The Illusion of Depth

A few weeks ago we posted a stereograph image from the New York Public Library’s Robert Denis collection; that image has since spurred some further searching within the collection. (There’s fascinating stuff here!) I’ve made barely a dent in the over 70,000 stereographs that Mr. Denis collected over 60 years (he sold half of them to the library during the depression and donated the other half in the early ’80s), but I stumbled upon one particularly captivating one. 
Whereas many of the images seem to be blank on the reverse, this one comes with text from a 1904 “descriptive bulletin” detailing the “‘slum'” district pictured. Written after the publication of Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives, in a tone that reveals a combination of repulsion and attraction to these Others, it mentions that their drunken quarrels often end up at Bellevue Hospital (the city hospital that Aron rotates through) but adds that: “[O]n general principles the dwellers in these picturesquely dirty hives are surprisingly good-tempered and courteous. On any favorite saint’s day they manage somehow to decorate these houses and to pay for hands of music; then the whole street swarms with children–often pretty in spite of their bad food, bad air and no pretense at cleanliness.” Wow.

Image ID: G91F179_050B
Street peddlers’ cart on Elizabeth Street — looking north from Hester Street, New York City. [S42. Street Pedler’s Carts, Elizabeth Street, New York City.] (ca. 1904)

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