places without leaving the imprint that their successors made. On the other hand, much has been written about the German American communities in other areas of the United States — So there has to be more to it.
On this page I want to take a look at an address where my family lived, in an attempt to build a bit of an image of the time.
In 1894 Frank Goehle, the son of Peter Goehle and his second wife, Wilhelmina Lindemann, was born at 88 Sheriff Street. The family lived at that address from at least 1890 to at least Frank's birth in March 1894. Peter Goehle, a butcher, was born in Germany in 1852 and immigrated to New York in 1873. Wilhelmina Lindemann, born circa 1861, was the daughter of Germany immigrants who arrived in New York in the mid 1800s.
Sheriff Street once extended from Grand Street to Houston. It was between Columbia and Pitt streets. Sheriff street is gone except for one block which still remains just south of Houston along the side of Hamilton Fish Park.
At the site of what was one 88 Sheriff Street are the Masaryk Towers built in the 1960s. See Masaryk Towers
Sheriff street 1842 to 1847
90 Sheriff street was in existence from at least 1842 when Andrew Maffitt, age 40, member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, died and his funeral was held at 90 Sheriff street.
The sudden death of Samuel Douglass (age 70 born in Ireland) at 90 Sheriff street was the subject of a Coroner's inquest.
By 1847 the neighborhood was recognized as having a heavy German population:
"Too Let - The Old Established grocery with a large cellar, No 90 Sheriff street, a first rate opportunity for a German Grocer, in a thickly settled German neighborhood, with a large cellar, Enquire James Boyle, 94 Sheriff street.
Descriptions of 88-90 Sheriff Street from 1853 to 1944
88-90 Sheriff Street was described in the censuses, newspaper, maps and various articles between 1853 and 1941. These articles are presented in greater detail below.
"a large building containing about 50 families"
"There were twelve small houses in a row, within a back court, entered by galleries running up on the outside - cheap brick and wood houses. All of the piazzas, banisters, railings, every possible rope line, were hung with rags drying."
Note: The 1853 map shows four brick houses behind 90 through 96 Sheriff and three wooden houses behind 84 to 88 Sheriff.
The Tenement House Problem published in 1901 claimed that contrary to popular belief rear tenements were not added on a lot that already had a building in front. But rather the other way around. The rear building was on the lot first and the front building was added later. It offered as proof:
"two-story house, built twenty-five years since" Note: circa 1831 if this information is correct.
"dilapidated cottage buildings with narrow balconies"
According to the 1860 census there were 7 families with a total of 28 people living at 88 Sheriff and 4 families with a total of 19 people at 90 Sheriff. However, articles of the times claim that "hundreds" of people and "scores" of dogs inhabited these two buildings.
"wood, 2 stories, with attic and basement"
The 1870 census listed 27 families at 88 Sheriff Street with a total of 174 people.
This census listed 20 families at 90 Sheriff with a total of 58 people.
There were 16 families at 88 Sheriff street in 1880 with a total of 76 people. The number of families would indicate the typical tenement of four families per floor indicating a four story building in 1880.
I could not find a listing for 90 Sheriff "front". The only listing for 90 Sheriff was for 7 families living at 90 Sheriff street "rear". This may indicate that 90 Sheriff was under construction in 1880 and therefor had no one living at that address.
The 1890 New York City Police Census listed 17 families and a total of 70 people at 88 Sheriff.
Map shows both 88 & 90 Sheriff were 5 story buildings. #90 was 100 feet deep. #88 was less but had a bigger yard and had a 4 story building in back. Both buildings were 25 feet wide. 90 had narrow air shafts on the north and south. 88 did not have air shafts of its own but shared the shaft of #90 to the north. Compared to the other building on the block 88 appears to be about 75 feet deep.
Map shows both buildings were 5 stories and essentially the same as shown in 1899.
MANHATTAN FLATS AT AUCTION
The New York Times reported an assault at a restaurant at 88 Sheriff
TO SELL TENEMENT HOUSES
Spear-O Associates bought from the 128 East 129th Corporation the five story apartment house at 88 Sheriff Street, subject of a first mortgage of $8,500 held by Wesleyan University. There were eighteen apartments each of two or three rooms in the building.
The Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, 1853 to 1878 as reported in the press
88-90 Sheriff street was a notorious place in the 1850s. It was the reputed home to a large group of German "rag pickers" and was repeatedly used by reform minded groups as a prime example of the worst examples of tenement dwelling.
The rag pickers were noted in New York City as early as 1842, although I have not found specific reference to Sheriff street. It was assumed that they were:
"county-bred Germans who had taken to this occupation through their frugal habit of saving and making use of every available bit of material, and had found their opportunity in the general prodigality of refuse dumped in great heaps and piles throughout the city."At the time that the following articles were written, New York City did NOT have a system of garbage collection. So, in fact, the "rag pickers" were performing a service. Otherwise, much of what they collected would have been left on the streets to rot. In addition, it will be seen that many rag pickers made a "good living" - some supposedly became quite "wealthy".
The "rag pickers" where not limited to foraging for rags. They also collected paper, bones, pieces of metal, leather, glass - anything that could be recycled, reused and/or sold.
Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, January 1853
WALKS AMONG THE NEW-YORK POOR, 1853
According to an article in the New York Times in January 1853 German rag pickers numbering in the thousands lived mostly in the eleventh and seventeenth Wards. They were reported to live in large lodging-houses "sometimes three hundred in a house".
The reporter, a certain "C. L. B." visited the "colony" of rag pickers on Sheriff street of which he says:
"There were twelve small houses in a row, within a back court, entered by galleries running up on the outside - cheap brick and wood houses. All of the piazzas, banisters, railings, every possible rope line, were hung with rags drying."The Germans who lived in this colony "men women and children" were up at five o'clock in the morning to set out on their search for rags.
