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Welcome to 1940s New York

In 1943, four local newspapers published a New York City Market Analysis. Largely forgotten in the 70 years since, the document provides an amazing window into New York's neighborhoods of that era.

The 250-page Market Analysis provides hundreds of photos, more than 100 color-coded maps, statistics, and short narratives about neighborhoods across the city. The statistics and maps are based on the 1940 Census, providing a rich supplement to the individual 1940 Census records that are available online.

The 1940 Census records provide a personal view of life in New York 70 years ago: the information available through the National Archives and others lets us identify who lived where, what occupation they held, how old they were, etc.  But what did the neighborhoods look like where they lived and worked? What kind of housing did they live in?  Where did they shop?

The 1943 Market Analysis can help answer these questions.  The Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center is providing free, online access to the 1943 document through its Welcome to 1940s New York website.  You can use our site to zoom in on any or all of the 116 "neighborhood areas" from 1943 (rough approximations of the neighborhoods we know today), as well as view citywide and borough-wide maps and statistics.

This page provides an overview of the 1943 Market Analysis and our interactive version of it. Separately we provide an analysis of the demographic changes that have taken place in New York from 1940 to 2010.

Interactive map provides easy access to 1943 Market Analysis

CUNY's Welcome to 1940s New York website provides easy access to the 1943 document:

    1. The site displays a map of New York's neighborhoods that are profiled in the 1943 Market Analysis. You can click on the map to display a high-resolution version of each neighborhood profile.
    2. The full document is available for detailed viewing and printing via DocumentCloud - click on the thumbnail images on the map, or below.
    3. A citywide map of rent levels from 1940 is also displayed at our site (and you can download it directly for display in Google Earth [KML]).

Please let us know what you think.


 

1943 document in the public domain

CUNY was able to convert the 1943 document into scanned images because the Center for Urban Research's mapping director, Steven Romalewski, had purchased a copy of the document from the New York Bound bookstore during its going-out-of-business sale in 1997. An urban planning graduate student at the time, Romalewski knew the "scarce book" (as it was catalogued by New York Bound) would play a key role one day. It was well worth the $100 cost!

The 1943 document was copyrighted. But copyright law as subsequently amended required copyright owners to explicitly renew the copyright within 28 years or forego rights to the material. In this case, the 28 year period ran to 1971. With the help of CUNY's legal team and others, we determined that the copyright was not renewed. The 1943 document is in the public domain.

Next steps

We have reached out to potential partners to expand and enhance this project, hoping to leverage the 1940 Census data and other vintage statistics, maps, and photos to paint a richer picture of life in New York during the first half of the 20th century.

This includes:

  • working with the NYC Department of City Planning's Population Division -- home to even more decades-old maps and data at the local level (down to city blocks) and citywide; and
  • discussing a potential exhibit (or exhibits) with local institutions such as the Museum of the City of New York and the New-York Historical Society.