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Five Points: The 19th Century New York City…
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Five Points: The 19th Century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap… (original 2001; edition 2010)

by Tyler Anbinder (Author)

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453443,408 (3.93)3
All but forgotten today, the Five Points neighborhood in Lower Manhattan was once renowned the world over. From Jacob Riis to Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett to Charles Dickens, Five Points both horrified and inspired everyone who saw it. While it comprised only a handful of streets, many of America's most impoverished African Americans and Irish, Jewish, German, and Italian immigrants sweated out their existence there. Located in today's Chinatown, Five Points witnessed more riots, scams, prostitution, and drunkenness than any other neighborhood in America. But at the same time it was a font of creative energy, crammed full of cheap theaters, dance halls, and boxing matches. It was also the home of meeting halls for the political clubs and the machine politicians who would come to dominate not just the city but an entire era in American politics. Drawing from letters, diaries, newspapers, bank records, police reports, and archaeological digs, Anbinder has written the first-ever history of Five Points, the neighborhood that was a microcosm of the American immigrant experience. The story that Anbinder tells is the classic tale of America's immigrant past, as successive waves of new arrivals fought for survival in a land that was as exciting as it was dangerous, as riotous as it was culturally rich.… (more)
Member:LaurenM_W
Title:Five Points: The 19th Century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum
Authors:Tyler Anbinder (Author)
Info:Free Press (2010), Edition: Reissue, 544 pages
Collections:Your library
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Five Points by Tyler Anbinder (2001)

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I'm ravenously interested in New York history period, and when I lived in New York, I found the Five Points area (which is now almost entirely Chinatown and civic and municipal buildings) deeply odd--the dark, serpentine streets, the ancient-seeming tenement buildings, the sudden thoroughfares, the random parks. I've been meaning to read Five Points for some time. It's a dense but mostly readable book, with a few quirks. There is a sense of relentlessness about some of it, which I suppose is to be expected in any account of a poverty-stricken area, particularly one that has been poverty-stricken for roughly one hundred and fifty years. But there was a density here that could have been shot through with a little more oxygen. I also found the author's passive-aggressive handling of fellow Five Points chronicler Luc Sante strange. There are two instances where he specifically calls Sante's scholarship out with disdain. And there were also sloppy typos and inconsistencies. For example, in the otherwise extremely well handled section on Jacob Riis, the author indicates that "...on June 5, 1875" Riis wrote a letter to the woman he'd been pining over for more than a decade, who was living overseas, telling her he loved her, wanted her to come to America, etc. Then on the next page, he indicates that Elisabeth responded to his letter a full year earlier than he sent it ("November 1, 1874" has Riis staring dumbly at the reply to that letter, from Elisabeth, which she'd delayed writing for months and months). Little things like that throw me off, perhaps because I'm an editor myself.

But for sheer scope and depth of scholarship, I was truly impressed. I got exactly what I wanted when I looked for a book on Five Points. I hear the voices of the people here, as Anbinder does a great job of weaving those first person accounts into the narrative, and is also good at pointing out the media's complicity through the decades of perpetuating negative stereotypes about the various ethnicities that inhabited Five Points. I would have liked to have seen far more on the African-Americans' day-to-day lives in the Five Points, but I imagine the research material for such an approach is scant to nonexistent. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
An excellent book about the notorious New York neighborhood that was home to the most destitute of the city's immigrants. Yet, Anbinder shows that Five Points wasn't always as bad as its reputation and often was the home of a hard-working, multi-ethnic community making their way into the American society. ( )
  Othemts | Jul 22, 2008 |
This was very interesting about a part of American history I was not aware of. In some parts it read more like a scholarly history book than a book you want to sit down and read. But for the American History buff this is a good one. ( )
  StrokeBoy | Jun 24, 2008 |
Tyler Anbinder presents a history ostensibly focused narrowly on a lower Man-hattan neighborhood. In actually, Anbinder not only delivers the history of the Five Points area, but he also conveys a larger sense of the context and background that made this neighborhood significant. Anbinder organizes his material into very approachable chapters, each preceded by a brief illustrative anecdote or incident, which relates to the theme of the specific section. ( )
1 vote AlexTheHunn | Sep 18, 2005 |
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To Jacob and Dina, with all my love
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Introduction: Five Points was the most notorious neighborhood in nineteenth-century America.
Prologue: On his way to the Laight Street Presbyterian Church on June 12, 1834, silk importer Lewis Tappan noticed a lone black man standing nervously outside the house of worship.
Chapter 1: Five Points, the lower Manhattan neighborhood named for the five-cornered intersection of Anthony, Orange, and Cross Streets, was originally verdant and bucolic, like everything else in America.
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All but forgotten today, the Five Points neighborhood in Lower Manhattan was once renowned the world over. From Jacob Riis to Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett to Charles Dickens, Five Points both horrified and inspired everyone who saw it. While it comprised only a handful of streets, many of America's most impoverished African Americans and Irish, Jewish, German, and Italian immigrants sweated out their existence there. Located in today's Chinatown, Five Points witnessed more riots, scams, prostitution, and drunkenness than any other neighborhood in America. But at the same time it was a font of creative energy, crammed full of cheap theaters, dance halls, and boxing matches. It was also the home of meeting halls for the political clubs and the machine politicians who would come to dominate not just the city but an entire era in American politics. Drawing from letters, diaries, newspapers, bank records, police reports, and archaeological digs, Anbinder has written the first-ever history of Five Points, the neighborhood that was a microcosm of the American immigrant experience. The story that Anbinder tells is the classic tale of America's immigrant past, as successive waves of new arrivals fought for survival in a land that was as exciting as it was dangerous, as riotous as it was culturally rich.

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