C. L. B. interviewed one woman who "did not speak English". Her husband was a day laborer but he had broken his leg and was in the hospital. She was the sole support of her children and an old grandfather. She could make "two shillings" a day picking rags. Her children helped her. She paid $4 a month for "one room with a closed bed-room behind".
In another house were a father and children (number not stated) in the front room and a sick mother in the bed-room. The father and children made $3 a week picking rags. The rent was again $4 per month for the two rooms.
"In the next house" was another rag picker family. This family appeared to do somewhat better and could average 50 cents a day. "An active boy outside, who spoke very good English, said he could make $4 to $5 a week, picking bones."
Rents were cheaper in the basement - $3.50. The families in the basements generally made less, "two to four shillings a day" and yet again the business was picking rags.
The rooms smelled horribly. C. L. B. was told that in the summer the "houses are intolerable from the stench" and during the cholera season that "pestilence" was especially fatal in "these localities".
A point was made that the rent from these 12 houses amounted to $360 a month or $4,320 a year.
The reporter then went to a different rag picker location in Third street.
"Rags are flaunting on every side, and little girls are sorting and washing them. Heaps of bones, carefully sorted, lie in different parts of the court."
Note: Several articles on the rag pickers make reference to colonies of rag pickers moving to a town in the West or to the Western Prairies - no specific location named.
Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, April 1853
"THE RAG PICKERS AND BONE GATHERERS IN NEW YORKThe inhabitants of 88-90 Sheriff street earned their keep by scavenging for rags and bones. They set off each morning about dawn armed with pokers and baskets to collect rags. Others using dog carts collected the refuse of kitchens and butcher shops. At the end of the day everything collected was sorted. The cotton and linen rags were sold to make paper. The woolen rag were sold to make rugs. The bones are boiled and any meat clinging to the bones eaten by the rag-pickers. The cleaned bones were sold (The article does not say for what purpose, but bone was used to make many things that are now made of plastic: tooth brushes, combs, umbrella handles and the like.).
" Notwithstanding the extreme degradation of the German rag pickers, they appear happy, and exhibit no signs of discontent. With many the Western States is the promised land, and every effort is made to accumulate sufficient funds to enable them to emigrate. A colony of three hundred persons is mentioned, which occupied a single basement last year, living promiscuously together, with a common bone heap, to which all contributed, and from which was derived a portion of their sustenance. Though seeming to be in utter destitution, they all stated for the West last spring to settle on farms."Inclement weather like snow were "among the worse calamities" to befall the rag picker.
Information in this section from "The N. Y. Journal of Commerce, as copied by the National of April 13th, 1853" APPENDIX TO NOTES Notes on Uncle Tom's Cabin by the Rev. E. J. Stearns, A. M.
Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, April 1856
As reported in Friends' Review; a Religious, Literary and Miscellaneous Journal April 5, 1856
LIFE IN NEW YORK; OR, THE PLAGUE SPOTS OF A GREAT CITY
A Committee of the State Legislature visited New York City in order to examine the houses of the poor.
The Committee also visited "Rag-pickers of Paradise," in Sheriff street, which is thus described: —Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, July, 1856
As reported in the New York Times on July 7, 1856 the tenement committee was out and about the lower east side checking out conditions in the 11 the and 13th wards.
"After calling at No 316 Rivington street, the Committee proceeded to a lovely retreat in the rear of Nos. 88 and 90 Sheriff street, called "Rag Picker's Paradise." About a block off the stench was clearly perceptible, and at the very entrance of the alley-way leading to the premises were found lying several bags of bones just brought from the slaughter-house, preparatory to being boiled. The "Rag Picker's Paradise" consists of a row of dilapidated wooden structures, three stories high, the stairs being nearly perpendicular, and the whole occupied by rag pickers. In the yard, and on the stoops and in the entries, were bags and baskets of bones and calves heads, with the flesh still clinging to them and emitting a stench bad enough in itself, but absolutely refreshing compared to the other prevailing smells of the place. Scurvy curs, fierce and numerous, barked from every hole and corner, but were quickly silenced by their owners on our approach.The New York Herald and the Sun also covered this story. It is more or less the same information with some minor variations. I cannot read the beginning of the article - it is too light.
The New York Tenant Houses1James Bolye:
2Although Snyder was a relatively common name in NYC, it is possible that Christian Snyder and Hans Snyder are related. See more on the Snyder/Scneiders below.
3Hans Snyder was most likely "John Schneider" who lived for many years at 88 Sheriff Street. See below.
Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, August 1856
In August 1856 an attempt was made to clear out the "Rag Pickers Paradise" at 88 and 90 Sheriff:
CLEANING COTTAGE-ROW AND RAG PICKERS PARADISE"The New York Herald also carried this story:
Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, 1857
In 1857, 88 Sheriff street was described as:
"a rambling row of wooden tenements which was known as "Ragpickers Paradise," and was inhabited by Germans, who dwell in small rooms, in almost fabulous gregariousness, surrounded by scores of dogs, and canopied by myriads of rags fluttering from lines crossing their filthy yards, where bones of dead animals and noisome collection of every kind were reeking with pestiferous smells. One establishment .... contains more than fifty families."88 & 90 SHERIFF IN 1857
Condition of the City
Conditions of the city were recorded for each Ward. Listed among the "most filthy buildings" of the city that needed the most immediate attention.
No. 88 Sheriff-street requires immediate attention; it is another hole tenanted by German rag-pickers, about forty in number; old bones and rags are allowed to be left lying in and about the yards and hall, the odor arising from which is beyond description.Note: The 1860 census enumerates 28 people at 88 Sheriff and 19 people at 90 Sheriff.
Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, 1858
Friends Intelligencer volume XIV 1858
"In the rear of Nos. 88 and 90 Sheriff street, in the Eleventh Ward is located "Rag-pickers Paradise". It is so named from the fact that hundreds of rag and bone-pickers reside, assort and sell their stock in trade at this point. Formerly this place, and numerous others in this ward, were greater nuisances than they are at the present time. Parties doing business at these places have, during the past year, been under the supervision of Health Warden Green. By dint of public effort, he has partially succeeded in educating them in the matter of cleanliness. Much yet remains to be done. The entrance to "Rag-pickers Paradise" is from Sheriff street, when you at once approach a block of dilapidated cottage buildings with narrow balconies in which are hung large quantities of cut-off garments, rags, etc., in the process of drying.Note: Does not sound to me like much of an improvement under Health Warden Green. MLB
Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, 1860
"Next in order comes 'Rag Picker's Row' and bone repository. This nuisance should be destroyed. It is situated in the rear of Nos. 84, 86, 88, 90, 92, 94 and 96 Sheriff street. The houses are of wood, two stories with attic and basement. The attic rooms are used to deposit the filthy rags and bones as they are taken from the gutters and slaughter houses. The yards are filled with dirty rags hung up to dry, sending forth their stench to all the neighborhood, and is exceedingly nauseous, operating upon me as an emetic. The tenants are all Germans of the lowest order, having no national or personal pride; they are exceedingly filthy in person, and their bed clothes are as dirty as the floors they walk on: their food is of the poorest quality, and their feet and heads, and doubtless their whole bodies, are anasarcous, suffering from what they call rheumatism, but which is in reality a prostrate nervous system, the result of foul air, and inadequate supply of nutritious food. They have a peculiar taste for the association of dogs and cats, there being about 50 of the former and 30 of the latter. The whole number of apartments is 32, occupied by 28 families, number 120 in all, 60 adults and 60 children. The yards are all small and the sinks running over with filth. The owner of one-half of this row is named Henry Greffelman, and of the other Christopher Sneider. The latter gentleman is a wealthy man and lives with his tenants in the rear, although he owns the front house; he prefers the filth because' he thus saves some money. He buys and sells rags, a perfect chiffonier. Not one decent sleeping apartment can be found on the entire premises, and not one stove properly arranged. The carbonic acid gas, in conjunction with the other emanations from the bones, rags and human filth, defies description. Average rent of apartments $3,50 a month. The rooms are 6X10 feet, bedrooms 5x6 feet. It will be noticed that there are very few children in all these tenement houses, the reason being that the offspring of such parents have only a small amount of vitality; with but a vegetable existence, they either wither under the scorching sun of summer, or chill to death in the winter."Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, 1865
In the Report of the Council of hygiene and public health of the Citizens' Association of New York upon the sanitary condition of the city By Citizens' Association of New York. Council of Hygiene and Public Health, Citizens' Association of New York Edition: 2 Published by D. Appleton and Co., 1865, 360 pages.
"The place and its inhabitants have been aptly described in the following language by Dr. Guernsey in a special report made to the New York Sanitation Association by that Physician:4 A general accumulation of serous fluid in various tissues and body cavities. (Online free dictionary)
5 I believe that "Dr. Guernsey" was Dr. Egbert Guernsey, who according to a New York Times article in 1890 was a person whose "name had long been associated with works of a public nature".
For more information on Dr Guernsey go to Dr. Guernsey now or at the bottom of the page.
Sheriff Street Rag Pickers, 1868
The Third Annual Report of the Metropolitan Broad of Health, State of New York published in 1868 does not specifically target 88-90 Sheriff Street.
However, the following comments were made regarding Sheriff Street.
"For instance, one house in Sheriff Street, having a population of ninety-six persons, had four deaths in nine months. This house, although one of the most modern in that street, is also one of the most dismal. The bed-rooms are dark and unventilated; the halls closed and fetid, and the entire building arranged wholly with regard to the numbers of families the space may be made to contain, without any provision for their heath and comfort. Two other houses on one lot which faces the same street, with an open privy in the little yard between them, having an aggregated population of fifty-eight persons yielded a similar mortality."And "the four blocks in the rag-pickers district on Sheriff and Willett streets" the so called "fever nests" were described as having:
"an utter neglect of ventilation and adequate means for daily scavenging and purification of the tenement-blocks, that they invite and perpetuate the most pernicious infections, and thus become sources of peril not only to their own inhabitants, but to the wealthier classes in their vicinity."
An English Perspective on the New York Rag Pickers, 1878
LONDON SOCIETY AND ILLUSTRATED MAGAZINE LISGHT AND AMUSING LITERATURE THE HOURS OF RELAXATION VOLUMEN XXX LONDON 1876
Article by George Makepeace Towle
Quite a different prospective of the German rag pickers is provided in this English article published in 1876. It does not specifically mention Sheriff street but clearly refers to the GERMAN rag pickers versus others of a "lower class" of rag picker found in New York City.
"As to the greater variety in the phases of New York poverty, this is clearly due to the fact that the New York poor are, in the main, the refuse of the older nations - the scum of the tares of immigration."Despite statements like the one above this article almost makes the rag picker seem a hero: he required little capital, was free to work when he wanted, the "wistfulness of humanity" was his opportunity. It was deemed preferable to mining, dreary factory work, or working the boiler in the bowls of a ship.
"This is an age, particularly in England and America, of a very vivid interest on the part of the well-to-do in the condition of and alleviation of the very poor."The writer goes on to say.
"The rag pickers of New York have been objects of especial interest and study to ladies devoted to the cause of ameliorating human suffering."Rag picker collected anything that could possible be reused or sold for reuse. Once the days gathering was done the rag picker returned to his home to sort his findings. An active an skilled rag picker could make a decent wage.
