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Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum
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Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  891 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
All but forgotten today, the Five Points neighborhood in lower Manhattan was once renowned the world over. It housed America's most impoverished immigrants-the Irish, Jews, Germans, Italians, and African-Americans. Located in today's Chinatown and Little Italy, Five Points played host to more riots, scams, prostitution, and drunkenness than any other neighborhood in Americ ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published September 24th 2002 by Plume
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This is a must read for anyone who enjoyed the film "Gangs of New York." Unlike the book of the same name by Herbert Asbury, the author utilized statistics to debunk some of the hyperbole surrounding America's most notorious slum. There were even some fairly well-to-do merchants who chose to remain because they owned businesses there. However, it was still a level of misery few can imagine.

The neighborhood became a cesspool around the 1820s when tannery businesses congregated there. Rioting and
May 31, 2008 Rebekah rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book was big when The Gangs of New York movie came out. I picked it up because I am a sucker for 17th-19th NYC history for some reason. It is a fabulous read for a history nerd with a dark side like me.
Joseph Bruno
May 13, 2013 Joseph Bruno rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I lived in New York City's Little Italy for 48 years. But before it was called Little Italy, it was called "The Five Points." This book captivated me with the details of how my neighborhood transformed from a den of iniquity, to what it was when I lived there, starting in 1953.

First, the Five Points was filled with Germans and Dutch. The potato famine induced the Irish to hightail it to America, and they settle in the Five Points. In 1855, the Five Points was 55% born-Irish and only 25% America
Sep 24, 2008 George rated it liked it
'Five Points' is a very comprehensive/detailed (somewhat scholarly), yet still very readable and enlightening, history of one of New York's most famous slums. It often reads as if it where written to be a (high school?) textbook. It's overriding moral/image/message seems to be: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I liked it enough, though, to seriously consider reading Tyler Anbinder's other book: 'Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850's'.
Five Points by Tyler Anbinder focuses on the New York City neighborhood that rose to prominence as the slum capital of the world and shaped the American landscape through cultural, culinary, and political contributions that helped define the American melting pot. Anbinder focuses mostly on the urban aspects of five points and about of the book focuses on the time leading up to the Civil War. From the 1820’s where the area began to ascribe to the seeding reputation that would develop around it t ...more
Aug 31, 2011 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
What I enjoyed most about this book was that besides giving a general history, it also singled out individuals to focus on, which brought a more human element to it. I liked the that each chapter had an interesting little prologue, something I haven't seen before. It was interesting reading about how the neighborhood turned over from one ethnicity to another over the years.
Jun 11, 2008 Doug rated it liked it
Interesting, although a bit dry at times. It does present a very thorough history of the neighborhood known as the most infamous slum in America for much of the 19th century, but the author gets bogged down in the details now and then.

(My personal interest in the book came from the fact I used to live 2 blocks away from the 5 Points intersection.)
Lora Shouse
Dec 06, 2015 Lora Shouse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fascinating, especially for a history. I didn't find any really boring parts.

This is the story of a New York neighborhood that was once renowned as the worst slum in the world, and how it evolved, mostly throughout the nineteenth century. The author must have done massive amounts of research on this; the footnotes alone ran to over a hundred pages. He tells how the neighborhood went from an almost pastoral area around 1800 to an area of factories (slaughterhouse, tanneries, etc.) to a
Tom Darrow
Feb 20, 2014 Tom Darrow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book covers the history of the Five Points neighborhood in the lower east side of Manhattan. It takes a topical approach to the area, discussing the early history of the area, where the immigrants came from, what they did for a living and for fun, how they lived, crime, politics, etc. The main focus is on the period of 1830-1880, when the slum was the most notorious and crowded. The author does give some coverage to Italian and Chinese immigrants who moved into the area in the late 1800s an ...more
Barbara Stoner
May 17, 2016 Barbara Stoner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
If ever there was a good year to read Five Points: The 19th Century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum , 2016 is it. A meticulous social history, Five Points documents the impact of immigration and racism as they impact a New York neighborhood in the mid-19th Century. From nativism to the spectre of African-American equality to looking for the perfect “outsider” in local politics, Tyler Anbinder's Five Points is a dista ...more
Oct 25, 2014 Ashley rated it liked it
I'm ravenously interested in New York history period, and when I lived in New York, I found the Five Points area (which is now almost entirely Chinatown and civic and municipal buildings) deeply odd--the dark, serpentine streets, the ancient-seeming tenement buildings, the sudden thoroughfares, the random parks. I've been meaning to read Five Points for some time. It's a dense but mostly readable book, with a few quirks. There is a sense of relentlessness about some of it, which I suppose is to ...more
Frank Stein
Mar 30, 2009 Frank Stein rated it really liked it

Despite the books extenuated subtitle (a sure-fire sign of a publisher aiming at a popular audience) the book meanders through a fair amount of the social history minutiae typical of such academic works. There are charts and graphs on the occupation of Five Points residents, on voting habits, on living patterns, and, of course, lots of unnecessary anecdotes.

But in its better moments the book provides a glimpse into the evolution of a neighborhood over 100 years of history. The move from a black
Kristi Thielen
Mar 25, 2012 Kristi Thielen rated it it was amazing
Interesting look at one of New York City's most colorful neighborhoods through the 18th and 19th centuries. First the Irish, Germans and Polish Jews, then the Italians and finally the Chinese immigrant communities that came and gave way to each other are the focus of the book. (Although little mention is given to the Germans and Polish Jews.)

