Five Points by Tyler Anbinder
The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum

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The very letters of the two words seem, as they are written, to redden with the blood-stains of unavenged crime. There is Murder in every syllable, and Want, Misery and Pestilence take startling form and crowd upon the imagination as the pen traces the words." So wrote a reporter about Five Points, the most infamous neighborhood in nineteenth-century America, the place where "slumming" was invented.All but forgotten today, Five Points was once renowned the world over. Its handful of streets in lower Manhattan featured America's most wretched poverty, shared by Irish, Jewish, German, Italian, Chinese, and African Americans. It was the scene of more riots, scams, saloons, brothels, and drunkenness than any other neighborhood in the new world. Yet it was also a font of creative energy, crammed full of cheap theaters and dance halls, prizefighters and machine politicians, and meeting halls for the political clubs that would come to dominate not just the city but an entire era in American politics. From Jacob Riis to Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett to Charles Dickens, Five Points both horrified and inspired everyone who saw it. 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. Tyler Anbinder offers the first-ever history of this now forgotten neighborhood, drawing on a wealth of research among letters and diaries, newspapers and bank records, police reports and archaeological digs. Beginning with the Irish potato-famine influx in the 1840s, and ending with the rise of Chinatown in the early twentieth century, heweaves unforgettable individual stories into a tapestry of tenements, work crews, leisure pursuits both licit and otherwise, and riots and political brawls that never seemed to let up. Although the intimate stories that fill Anbinder's narrative are heart-wrenching, they are perhaps not so shocking as they first appear. Almost all of us trace our roots to once humble stock. Five Points is, in short, a microcosm of America.
 

About Tyler Anbinder

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Tyler Anbinder is an Associate Professor of History at George Washington University. His first book, Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850's, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and the winner of the Avery Craven Prize of the Organization of American Historians. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.
 
Published September 4, 2001 by Free Press. 544 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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and prostitutes brazenly solicit customers.” Little changed over the next 70 years except the cast of characters: Five Points emerged as a touchdown point for successive waves of immigrants from Ireland and Italy, central and eastern Europe, as well as for blacks moving north after the Civil War.

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The New York Times

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As Tyler Anbinder asserts near the beginning of his valuable new history, ''Five Points,'' ''The two most important works on the history of New York published in the 1990's -- The Encyclopedia of New York City and 'Gotham' -- both misidentify something as simple as the streets whose confluence cr...

Sep 30 2001 | Read Full Review of Five Points: The Nineteenth-C...

Library Journal

I stood up from the futon, stepped over the sleeping dog, and made a grab for Tyler Anbinder's Five Points: The 19th Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum (Free Pr, 2001).

May 25 2007 | Read Full Review of Five Points: The Nineteenth-C...

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