This writer states that there was a social order among the rag pickers and that for many immigrants it was but a stepping stone to a better life. Many unemployed newly arrived immigrants turned to rag picking because it required "nothing but hands and feet and moderate energy".
"There is, in a obscure, but by no means squalid, by-street of New York a colony of these German rag-pickers, who have collected together on the principle that poverty loves, company, and after the social manner of Teutons everywhere. Here are about a hundred families, comprising between four and five hundred persons. They are in no sense paupers. Not more than two families live in the same house; and the houses are neat, not gloomy, two-story buildings. Several bear-gardens near at hand attest the fact that they are neither too poor not too disheartened to patronize amusements the taste for which they have brought hither from the Faderland. Enter their houses: you will see nothing to revolt you; everything is neat and tidy, though scant, perhaps, and homely; and there is a look about the housed which is really home-like. In the morning you will see the groups of clean neatly dressed children coming out of the houses, and if you follow them you will see them enter the great brick public school several squares off, where they are taught in common with the children of the well-to-do citizens."This could certainly be describing Sheriff Street as it appears in the censures, versus the depiction in the press.
Rag pickers were (and in some places in the world still are) a symbol of the bottom of the barrel, comparable with beggars, paupers and vagrants.
At the same time, Jacob Riis portrayed the New York City German rag pickers as hard working and industrious people who later became "thrifty tradesmen and farmers".
The Rag Pickers Myth?
The press reported large numbers of rag picking families and people living together on Sheriff Street - numbers 88 and 90 are specifically mentioned. Some of these rag pickers were supposed to have made enough money at their trade to buy land in the "West" and become successful farmers.
The press reported:
The censuses show:
Where are the 40 or 50 families and hundreds of people who were supposed to live at these addresses?
A Federal census was taken in 1890. The city of New York felt that the census did not correctly reflect the population of the city and as a consequence took a census of their own in the fall of 1890. Known as the Police Census (because it was taken by members of the Police department) it recorded 13% more people than the Federal census.
If we apply the same difference of count to 88- 90 Sheriff in the 1850 census we get a 60 people instead of 53. Hardly hundreds! To get a mere 106 the census would have to be off by 200 percent. Is that possible? A principle purposes of the census was to make a count of all the people. Could the count be so skewed? It is very hard to know where the writers of the articles got there statistics. Were they making them up for dramatic impact? Did someone start with a figure and the rest just follow suit? What was happening here?
The July 1857 is closest to the number of actual people reported in the building, but you can hardly count infants as rag pickers. The 1865 is suspect not only for the total number but the split of the number into 60 adults and 60 children. The families in these building were heavy on small children.
There were rag pickers and bone dealers at Sheriff street as indicated by the 1855 census and the 1856 City Directory connected with the Schneider family. However, even if it is assumed that all of the laborers were actually rag and bone men it still would not reflect how 88 and 90 Sheriff street were written about in the press.
1860 census takers were paid two cents per person reported. Jason Gauthier of the History Staff at the U.S. Census Bureau in reply to my question: "Were the 1860 census takers paid a certain sum for each name they put in the official return? If so, how could this have effected an accurate census count?" replied:
"Census enumerators in 1860 were U.S. marshals and their assistance. At the time, they were paid per person/household enumerated. As you can imagine, this could lead to dishonesty given that the more people enumerated meant an increased paycheck. This was an ongoing problem that by the early 20th century was given the name "curbstoning." The term refers to enumerators sitting "on the curb" and filling out census schedules with assumed or fictitious information without actually visiting the households. It saved the enumerator time, meant a shorter workday, and an increased paycheck."In light of this, I would expect a higher number of people reported, rather than a lower number of people reported at 88 - 90 Sheriff Street.
Did The Rag Pickers Go West? And, if so, where did they go?
The 1853 it was stated that a colony of 300 German rag pickers had moved to the west to settle on farms. This was supposed to have occurred in the spring of 1852. There were several references over a period of time to the rag pickers moving west.
The rag pickers were reported to be at 88 and 90 Sheriff street in July and August, 1856. They were still reported to be there in 1857, 1858 and 1865.
Jacob Riis, the social reformer, states:
"The Sheriff Street Colony of rag-pickers, long since gone, is an instance in point. The thrifty Germans saved up money during years of hard work in squalor and apparently wretched poverty to buy a township in a Western State, and the whole colony moved out there in a body. There need be no doubt of their thriving there."I have not found anything concrete about this western migration of the rag pickers. In fact, the most "accused" of the Sheriff Street "rag pickers", the Schneider (Snyder) family, stayed exactly where they were and were still there when the Goehle family arrived at 88 Sheriff Street circa 1890.
Social reformers of the time were horrified by the conditions of many of the immigrant families in New York City. All sorts of efforts were made to improve living conditions. The reformers ideal was to move people from the dirty, crowed, disease ridden, inner city to the clean fresh air of the American West. In fact, in the post Civil War period there was a reverse trend occurring, whereby people from the farms were moving into the industrialized cities.
I am still trying to determine if any of the people who lived at this address ended up in the "West". Hopefully more research with reveal something concrete on this subject.
Rag Pickers in Ward 11 in 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1890
The censuses for 1850, 1860, 1880, and 1890 do not show any bone or rag pickers at 88 - 90 Sheriff street. The 1855 New York State Census and the 1870 Federal Census do show rag pickers on Sheriff Street. See below.
A True Life Rag Picker's Success
Louis B Mayer, Hollywood studio mogul and the executive of MGM, was born in Russian circa 1885. The family immigrated to Canada were his father, Jacob Meir, had a scrap metal business. Later Louis B Mayer had his own metal juck business in Boston. The scrap metal business (or junk business) in the early 1900s was not too different from the rag picking business. It was a little more up scale in that the scrap metal man had a horse and cart instead of a dog and cart.
