30 Amazing Snapshots Capture Street Life in New York City From the Mid-1930s to the End of the 1940s

In the late 1930s, photographer Helen Levitt rode the New York City subway system, first as an apprentice to photographer Walker Evans, then snapping photos of aloof passengers wearing fur coats, flat-brim hats, and antique brooches.

Yet for the majority of Levitt’s illustrious career (lasting until the 1990s), she ventured out of the underground to document life on Manhattan streets. She captured authentic moments — children playing on the sidewalk or dressing up for Halloween, a group of women gossiping — in neighborhoods including Harlem, the Lower East Side, and the Garment District.

Levitt spoke about her early pictures shot on the streets in the 1930s: “It was a good neighborhood for taking pictures in those days, because that was before television. There was a lot happening. And the older people would be sitting out on the stoops because of the heat. Those neighborhoods were very active.”

The New York Times, in 2009, described her as: “a major photographer of the 20th century who caught fleeting moments of surpassing lyricism, mystery and quiet drama on the streets of her native New York”.

New York, often called New York City (NYC) to distinguish it from the State of New York, is the most populous city in the United States. With a 2020 population of 8,804,190 distributed over 300.46 square miles (778.2 km2), New York City is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of New York State, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass. With over 20.1 million people in its metropolitan statistical area and 23.5 million in its combined statistical area as of 2020, New York is one of the world’s most populous megacities. New York City is a global cultural, financial, and media center with a significant influence on commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, dining, art, fashion, and sports. New York is the most photographed city in the world. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy, an established safe haven for global investors, and is sometimes described as the capital of the world.

Situated on one of the world’s largest natural harbors, with water covering 36.4% of its surface area, New York City is composed of five boroughs, each of which is coextensive with a respective county of the state of New York. The five boroughs—Brooklyn (Kings County), Queens (Queens County), Manhattan (New York County), the Bronx (Bronx County), and Staten Island (Richmond County)—were created when local governments were consolidated into a single municipal entity in 1898.The city and its metropolitan area constitute the premier gateway for legal immigration to the United States. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. New York is home to more than 3.2 million residents born outside the United States, the largest foreign-born population of any city in the world as of 2016. As of 2018, the New York metropolitan area is estimated to produce a gross metropolitan product (GMP) of nearly $1.8 trillion, ranking it first in the United States. If the New York metropolitan area were a sovereign state, it would have the eighth-largest economy in the world. New York is home to the highest number of billionaires of any city in the world.

New York City traces its origins to a trading post founded on the southern tip of Manhattan Island by Dutch colonists in approximately 1624. The settlement was named New Amsterdam (Dutch: Nieuw Amsterdam) in 1626 and was chartered as a city in 1653. The city came under English control in 1664 and was renamed New York after King Charles II of England granted the lands to his brother, the Duke of York. The city was regained by the Dutch in July 1673 and was renamed New Orange for one year and three months; the city has been continuously named New York since November 1674. New York City was the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790, and has been the largest U.S. city since 1790. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to the U.S. by ship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and is a symbol of the U.S. and its ideals of liberty and peace. In the 21st century, New York has emerged as a global node of creativity, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability, and as a symbol of freedom and cultural diversity.The New York Times has won the most Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and remains the U.S. media’s “newspaper of record”.In 2019, New York was voted the greatest city in the world per a survey of over 30,000 people from 48 cities worldwide, citing its cultural diversity.

Many districts and monuments in New York City are major landmarks, including three of the world’s ten most visited tourist attractions in 2013. A record 66.6 million tourists visited New York City in 2019. Times Square is the brightly illuminated hub of the Broadway Theater District, one of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections, and a major center of the world’s entertainment industry. Many of the city’s landmarks, skyscrapers, and parks are known around the world, as is the city’s fast pace, spawning the term New York minute. The Empire State Building has become the global standard of reference to describe the height and length of other structures. Manhattan’s real estate market is among the most expensive in the world. Providing continuous 24/7 service and contributing to the nickname The City That Never Sleeps, the New York City Subway is the largest single-operator rapid transit system worldwide, with 472 passenger rail stations; and Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan is the busiest transportation hub in the Western Hemisphere. The city has over 120 colleges and universities, including Columbia University, New York University, and the City University of New York system, which is the largest urban public university system in the United States. Anchored by Wall Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, New York City has been called both the world’s leading financial center and the most powerful city in the world, and is home to the world’s two largest stock exchanges by total market capitalization, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. (Wikipedia)

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