NYC History During the 1900s

New York City has to be one of the greatest places in America, if not the world. Luckily for us, many authors have chronicled The Big Apple's antics in a way just right for kids.

Here are some of the books available. This is not yet a complete list, but I'm adding books to the list daily. If you wish to purchase any of these books, click on either the title or the book cover to be directed to As a warning, I have put up pictures of the book covers to give you somewhat an idea of the style of each book (I know, I know. "Don't judge a book by its cover") so the pages may load slowly, depending on the speed of your internet connection.

The categories below are sorted by approximate age group and topical categories. Feel free to browse around. The same links are located on the left side of your screen. To return back to this page, simply click on the "Welcome" link on the left.

If this website came up without frames, click here to see the complete "New York City Books for Kids" website with frames.

For more books on the Harlem Renaissance, go to the Harlem Books Page

Other Pages of Interest:
Fiction & Historical Fiction: General Books About New York City (Nonfiction) | Fiction NYC Picture Books and "Easy Reader" Stories (Ages 4-8) | Fiction NYC Books (Ages 9-12) | New York Fiction for Young Adults | New York Historical Fiction (Colonial Period and Revolutionary War) | New York Historical Fiction (Ellis Island & Immigration) | New York Historical Fiction (Life in the 1800s) | New York Historical Fiction (Life in the 1900s)

NYC History: New York Biographies | Native Americans from New York (History and Historical Fiction) | New York History (Colonial Period and Revolutionary War) | New York History (Immigration and Ellis Island) | New York History (The 1800s) | New York History (The 1900s) | The World Trade Center and September 11, 2001 |

NYC Locations: The Statue of Liberty | The Empire State Building | Central Park | NYC Art Museums (Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, etc.) | NYC's American Museum of Natural History | Harlem Books (Including books about the Harlem Renaissance) | Chinatown Books | Little Italy Books | The New York City Subway System | Brooklyn Books | The Bronx Books | Queens Books | Staten Island Books | Long Island Books | Upstate New York Books | New York State Books

Life and Travel in NYC: Thanksgiving in New York City | Christmas in New York City | New York Sports Teams and Players The NYC Fire Department (FDNY) and NY Police Department (NYPD) | General Books About Cities | New York City and New York State Test Preparation and Study Guides | New York Regents Review Books | Parenting in New York City | New York Travel Guides for Families with Children

NYC Toys, Puzzles, and Games (For Kids & Adults) | Coupon Codes

Books for Beginning Readers

Books for Older Readers

If You Lived 100 Years Ago

By Ann McGovern
Readers travel back in time to explore life in New York City 100 years ago, where there's not a television or computer in sight! This illustrated guide reveals how people both rich and poor dressed, traveled, dined. And entertained.

Description from Publisher

While the presentation might not be glamorous, the information and style are captivating as McGovern does a superb job of relating a sense of the past to children. A fine historical writer and researcher, McGovern focuses on 1890s New York and uses the details children adore to let them know exactly what it felt like to live in all classes of society at the turn of the century. Written as a series of questions and answers, the book gives a sense of every day life--bathrooms, the latest clothing styles, costs, fast food of the 1890s, slang, and the games and amusements people pursued.

Description from Children's Literature

The Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire of 1911
(Great Disasters: Reforms and Ramifications)

By Gina De Angelis
The heartbreaking tragedy that killed 146 workers in a New York City garment factory is recounted, including accounts from eyewitnesses.

Description from Publisher

On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, which was housed on the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of a New York City warehouse. The two stairways, so narrow only one person could climb them at a time, quickly became blocked by smoke and fire. The rickety fire escape reached to the second floor, ending in a drop over a glass skylight to the basement. The ladders on the fire trucks only reached six stories. Workers, mostly women, jumped out of windows and were killed by the fall. Others burned to death as they sat at their sewing machines. De Angelis takes the reader into the horrible conditions of early New York sweatshops and into the attempts of the workers, mostly immigrant women, to improve their situation. After the Triangle fire, the labor movement gained momentum, winning many changes. Ironically, De Angelis points out, sweatshops still exist today throughout the globe. De Angelis's text conveys the urgency of the tragedy, and period photographs bring an immediacy to the event. This book should be of interest to students studying the labor movement, immigrant life, and early twentieth-century city life..