In fact, James Boyle of 90 Sheriff street was listed as a junk store owner in 1851. Several other residences of 88 - 90 Sheriff street were listed in the directories as "junk" dealers.
90 TO 82 SHERIFF STREET IN THE 1850 CENSUS
Addresses were not listed in this census. The addresses as listed here were determined by comparisons to other records.
Note: The first of the articles that I found refers to the rag pickers on Sheriff Street in 1853.
*****Denis Conovan, carman 84 Sheriff Street in the 1851 City Directory.
*******James Cochlan no occupation listed at 84 Sheriff Street in the 1851 directory.
SHERIFF STREET IN 1851
An 1851 City Directory includes the following listings for the east side of Sheriff Street between Rivington and Stanton:
*Grafelman at this address: 1851, 1859, 1860, 1862, 1863 and 1865. See Grafelman below.
**James Boyle at this address: 1856. He lived on Mangin Street.
***Nicholas Hahn was listed in the 1860 census: Ward 11, #-58 family #2157, Nicholas Hahn 23, grocer, born Germany, and Henry Otter 20 "clerke". He was listed in the 1860 census in the 4th district of ward 7 with a family, grocer, $1,000 born Hanover.
****John Young was listed in the 1860 Census at 98 Sheriff. Listed as John Jung in the 1859 City directory.
Note: "Christopher Schneider NOT listed.
SHERIFF STREET IN THE 1855 NEW YORK STATE CENSUS
The 1855 New York State census microfilm for Ward 11 Ed #3 which contains 88 - 90 Sheriff street is almost impossible to read.
The census was taken June 4, 1855. It lists a population in ED #3 Ward 11 of 3,433 which includes 764 families in 189 dwellings. The occupations that I could make out were the usual carmen, tailors, laborers, seamen, carpenters, and shoemakers. At the end of each ED a list was made of the deaths in the ED for the year. I cannot make out any of the ages or causes of deaths for ED#3 but the number of deaths was 76.
I could not make a complete search for the rag pickers because of the difficulty reading the pages. However I did find the following group of rag pickers on what is surely Sheriff Street:
88 SHERIFF STREET 1859/1860
The 1856 article decrying the state of 88 Sheriff Street listed "Christian Snyder" as a a part owner and made an oblique reference to " Hans Snyder". Clean up was attempted in 1858, but the address was still being vilified in 1865.
The 1859 New York City directory shows "Christian Schenider" grocer at 88 Sheriff Street. There is no appropriate listing for Hans (or John) Schneider and/or Snyder.
John Schneider is listed on page 102 in the 2nd Division of the 11th Ward in the 1860 census. No addresses are given. I checked a few of the neighbors in the 1860 census and found:
What unfolds in the 1860 census is a slightly more benign image than the one portrayed in the press.
Starting with the 169th dwelling surveyed in the 2nd Division of the 11th Ward (which I believe represents 82 Sheriff Street) and ending with the 176th dwelling counted (which I believe represents 94 Sheriff street) we have:
Occupation at 84 Sheriff in 1860: 2 tailor, laborer, carver,shoemaker, 2 carmen and a carpenter.
Number of people at 84 Sheriff in 1860: 20
Occupation at 86 Sheriff in 1860: laborer, 3 carman
Number of people at 86 Sheriff in 1860: 17
Occupation at 88 Sheriff in 1860: beer salon, shoe maker, carman, straw hats, house framer, washerwomen and 3 laborers.
Number of people at 88 Sheriff in 1860: 28
Note: NONE of the people who were at 88 Sheriff in 1860 were still there in 1870.
George Gernand was listed "beer, 82 Sheriff. George Wolf (Wolft), Andrew Teacker, Michael Kroupp, Christine Brower, William Moss, and Bastian Edinger were not listed in the 1869 City Directory.
***This is the infamous landlord/owner of 88-90 Sheriff Street.
Number of dwellings at 90 Sheriff Street in 1860: 4
Occupations at 90 Sheriff Street in 1860: grocer, laborer, carpenter, tailor
Number of people at 90 Sheriff in 1860: 19
Note: NONE of the people who were at 90 Sheriff in 1860 were still there in 1870.
John Schneider had moved to 88 Sheriff. George Erold, Charles Noure, and Frederick Geoble were not listed in the 1869 City Directory.
Occupations at 92 Sheriff Street in 1860: grocer, clerk, waiter, laborer, shoe maker, hoop skirt maker, butcher, exchange officer and tailor.
Number of people at 92 Sheriff in 1860: 22
Occupations at 92 Sheriff Street in 1860: house carpenter, loborer, exchange officer, servant, physician, carpenter, 2 "segar" makers and 2 bakers
Number of people at 92 Sheriff in 1860: 20
Nationality: Wurtemberg, Bavaria, Hanover
* Listed in the 1859 NYC Directory at 96 Sheriff street, liquors
* John "Jung" listed at 98 Sheriff in 1865 IRS Tax. John Young Vegetables was listed in the 1851 City Directory. Listed in the 1859 Directory on Sheriff street:
1859 City Directory from Distant Cousins
Where are the 28 families with 120 inhabitants running the rag business at 88 & 90 Sheriff street as described in 1865?
While unnumbered, it can be inferred from comparisons to other articles that Dr. Guernsey was referring to 88 -90 Sheriff street when he wrote in 1865: "The whole number of apartments is 32, occupied by 28 families, numbering 120 in all, 60 adults and 60 children." While unnamed, he basically accused John Schneider of being the wealthy owner of the building and running the rag business.
John Schneider does appear to be the owner of 88 - 90 Sheriff.
