Find out which was more receptive to newcomers in the early 20th century - the federal government or 97 Orchard's narrow hallway. Questions answered by Curatorial Director Dave.
Was there a ban on certain immigrant groups moving into 97 Orchard Street at any time in the building’s history?
Legislative acts banning certain immigrant groups from the United States were first instituted during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, though nativism and anti-immigrant sentiment are as old as immigration itself.
Passed in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act represented the first federal law banning a group of immigrants solely on the basis of race or nationality. In 1917, Congressional legislation further restricted immigration by barring the entry of Asian Indians. A prohibition on Japanese and Korean immigration followed in 1922 so that, after 1924, among East Asians only Filipinos were untouched by immigration restriction laws.
Beginning in the 1920s, Congress passed a series of quota laws aimed at stemming the mass immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans that had occurred over the course of the past two decades. Each European nation received a quota based on its proportion to the foreign-born population in the 1910 census, resulting in a drastic reduction in the number of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. In 1929, another system, the national origins quotas, was put into effect, giving each European country a proportion equal to its share of the white population according to the 1920 census.
Was the front door of 97 Orchard Street generally locked?
Based upon the available evidence, the front door of 97 Orchard Street was probably not locked. Describing his travels among the tenements of the Lower East Side, turn-of-the-century reformer Jacob Riis found unlocked tenement front doors opening onto a “hall that is a highway for all the world by night and by day is the tenement’s proper badge. The Other Half ever receives with open doors.”