Guiding Question:

What were the experiences of Italian immigrants in the North End of Boston in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?

Introduction

Boston is a city full of history and charm. Few American cities can match the rich fabric of culture and history that seem to be on every street corner in Boston. Known as the “Little Italy” of Boston, the North End has a distinct feeling and atmosphere that is unique among Boston’s many neighborhoods.

Today, at the start of the 21st century, the North End of Boston is thriving. Boasting over a hundred restaurants, several historical sites and many diverse shops, the North End is a thriving tourist center. Many of us have walked the narrow streets and window shopped for souvenirs, grabbed a slice at Pizzeria Regina’s or attended one of the cultural or religious festivals.

But was the North End always as it is now?

Let’s go back in time to a hundred years ago. What was life like in the North End at the start of the 20th century? Bostob Slum 1909 In this lesson you will examine maps, historic photographs and vintage newspaper stories documenting Italian immigrant life in the North End. Your job will be to analyze these primary sources in order to investigate what life was like for Italian immigrants in the North End in the early 1900s. You will present your findings to your classmates and we will hold a discussion regarding the significance of this information in understanding immigrant life in Boston a century ago.

Header Image: Corner Prince and Salem Streets, 1893, Courtesy of Boston Public Library

Inline Image: Boston Slum, 1909, Courtesy of Boston Public Library

Background images: excerpts from Old Wells House, Salem Street, 1893; Lime Alley and Charter Street, 1893; Henchman Street, 1893; Corner Prince and Salem Streets, 1893; Boston Slum, 1909; Courtesy of Boston Public Library