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date: 08 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The children in New York City’s nineteenth-century working-class immigrant families were explorers. It was they, more than their parents, who had the time and the nerve to go beyond their immediate neighbourhoods. Neither constrained by regular work nor school (at least until 1874 when school became mandatory), they were free to wander the streets—to work at odd jobs, to challenge the law with minor (and probably some major) illegal acts. Working-class children made their own world outside the tenements where there was no room to play inside. Their lives were relatively unsupervised and they thrived on the freedom. The challenge for urban archaeologists is to find material evidence of working-class children’s activities. This chapter explores the archaeological evidence for working-class children’s lives through a number of excavated sites and brings a new understanding to the life of children in New York city.

Keywords: archaeology, New York City, Five Points, childhood, nineteenth century, work, labour, play, education

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