The census shows 7 families with 28 people at 88 Sheriff and 4 families with 19 people at 90 Sheriff. A total of 13 families and 48 people. Even if we assume that the 3 "laborers" at 88 Sheriff and the 1 "laborer" at 90 Sheriff were rag pickers we have to consider that the others in the building had more mundane occupations like shoemaker, house farmer, carpenter and tailor. Censuses can be misleading and not every one was always counted. There was also a reported clean up at these addresses in 1856. However, Robert Ernst in Immigrant Life in New York City, in Appendix 1 says:
"The National census [of 1860], on the other hand, incurred the greatest possible liability to false and excessive returns, by paying the canvassers or takers a certain sum for each name they put upon their official returns."
This could consequently reflected inflated numbers on Sheriff street in 1860, meaning that there were possible less people than counted.
What is the true picture here? Had all the rag pickers moved on by 1860? Were all of the rag pickers hidden from the census taker? Was Dr. Guernsey harkening back to an earlier instance? Was he perpetuating an "urban myth"?
THE EAST SIDE OF SHERIFF STREET BETWEEN RIVINGTON AND STANTON IN 1865
The IRS Tax Records give a brief image of the east side of Sheriff Street in 1865. The following paid taxes:
There were buildings at numbers 76, 78, 80, 82, 84, 84, 88, 90, 92, 94, and 96. The tax records indicate taxable incomes at numbers: 80 retail store, 82 liquor, 84 peddler, 86 liquor, 88 liquor, 90 liquor, 92 cannot read, 94 retail, 98 retail. Four out of the nine businesses were selling liquor.
*On sheriff street in the 1860 census.
88-90 SHERIFF STREET IN THE 1870 CENSUS
Mann, Paul 40, shoemaker, $200, Saxony, Wma (female) 42 Saxony
This indicates an additional 6 families (not an additional 13 families) and brings the total at 88 Sheriff in 1870 to 27 families.
The 1869 Directory New York City Directory listed 4 people who lived at 88 Sheriff Street.
Francis Mueller and John Schneider were listed at this address in the 1870 census. I did not find John Boos or Adam Finhenauer in the 1870 census in NYC.
I did not find Henry Dreitfred, Chas Forster, Christ Miller (Mueller), Chas Koper, Jos Zelhan, Philip Otz, Fred Schanhard, John Sch-venger, Paul Mann, Von ash, Christ Sabben, Mary Serfert, Car Heidermach, in the 1869. Other names were too common or incomplete.
The 1869 Directory New York City Directory listed 21 people who either lived or worked at 90 Sheriff Street.
** Joseph Bertrand, Nicholas Eirich, Jacob Lange, Frederick Mueller, Henry Mueller, and Jacob Spitzfaden were listed at 90 Sheriff in the 1870 Census. That is 6 out of the 20 who listed 90 Sheriff as their address in 1869.
***Joseph Meyer, Michael Simon, Charles Schmidt, Joseph Schreiner, John Schultz, were common names. I did not find them in the 1870 censuses because the information I currently have is too vague.
**** His residence was at 250 Seventh Street.
I did not find, Fred Elhaver, Martin Philips, Antony Roth, Elise Greimer, Bette Fellings, Gu Wohlfarth, John Schaffenberg, Thora Punlch or Henry Boly in the 1869 city directory.
88 - 90 - 92 SHERIFF STREET IN THE 1880 CENSUS
8 families with a total of 50 people in the front of 88 Sheriff and 8 families with a total of 26 people in the rear.
88-90 SHERIFF STREET IN THE 1880 VOTER REGISTRATION
* listed at same address in the 1880 census.
** Not listed at same address in 1880 census.
88 -90 SHERIFF STREET IN THE 1890 POLICE CENSUS IN NEW YORK CITY
A US census was taken in the summer of 1890, but unfortunately it burned before it could be microfilmed. New York city officials felt that the city had been underreported in the federal census so they took another census in the fall of 1890. This census was taken by the NYC Police Department.
The family of Peter Goehle was listed at 88 Sheriff Street in the 1890 NYC Police Census. At least two children of Peter and Wilhelmina Goehle were born at this address, Francesca in May 1891 and Frank in March 1894.
The 1890 NYC Police Census lists everyone in the building but does not separate them into family groups and does not list familial relationships.
88 Sheriff Street 1890 NYC Census
*Goehle and related families.
1890 Directory Listings for 88 Sheriff Street
Note: * Nine out of the fourteen people listed at this address in the 1890 directory were NOT listed at this address in the 1890 Police census. Those who were listed in both were:
More on 88 - 90 Sheriff Street
88 Sheriff Street in 1874
BURGLARY OF CIGARS
On December 7, 1874 the cigar store of Charles Solomon, No 403 East Houston street was broken into and 18,500 cigars worth $900 were stolen. 11,000 of the cigars were found at the home of Betty Schwartz at N0. 88 Sheriff Street. 2,000 cigars were found at the restaurant of Francis Bressing at 127 Bleeker. New York Times, December 11, 1874
90 Sheriff Street in 1876
"John Baker, of No. 90 Sheriff St. who on 11 August stabbed John George Wese, a rag dealer*, living in the same house in a domestic quarrel was found guilty yesterday in the Court of General sessiosn"He was sent to the state prison for 2 years.
Note: Neither Baker nor Wese were listed at 90 Sheriff in 1870. As can be seen from these records the residence of the building seem to have moved in and out quite frequently. I cannot find anything else on Wese.