Description from VOYA

We Shall Not Be Moved: The Women's Factory Strike of 1909

By Joan Dash
Young people feeling like they can't change the world should read Joan Dash's We Shall Not Be Moved. In 1909, teenage girls led some 30,000 shirt cutters, pressers, and finishers in the "largest strike of women workers ever known in the United States." These young women, who lived near poverty and spoke different languages, nevertheless brought the shirt-making industry to a halt for more than 13 weeks. Not only did it unite factory workers, it gained crucial support from college-educated suffragists and from women in high society, often called "the mink brigade." The strike, which began in New York and spread to Philadelphia, ultimately led to a settlement between more than 300 manufacturers and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Description from

Women's labor history has been getting a lot of attention lately, from Kraft's Mother Jones (1995) to Colman's Rosie the Riveter (1995). Now Dash gives a lively account of the first strike of women workers, in 1909, and the struggle to form a permanent women's trade union. She describes the appalling wages and conditions in the shirtwaist factories, where most of the women were impoverished Jewish immigrants. She also tells of the hunger, overcrowding, and disease in their tenements on New York's Lower East Side. Focusing on some of the dynamic leaders, Dash shows that the workers on the picket line fought the traditional passive view of women in their families and in the male-dominated union, even as they resisted bigotry in the general population and corruption in authority. Several chapters describe the society women, "the mink brigade," who reached across class to picket with the strikers and help fund and publicize the struggle. This is strong feminist history. It's frustrating that, though there is a bibliography, no sources are cited, even for direct quotes.

Description from Booklist

Dash describes in gripping detail the inhumane conditions for women workers, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants, in early twentieth-century Manhattan shirtwaist factories. The text provides stirring portraits of the women from all classes who united behind the cause. An insert of black-and-white archival photographs is included.

Description from Horn Book

Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side

By Raymond Bial
Spacious layouts, with clearly reproduced black-and-white archival photographs-from Jacob Riis's How the Other Half Lives and the author's beautifully composed, stunning color pictures, many taken at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum-show a community that has been home to thousands of immigrants past and present. The finely written, spare text, with quotes from such people as reformer Riis and author Sydney Taylor, tells of people crammed into small, dark flats, seeking fresh air on fire escapes and rooftops, lacking adequate sanitation, "protected" by rarely enforced housing regulations, and laboring long hours at home or in factory sweatshops. Bial's detailed descriptions transport readers back into the cramped quarters and crowded streets and alleys of late-19th- and early 20th-century New York, but this could be any city with a large immigrant population. The material complements and expands on that in Russell Freedman's Immigrant Kids. Although the lack of chapters or an index makes the book first and foremost a work to browse, read, and savor, its brevity makes it suitable for a classroom read-aloud or report. The pictures are an added bonus for photography students.

Description from School Library Journal

"Half the world doesn't know how the other half lives" goes the old saying. This book about tenement life will certainly be an eye-opener to many young people who are used to their own space where they can live and dream. Although there have been several books about tenement life, including the recent 97 Orchard Street, in this one, the writing is particularly clear and sharp. Calling upon and quoting the writing of reformer Jacob Riis (and featuring his compelling photographs), Bial explains simply, yet engagingly, what tenement life was like--the dank apartments, people packed against people, the noise and smells from the street that pervaded everything. Effectively weaving in quotations, laws, personal remembrances, and his own astute commentary, he paints a word picture of life at the turn of the last century. Along with Riis' photographs, Bial provides some of his own, taken at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City. These crisp color photographs bring tenement life even closer: a dresser top with medicine and photographs, a mattress covering a chest and chair--a child's makeshift bed. An excellent example of how books can bring the past to the present.

Description from Booklist

The immigrant experience often invites the kind of optimistic rhetoric with which Bial opens his text. He quotes from Anzia Yezierska who, on her arrival in America, speaks of "my young, strong body, my heart and soul pregnant with the unlived lives of generations clamoring for expression." Bial quickly moves to his subject: the pessimistic reality of immigrants who ended up living in tenements on New York's Lower East Side. Relying heavily on reformer Jacob Riis's words and photographs, Bial documents the rise of the tenement to house the heavy influx of immigrants to Manhattan's lower end and the appalling conditions under which those tenements "prospered." Bial's own photographs-taken at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum-have a compelling clarity and composition that make beautiful even a starkly lit hallway or a single room functioning as both living quarters and bedroom. An opened suitcase reveals neatly folded garments, including a pair of seemingly pristine white gloves; a bed shows a spotless white nightgown laid out by the side of pure white pillowcases trimmed with lace. One needs the despairing humans (homeless boys nestled in an alley; a family of four whose blank faces stare at the camera) of Riis's stark black-and-white photographs to feel the horror of poverty. Young readers will do well to turn to the excellent further reading section that cites four Riis titles as part of its bibliography as well as children's fiction and selected websites.

