Friday, November 9, 2007

Takaki Chapter 11 or Getting Spatial

My lesson would focus on the peddlers mentioned in the chapter. I would start with this image from the From Haven to Home exhibit that was at the Library a year or so ago. I would ask students to look at this woodcut by Albert Potter and ask them about what they see in the woodcut. Then we would discuss the importance of the peddler in the Jewish community and how they helped the community grow. Next I would have the students look at this panoramic photograph of Hester Street from 1902. I would have them compare and contrast what they see in that image with this image of the Jewish Quarter of Boston from 1899. I would consider asking them to think about what it would be like to live in this community and discuss the benefits and disadvantages of living in this community.

I would want to go a step further and talk about peddlers in other communities. There is a wonderful recording called "Fish Vendors Cries" in the Florida Folklife collection. There are also descriptions of the Street Cries of New York Vendors in the American Life History collection. (Note: There are some other vendor/peddler stories from New York in the American Life Histories as well. I really like "The Pack on My Back".)If I could find a recording or description of what the Jewish peddlers would say I would want students to listen to that and then perhaps write their own call to sale if they were peddlers trying to make a living during that time and perhaps during the present.

If possible I would also like to share this film of a New York Fish Market by Thomas Edison and mention that according to the description of the film 1500 push cart peddlers worked Hester Street at the start of the 20th Century. How would they distinguish themselves from the other peddlers on the street?

To further highlight the crowding these communities faced I would probably show one of the Panoramic Maps of New York (this is one is by Currier and Ives and is from 1892) and show how tightly packed the houses were at the turn of the century. Again how would they distinguish themselves from other peddlers in the community?

One other thing (and note this is not Spatial) I would like to share with the students are the Yiddish playscripts from the American Variety Stage collection. Takaki has not really mentioned much about the performing arts in the book and I think it might be interesting for the students to see these scripts and read about the role of these plays in the Jewish community and how they showed beliefs and ideas of the time.

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