90 Sheriff Street in 1878
STABBING ON SHERIFF STREET 1878
The New York Times reported on August 5, 1878 that John Sewall, a wood turner age 24 of 252 Eldridge Street met a young woman and offered to walk her home. Upon their arrival near her home John Sewell was set upon by the young lady's brother, Michael Green, "a bone cart driver" who lived at 90 Sheriff street. A fight ensued in the alley of 94 Sheriff street, which also involved two other young men, David Walsh age 23, a tobacco worker, who lived at 15 Clinton street and Martin Mueller age 25, a wood carver who lived at 9 Pitt street. John Sewell, David Walsh and Martin Mueller suffered stab wounds. New York Times August 5, 1878
The follow up on August 6, 1878 titled "The Affray in Sheriff street" clarified the situation somewhat.
Mrs. Reeb, a widow and sister of Michael Green was at the "residence of Mrs. Louth, who lives in a little wooden house run up in the center of the filthiest of courts, at the back of No. 91 Pitt street. Soon after 11 o'clock Mrs. Reeb started for her home, and Martin Mueller, a wood-carver, aged 25, who lives a little further down the street asked permission to see her home."
When they arrived at 94 Sherriff they stood talking. Michael Green arrived and threw a box at Martin Mueller. Mueller initially treated the matter as a joke but Green approached him and hit him in the mouth. Mueller left but returned with his brother and "a man named Wagner". Feeling that Mueller and the others had returned to "thrash him". Mueller "rushed forward" and Green drew his knife "a large instrument which he used in his trade as a sash-maker." Mrs. Reeb fled to the police station. Another sister, Rose Green, got involved in the altercation and received some blows that resulted in bruises and a knife wound on her right arm. A free for all ensued and Meuller was stabbed in the face, another man named John Seewalt was also stabbed and David Walsh an innocent bystander who stupidly ran into the alley to see what all the fuss was about was stabbed in the abdomen. Walsh a married man with one child was not expected to live.
Michael Green was arraigned at the Essex Market Police court on August 7, 1878. Two of the stabbing victims, Martin Muller and John "Seewalt" and a witness named, Preganzer, were present. David Walsh was still at Bellevue Hospital and was not expected to live. Muller was stabbed in the arm. Seewalt was stabbed near his right eye. Rose Green also suffered an "incised wound on the arm". New York Times August 8, 1878
Notes: See the Green family below. Michael Green does not have appeared to have gotten in serious trouble as a result of this incident as he was listed with his mother and siblings on Sheriff street in the 1880 and 1890 censuses.
90 Sheriff Street in 1894
"JEWISH DAY NURSERYOpened from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. it consisted of two sections:
(Information from the New York Times October 21, 1894.)
Miss Ida Clemons was listed of Brightside Day Nursery in an article about a Jewish fund raiser in December 1895. (New York Times)
The school was listed in the New York Charities Directory of 1895.
Brightside Day Nursery and Kindergarden (org. and opened in 1804), 90 Sheriff St. Receives the babies and children, from ten days to six years, of working mothers during the day from 7 A. M. to & P. M., and feeds instructs, and clothes them. A charge of five cents a day for each child is made to those able to pay. Supported by private and voluntary contributions. Miss Ida Clemons, Supt., to whom apply fro further information.For more information on the Brightside Nursery go to IRENE ROTHSCHILD GUGGENHEIM 1868 -1954.
88 Sheriff Street 1896
BOARD OF HEALTH, 1896
Health Department of the City of New York Annual Report, Year ending December 1896
"The rear houses at the following properties were ordered vacated, preparatory to condemnation, by the Board of Health, but were not condemned, as plans and specifications were submitted to and approved by the Board of Health, subject to approval of the Department of Buildings, and the owners of same have declared their intention to altering and repairing the houses in conformation with the plans and specifications submitted. When said alterations are completed, the resolution ordering vacation of premises will be rescinded.The summery indicates that 87 rear houses were ordered preparatory for condemnation and that 80 were actually condemned.
REAR TENEMENTS, 1896
Half of the rear tenements in New York city in 1896 were reportedly owned by landlords who lived on the premises. The rear tenement were considered particularly unhealthy because they were dark and poorly ventilated. The majority were also considered filthy an "regular slaughter house for children". Building new rear tenements was prohibited in the 1880s. However, existing rear tenements continued to exist and health reformers preached against them. Over 50,00 people supposedly lived in 2,500 rear tenements.
The article provided a partial list of the rear tenements in the city which included:
New York Times February 24, 1896.
Note: 90 Sheriff street NOT listed. A map from 1899 shows that the rear tenement was gone from 90 Sheriff by at least that time. See below.
ARRESTED AT THEATRE: 1896 the New York Herald - Morris Greenberg age 24 of 88 sheriff street was accused of robbing a store on Attorney street, taking several hundred dollars worth of property. Among the items stolen were two tickets to the Thalia Theatre on the Bowery. Greenberg was apprehended by police in the seat designated by the stolen ticket.
90 Sheriff Street in 1927 and 1929
Sheriff Street continued to be an address that made the news in connection with vice.
In 1927, as part of a larger article about liquor raids during prohibition, was the following comment about 90 Sheriff street.
"Detectives also arrested four men and the wives of two of them on charges of possession of drugs after a raid on an apartment at 90 Sheriff Street where officers said they found two opium layouts, a small quantity of opium and a coffee can of yen shee"January 7, 1929 New York Times.
Yen shee: the residue formed in the bowl of an opium pipe by smoking.
Sheriff Street Families
Green Family on Sheriff Street
Jacob Green, circa 1813, Bavaria and Elizabeth ________
Birth: Bavaria circa 1813 based on 1860 census
Marriage: Elizabeth _ in Germany based on births of children - born circa 1824 based on censuses
Children: Based on censuses unless otherwise noted
1860 Census: Dwelling #179 family #984, apge 107 2nd Division 11th Ward, Jacob Green 47, laborer $100, Bavaria, Elizabeth age 26, Bavaria, Jacob 20, carman, Bavaria, Barbara 16, Bavaria, Catherine 11 Bavaria, Frederick 7 Bavaria, Michael 5, New York, Lena, 3 New York Francis 1 New York
Note: #169 = 82 Sheriff Street up to #177 = 98 Sheriff Street.
