Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Visitor of the Week: Jill Montgomery

Over the summer, look out for this new feature - Visitor of the Week! Each week we'll profile a different person who's been to the Tenement Museum. If you're coming to visit and would like to be profiled on the blog, send us an email.

Meet Jill Montgomery, a recent visitor of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. She resides in Las Vegas, Nevada and works as an administrative assistant. Jill, along with her parents, included a visit to the Tenement Museum as part of their New York City trip because they had heard great recommendations from friends.

The Montgomerys took the Moores tour, which was pertinent to them since Jill’s father’s side of the family emigrated from Ireland to the United States. After taking the tour, Jill was very moved by the difficulties of tenement life in the nineteenth century.

“We’re so used to our daily lives,” Jill reflected. “We know what we’ll eat and drink. For them, it was a concern figuring out what was safe. It was a daily struggle.”

Jill was also interested to learn about the lack of healthy food options for infants. Most people in the mid-19th century knew that certain foods were dangerous or could even cause fatalities but often had to consume whatever was available.

“The swill milk reminded me of a part in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” Jill commented. “I had never heard of it before then. It’s interesting how it became a term. Back then people referred to it as ‘swill,’ but they still had to drink it.”

(Swill milk came from cows fed distillery waste. It was often adulterated with substances like chalk or ammonia. Unfortunately, this was the milk product that was most often sold in the working-class districts of Manhattan. [Read more.] Not much changed until the late 19th century.)

As they left the Museum Shop, Jill and her family were planning on visiting the famous Katz’s Deli. In addition to their Irish heritage, the family also has Eastern-European connections, and they wanted to try some pierogies and borscht. They were also looking forward to visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art before heading home to the Midwest.

-posted by Devin

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