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100 Years Ago Today: A Look at New York City in 1920

March 6, 2020

Imagine traveling back in time and walking the streets of New York City during the Roaring 1920s. You would see the first traffic signal installed on 42nd street, and if you wanted a cocktail, you might head to a speakeasy since Prohibition was in effect.

Jonathan Goldman, Ph.D., associate professor of English at NYIT College of Arts and Sciences, paints a vivid picture of what life was like for a New Yorker during that time on his website, New York in 1920, 100 Years Ago Today.

“I wanted to use my familiarity with the period to understand New York City itself better,” he says. “Once I started researching, by perusing historical documents, letters, archives, and assets that have been digitized, I found parallels and connections between 1920 and current times that can help us navigate our world better, and understand our own moment.” For example, in 1920, immigration was just as big of an issue as it is today; the primary difference is the countries the immigrants come from.

Nearly every day, Goldman posts on a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union’s formation on January 19 in Greenwich Village, to the terrorist bombing on Wall Street on September 16.

Watch the video and read more below.

His work has been made possible through an Institutional Support of Research and Creativity (ISRC) grant. The internal grants are awarded by the Office of Academic Affairs and give faculty members the seed money to advance their work. The grant program has, in recent years, emphasized cross-disciplinary scholarship, especially projects involving multiple principal investigators, projects engaging junior and senior faculty, as well as New York Tech students. Three students are working alongside Goldman on this project, supporting all aspects of the site and its content.

Among them is Micah Rimando, a student in the digital art and design – animation master’s program, who created the site’s logo and gained valuable hands-on computer design experience for her future career. “Working as a designer and research assistant on the website has helped me learn more about web design and branding, and unearth often untold stories about New York City history and culture,” said Rimando.

Other students involved in the project include Brandon Treston, an information technology major who is serving as the site’s social media manager and research assistant, and Marieke Santema, an environmental technology and sustainability major serving as a research assistant.

Goldman and the students will continue to publish content on the website throughout 2020.

“Many discussions and impulses in 1920 are the same as today, but knowing human history can help us have a sense of how society has evolved,” Goldman said.