1878: See stabbing story above.
1880 Census: #92 Rear Sheriff: Lizzie mother 54, born Germany, Fred 25, Mike 24, Frank 21 Rose 19 all born New york
1890 NYC Police Census: 90 Sheriff, Elizabeth Green age 66, Rosie Green 30, Frank Green 29, Michael Green 33.
1900 Census: 80 Rear Sheriff street, Elizabeth Green head born June 1828, age 78, widow, married 50 years, born Germany, immigrated 1860, Michael son March 1858, age 42 born New York, driver
Grafelmann (and a variety of spellings) on Sheriff Street
Liquor and Grocer at 88 90 Sheriff Street.
Birth: Germany circa 1812
Marriage: Sophia most likely in Germany. She was born circa 1823. Second marriage?
Naturalization: Grafelman, Martin Common Pleas Court, NY County, April 2, 1847 vol 71 Record No 94 no occupation former nationality German, witness William Wilson 86 Sherrif St NYC
1850 Census: 88 Sheriff street, "Gorfman", Martin age 38, Sophia age 27, Harry Tompkins 21, clerk, Ann Grofman 24, Harry Grofman 18 all born Germany.
IRS Taxes 1862, 1863, 1865: Henry Grafelman, 90 Sheriff street liquor dealer 1862, 1863 and 1865 IRS tax
1851 Directory: Martin Graffleman grocer 88 Sheriff Street
1860 Census: Henry Grafelmann age 28, grocer, $300 born Hanover, see 1860 census above.
1865 taxes: Grafelmann, Henry, 90 sheriff, dealer liquor, $25
Heimach (and variety of spellings) on Sheriff Street
In December 2009, several months after I first put this page up, Debra Hyman wrote to say that her family had lived at 88 Sheriff Street at the birth of her grandmother in 1888. Debra has generously shared some Heymach documents and a photo of her great grandmother.
Frederick Heymach carpenter was listed at 88 Sheriff street in the 1890 city directory. He was not listed at that address in the 1890 police census.
Marriage: Margrethe Neubert born circa 1859 Germany
NOT listed NYC grooms index
1896 City Directory: Heimach Margaret wid, Fred, h 251 2d
1900 Census: West End Ave, Manhattan, Heymach, Margaret, head born Sept 1859 age 40 widow, 2 children 2 living, born Germany, immigrated 1885 in US 15 years, domestic, George son Sept 1885 age 14, born New York, office boy, Margaret daughter October 1888 age 11, born New York at school
Death of Margrethe Neubert Heymach:
1929, Stockton California.
|Margrethe Neubert Heymach, courtesy of Debra Hyman, January 2010|
| Grave of Margaret Heymach courtesy of Debra Hyman, January 2010|
Her husband, Friedrich, died at sea. The family story is he was unable to find work in NYC as a carpenter and took a job as a stoker on a ship, where he died (of heat exhaustion or a heart attack) in the engine room. I was able to verify this when I had a packet of family letters translated from the Old German into English. Among them was a receipt from the steamship company that forwarded his possessions (a couple of items of clothing and not much else) to his widow.
Debra Hyman, January 2010
Louth (and a variety of spellings) on Sheriff Street
Francis Louth (Loud) and Adaline
Birth: Circa 1828 Bavaria
Marriage: Adaline born circa 1829
1860 Census: Dwelling 180, page 107, 2nd Div Ward 11, Francis Loud, age 32, laborer, $100, Bavaria, Adaline age 31 Bavaria, Peter age 4, born New York, Matthew age 2, born New York
1890 NYC Police Census: 96 Sheriff St, "Matthew" Louth age 62, Tillie, age 60, Peter age 33, and John age 25 (?faint)
The Schneider Family on Sheriff Street
1855 New York State Census:
1848/48, 1849/50, 1851, 1852/53, 1853/54, City Directories: No Schneider, Snider etc. listed at 88 or 90 Sheriff.
1850/51 City directory: Christopher Schneider rags, 88 sheriff Street.
1855-56 City Directory: "Christian" Schneider was listed in the 1855-56 NYC Directory as "bones", 88 Sheriff.
"Christopher" Schneider lab 88 Sheriff, 1856-57 NYC Directory
1857 NYC Directory: Schneider, Christopher, laborer, h r 88 Sheriff Street
1859-60 City Directory: "Chris" Schneider grocer 100 Sheriff, h 88 Sheriff
1860/61: Christopher Schneider grocer 88 Sheriff Street
1860 Census: Not listed at 88 or 90 Sheriff street
1861/62: Christopher Schneider grocer 88 Sheriff Street
IRS Tax Records, District 7 New York: Listed "Christopher" Schneider
1876, 1877, 1879, 1880, 1882-1883 Directories NYC: John C. Schneider, grocer, 88 Sheriff Street
1880 voters Registration: John E Schneider, Wm. H Schneider, and John Schneider were registered at 88 Sheriff Street
1896: William Schneider was the owner of 88 Sheriff Street
1900 census: Didn't find any of them on Sheriff street.
84 Sheriff Street in 1890
79 Sheriff Street; Schiff, Haskel Sept 1871, age 29, married 5 years, born Austria, immigrated 1890, butcher, Mollie, age 25 Freda, age 3 Isidore age 1, Sam b in law age 15
They were on Myrtle Ave Brooklyn in 1910. Haskel was listed as a butcher with his own shop.
88 Sheriff Street was in Ward 11, ED 1696
Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1011; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 1696; Image: 187; FHL microfilm: 1375024.