Assessing New Yorkers’ Noise Complaints in the 1920s

Posted on: October 17th, 2013 at 6:10 am by
Photo: The Roaring Twenties

Photo: The Roaring Twenties

Living in Manhattan, it’s impossible for most residents to avoid at least the ambient noise – traffic, fire engines, motorcycles, horn honking, truck downshifting, kids playing, etc. Others, such as those dwelling in over-saturated bar areas (i.e. Hell Square) face bass, screaming (woo-hoos), broken glass, etc. Yet what about previous generations of New Yorkers? Specifically during the Depression era. What noise was most prevalent at that time, and what particularly pissed them off? “The Roaring Twenties” website attempts to address those very questions.

Thanks to historian Emily Thompson and designer Scott Mahoy, this interactive online project maps (using an era-appropriate overlay) the incidence of city noise in the early part of the 20th century. There is both audio and video to sate your appetite for the ephemeral. It’s certainly fascinating to see what people complained about during that time.


Here are some choice complaints from the Lower East Side environs:

  • Rubin Davidson of 190 Stanton Street complained about the noise eminating from “electrical machines” at the B. Bloom Factory next door (7/8/1930).
  • Dr. L.A. Cranin of 173 Henry Street didn’t like the “shrill whistle on a bus carrying crippled children to the [nearby] Henry Street School.” (6/27/1930)
  • Lena Jacobowitz of 332 Stanton couldn’t handle the blacksmith’s shop in her building (6/26/1931).
  • Occupants of 368-370 Madison complained about the auto service station at #374 (9/12/1927).
  • C.B. Bishop of 14 Irving Place wasn’t too pleased about the clamor from the outdoor loudspeaker of the Irving Place Burlesque Theater (4/29/1930).

Check out the website for more, as there’s no embedding. It’s a time suck…


[via Gizmodo]

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