Description from Horn Book

As the title suggests, Bial (The Underground Railroad) focuses this illuminating photoessay on the immigrants who settled on Manhattan's Lower East Side from the early 1800s to the 1930s. Rather than finding the fabled land of opportunity, many lived in poverty in rundown tenement flats plagued by poor ventilation, little light and inadequate sanitation. Through period photos as well as his own color shots (many taken at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum), the author describes and depicts typical cramped apartments. These two-room flats sometimes served as both living quarters (for a dozen or more people, often newly arrived relatives or paying boarders) and family "sweatshops." Bial touches on the sobering particulars: with no running water to allow residents to bathe or launder clothes properly, diseases were rampant, and so many babies died that tenements were known as "infant slaughterhouses." Historic photos, including many famous works by the reformer Jacob Riis, make the plight of these families startlingly real. Bial's conclusion, that most immigrants (or their children or grandchildren) eventually prospered, closes the volume on a positive note.

Description from Publishers Weekly

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: Flames of Labor Reform

By Michelle M. Houle
An industrial fire occurred at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory that left 146 factory workers dead. Author Michelle Houle recalls the events leading up to this tragic fire and how the tragedy impacted the national labor reform movement.

Description from Publisher

The Triangle Factory Fire

By Victoria Sherrow
A straightforward, factual treatment of a key event in the development of the American labor movement. By capturing readers' attention with an initial chapter vividly describing the enormous and deadly fire, then following it with a traditional chronological approach to preceding events, Sherrow bears out the series' intent to "highlight a vital moment in U.S. history, placing events against a backdrop of the people, places, and times that made them possible." She does a thorough job of presenting the facts, occasionally highlighting the text with primary-source quotations. She conveys the shocking conditions both at work and at home for the factory employees without sensationalizing, and traces the momentum of the emerging labor movement. Some black-and-white photographs bear out the information of the text graphically, although there are not enough to break up the "gray" appearance of the book's pages. Barbara Diamond Goldin's Fire! The Beginnings of the Labor Movement is a good alternative for younger readers, portraying the tragedy through the eyes of the younger sister of one of the workers. Zachary Kent's The Story of the Triangle Factory Fire includes numerous photographs. Sherrow's title is an excellent source for student research.

Description from School Library Journal

Trial: The Inside Story

By Susan Kuklin
This detailed account chronicles a criminal trial involving Chinese illegal aliens, beginning with double kidnappings in New York City during the summer of 1995. The defendant, accused of a brutal abduction and extortion, maintains that his friends and relatives are the guilty parties. As the prosecution calls witnesses from prison cells and the streets of Chinatown, the defense struggles to create doubt in the jurors' minds. The judge acts as jury advocate and referee, while animosity between the young, female district attorney and the older, male defense attorney escalates. When the jury is sequestered, the reader has a glimpse of the deliberation process before the verdict finally is delivered in spring of 1998.

Description from VOYA

In a fascinating approach to an unusual subject for young readers, this noted non-fiction author describes the intimate details of an unusual trial. Illegal immigrants are exploited through extortion and violence in a way of life hidden from most Americans and not often prosecuted. In this case, a kidnapper is held to account for his part in holding a Chinese immigrant for ransom from his family. The question uppermost is the actual identity of the perpetrator. Having followed the case inside the courtroom and conducted interviews with many of the protagonists, Kuklin is able to offer direct quotations from the transcripts, the presiding judge, the assistant district attorney, the defense lawyer, the detectives, and some members of the jury, who give a vivid picture of the case. She also gets into the minds of the people involved as they discuss their strategies, their anxieties, and the pressures that face them: the defense lawyer is passionate in his concern for getting justice for his client; the prosecutor articulates the social responsibility she feels towards the victims. Everyone depicted represents the highest quality of behavior in a criminal courtroom. Short episodic chapters headed by a phrase from the text or a bullet or two that describe the action give the impression of a scene from the TV series Law and Order. In a feature designed not to intrude on the telling, sidebars explain points of law. Notes, a bibliography, and a glossary give suggestions for further reading and additional information on legal terminology. Photographs taken in the courtroom by the author or reproductions of ones introduced into evidence add to the authenticity of the text. A good readandan absorbing look inside a trial by jury.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

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