Monday, August 18, 2008

The Journey Begins

Last week, I officially started research on the Food Riot Project.  (Official title forthcoming!) After a few google searches several weeks ago, which turned up few details, I decided to begin true academic research at the New York Historical Society Library.  The NYHS is housed in a beautiful, stately building on Central Park West.  On this particular day, I only had enough time to visit the library but I hope to return soon to visit some of the other exhibits available.  

Once inside the library, an extremely helpful librarian endeavored to find some more specific information for me.  The first book we consulted had no mention of the riots whatsoever, even though it was cataloguing a list of riots in NYC.  Other books about women in the 20th century did not appear to have the information I was looking for.  Finally, he rushed over to bring me a book, whispering excitedly, "I found something!"

The book was The New York Chronology: The Ultimate Compendium of Events, People and Anecdotes from the Dutch to the Present by James Trager.  It's just what is sounds like: little bits and pieces of New York's history gathered together painstakingly.  I might just buy a copy of this to improve my NYC trivia skills!  Here is the gem that James Trager gave me:

In February, 1917, rising food prices led rioters to attac
k food shops and burn peddler's pushcarts on the Lower East Side and in Brooklyn's Brownsville and Williamsburg sections, "rejecting suggestions that they substitute rice for potatoes and milk for eggs and meat.  6,000 Kosher poultry shops and 150 Kosher poultry slaughterhouses close down just before Passover to protest wholesalers accused of cornering the market."

Suddenly, the picture opened up with details of location, food and people.  

Initial thoughts:
  • There's a Brownsville in Brooklyn?  I've never heard of it!  (It is later confirmed to still be there by my friend, Father Joe Franco).
  • Interesting that rice was being promoted then, whereas now it's the subject of dramatic price increases.
  • This seems to be a largely Jewish movement, which confirms that this is going to be an immigrant's story.  This also opens up more specific places to look for information.  I wonder if the Yiddish Forward has first-hand accounts!
Amazing how just a few lines have helped to jumpstart this investigation.  This is definitely going to be a scavenger hunt, my friends.

I'll leave you with this great photo, courtesy History Matters, the U.S. Survey Course on the Web (great resource!).   

I'm continually amazed when I find photos from this early on.  Even though the camera had been around for quite some time, I think it's unusual to find photos of a journalistic nature vs. portraiture.  I hope I'll find more....


Jennifer Perrotta said...

I found a good article in the Femiinist Studies journal:

There are some good pics page 271.

Sonja said...

I love how excited the librarian was when something was actually discovered. Makes me think what a fun job that would be! To help so many people find what they're looking for; all the various interesting subjects and stories that people come in with; to really learn something new everyday, from the books that you are already surrounded by.

What a great start! And I love the picture.