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Rise of Industrial America
City Life in the Late 19th Century
The Ginsbergs

In the late 1800s, urban immigrants had a large impact on city politics. In the ethnic neighborhoods, party bosses played a major role. It was the responsibility of the party boss to see that voters in the neighborhood got out to vote for party candidates. In return, the party boss would provide certain favors to the neighborhood residents. In the following excerpt, some of the activities that took place in a neighborhood candy store in New York City are described. What took place besides the selling of candy? How did the local political boss seek to take care of the neighborhood residents? What needs did the candy store provide for residents of the neighborhood?

View the entire interview from which this excerpt was drawn, from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 . Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


The Ginsbergs used to own a candy store at 169th St. and Grant Avenue which is two blocks east and downhill from the Grand Concourse. 169th Street is a sort of secondary business section to such main shopping streets as 170th and 167th Streets, where the subway stations are. The street had only the essential stores, such as grocery, fruit, meat, two hardware stores, two delicatessens, two bakeries and on this corner there were two candy stores, one of which was "Ginsy's". Ginsy's was the hangout for the unemployed, the number runners and for the gambling men who used to come around after work to pick up a game. Late at night when business was slow Ginsy himself would sit down for a game of pinochle with some of his customers and one of the boys would stand behind the counter to take care of any legitimate trade. For a long time the Tauckamuck Democratic Club was able to give this neighborhood some patronage mostly through its connection with Eddie Flynn, Bronx Political Boss, who had an 'in' with the Post Office. Then the talk about jobs was optimistic. All you had to do was to get one of the Block Captains to introduce you to somebody who would introduce you or get you an interview with a certain notorious politician in the Bronx, whose name I don't care to mention. Each introduction cost you five dollars a handshake. All negotiations were carried on in or around Ginsy's corner candy store, where the block captains, or peanut politicians as they were called, hung around to keep in touch with the people and get up a game of cards now and then. Two of the number runners had their posts in Ginsy's and many times if they thought the cop on the beat had orders to pick them up or if they spied the precinct detectives headed their way, you could see them duck into the phone booth and gulp down the paper slips. Ginsy's also kept a pin ball machine which drew the nickels and attention of everybody at one time or another. Small betting was carried on at the side. Ginsy's was the gossip exchange. You could find out the color of your neighbor's underwear in Ginsy's.
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View the entire interview from which this excerpt was drawn, from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 . Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.