The Irish are especially notably for having been terribly mistreated when THEY were the newcomers -and from having not been sensitized by the experience: I
Sep 22, 2009 Russ rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in Irish or New York City history
I've always been interested in the history of 19th century European immigration, especially in New York City, and this book is one I've always wanted to read. There's something about the Five Points that attracts me. Perhaps it's the physical makeup of the famous intersection - a true crossroads from hell. Perhaps it's the fact that the most famous city in the United States once contained such an infamous place. Perhaps it's the fact that the Five Points is so changed from its former self. I thi ...more
I wish I'd read this before/instead of The Gangs of New York as it's both a more accessible and broader work dealing with the history of the underworld of New York City from the 1830's to the 1900's.

Anbinder looks at the sociological reasons that the slums developed, as well as a mini-history lesson on the Irish Famine, as that calamity drove the development of the Five Points area, with immigrants from two parishes (Kerry and Sligo) providing the bulk of the immigrants to the area. Despite the
Aug 22, 2013 Riley rated it really liked it
Five Points was a New York slum made infamous by photojournalist Jacob Riis and his "How the Other Half Lives."

This history is dry, but I appreciated the author's even-handedness about the neighborhood. Tyler Anbinder managed to be neither nostalgic nor condemnatory, and I give him a lot of credit for that.

Five Points was a shifting immigrant community that began with the Irish, then moved to the Italians and the Chinese. It is hard to read this book today without thinking about today's immigrat
Jan 12, 2016 Guera25 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though occasionally repetitive in its descriptions of the overcrowded fetor of the tenements, this book present an engaging look at the evolution and eventual demise of Five Points. As expected, the Irish immigrants predominate the discussion, but Asbinder does take a brief look at the Italian and Chinese immigrants who appeared in the 1880s and '90s. It should be noted that there is scant discussion of the black inhabitants of Five Points, so if you were hoping for that, or for insight into the ...more
David Weiss
May 05, 2014 David Weiss rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book! Despite the amount of detail and cross-referencing necessary, I enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. Like someone else here said, it's written like a scholarly book and I'm fine with that. It challenged the factuality of some of the incidents and general history of the time that were depicted in Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" and described in several other books. I found it even more interesting, because the difficulty of life in the tenements and other horrible housing o ...more
Emily Mcauliffe
Aug 11, 2016 Emily Mcauliffe rated it did not like it
Gave up diligent reading after 100 pages, but skimmed through the rest. Really wanted to like this - I'm so curious about this immigrant experience (particularly after visiting the LES Tenement Museum recently). But the repetition is awful. Needs an editor.
Jan 24, 2014 Craig rated it really liked it
I always enjoy reading city history books and this one informing readers about the horrid living conditions in the Five Points region of New York City in the post-Civil War Era was a good reminder of what makes those kind of books riveting. Lots of good sidebar stories, well-documented chronology of life in New York City in the 19th century and solid biographical information on the important figures of the era add up to a good read. Perhaps a little more analysis of why this region was important ...more
Jessica Kaufman
Finally done with this book! I read through most of the book fairly fast...then the last 100 or so pages really dragged on. Only for the fact that I had been busy and started other books. But what a well written book on the history of the five points. This author has included "characters"; actual life stories from people making this book seem sort of like fiction. As with any history book I read, I get that feeling or want..."I want to take a time machine to that era and point in history" t ...more
Heather Williams

As a native New Yorker this history of a notorious neighborhood was fascinating. Well told I highly recommend this book
Mark Montgomery
A great look at the history of an infamous neighborhood in New York. It is a good preview for the movie "Gangs of New York"
May 16, 2013 Monica rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Monica by: dad
Shelves: history
Though the politics were of a distant time and sometimes hard to follow I learned so much from this book it was a tremendous educational experience and I'd recommend it to everyone whether they're from New York or not. Abinder's research is impeccable and invaluable. Though I don't have specifics, The Gangs of New York has factual errors and the reader can rely on Anbinder's discerning viewpoints and insight.

spoiler alert

Two of the most eye-opening facts I learned are the fact that most Irish ho
Aug 19, 2015 Jeramey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched account of how one of the world's most high profile neighborhoods evolved over time, and why it did so.
Apr 28, 2015 Louisewab rated it liked it
Well researched and detailed, but I prefer more recreational reading. I think I read over half of this 500-page book.
Feb 23, 2016 Anthony rated it really liked it
Informative while approaching Five Points from the legend and working his way down to the close truth.
Jan 07, 2014 Tabitha rated it it was amazing
Fascinating history of Five Points, the neighborhood that became Chinatown. Wonderful read for anyone interested in the history of New York City or immigration in the nineteenth century. Only drawback is the conclusions the author draws in final chapter--seem a bit disjointed from the rest of the chapters. Otherwise, wonderful read.
Charles Robinson
Aug 13, 2016 Charles Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

This really was such a great read. Im a very big fan of history, especially New York history. After watching lots of PBS specials on New York and the Gangs of New York movie, this book was such a gift. All the locations and areas mentioned in this book I have been there, though they are a lot different (buildings, parks, streets. etc….) then they were one hundred and fifty years ago. I enjoyed reading and going back in time and having a little imagination.
Jill Hutchinson
Apr 16, 2010 Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
I liked this book much better than "Gangs of New York". It provides an in-depth picture of that NYC neighborhood that teemed with immigrants, gangs, ward heelers, and grinding poverty. The politicians, using gangs such as the Dead Rabbits and the Bowery Boys as enforcers,were unbelievably corrupt, ruled with an iron hand and kept the impoverished "in their place". This is an insightful look at the city in transition and is fascinating and yet,depressing.
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Tyler Anbinder is an Associate Professor of History at George Washington University. His first book, Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850's, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and the winner of the Avery Craven Prize of the Organization of American Historians. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.
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“Dead Rabbit” became the standard phrase by which city residents described any scandalously riotous individual or group. But there seems to be no justification for referring to the Bowery Boys’ adversaries by this name.32” 0 likes
“How the Other Half Lives” 0 likes
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