This image comes from photographer and journalist Jacob Riis' 1890 work How The Other Half Lives, which helped reveal the blight among New York's immigrant neighborhoods.Jacob Riis/Wikimedia Commons
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, New York City's trash problem reached epic proportions. In 1894, newly elected mayor William Strong knew he had to do something, and offered the job of sanitation commissioner to Teddy Roosevelt, who refused, essentially saying that it was an impossible job.Lewis Wickes Hine/Library of Congress
The "White Wings" took to the streets under the orders of pioneering sanitary engineer George Waring, whose efforts ameliorated but didn't totally solve the city's trash problem.Library of Congress
Poor immigrant workers often toiled for long hours and took their work home with them.Lewis Wickes Hine/Library of Congress
Most turn-of-the-century New York City tenements didn't have indoor plumbing.New York Tenement House Department/New York Public Library
The house opened in February 1909 to help treat a citywide homelessness problem that saw as many as 600 new applicants looking for shelter each day.
At the turn of the century, just about one-fifth of America's workforce was under the age of 16 -- and New York was no exception.Library of Congress
Working for the newspapers was one dependable way for young boys to earn some extra money for their families. However, their labor was often exploited and undervalued, leading to the infamous newsboys strike of 1899.Jacob Riis/Wikimedia Commons
In the face of a depressed economic climate and exploitative labor conditions, among other far-reaching factors, anarchism saw a wave of popularity in the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with New York being no exception. Library of Congress
The Bowery, a street and eponymous neighborhood running through what is now Manhattan's East Village, was a notorious hotbed of crime, poverty, and taboo behaviors (prostitution and homosexuality among them) during the wave of immigration to New York City in the late 1800s and early 1900s.Lewis Wickes Hine/Library of Congress
Public pumps like these allowed poorer people who didn't have their own taps access to running water.Robert L. Bracklow Photograph Collection/New York Historical Society
On December 17, 1900, the U.S. government opened an immigration processing station on New York's Ellis Island. By that point, the city had already been processing hundreds of thousands of immigrants per year for more than a decade. After that point, those numbers truly exploded.
Between 1900 and 1914, an average of well over half a million immigrants -- largely from central, eastern, and southern Europe -- came through New York each year (that's more than 5,000 per day). Today, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population can trace at least one of their ancestors back to the immigrants who came through that one station during that short span.
While millions of those immigrants promptly boarded trains for points all across the U.S., hundreds of thousands stayed put in New York City. In 1900, New York already had nearly 1.3 million foreign-born residents. By 1920, that number had reached 2 million, which was more than one-third of the city's total population.
And an enormous number of those immigrants took up residence in just a few of the city's neighborhoods. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, one particular cluster of neighborhoods in lower Manhattan including Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Lower East Side swelled beyond capacity as immigrants came pouring in.
Because these neighborhoods quickly grew so far beyond their limits, the immigrant experience itself pushed its way out of the overcrowded tenements and onto the streets. Indeed, it was out in the streets where so many of New York's turn-of-the-century immigrants lived, worked, and scraped by.
Likewise, it was in the streets that the cultures and identities of these immigrant groups adapted to their new home. From anguished poverty to vibrant culture, the street scenes above capture the full breadth of the immigrant experience in turn-of-the-century New York.