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South Side Back Then & Now

South Side Back Then & Now

“I learned that it took hours to do things back then. I also learned that back then the trolleys were pulled by horses or donkeys. But what I found fascinating but depressing was that it was so dusty you couldn't see the sky.”
—student quote

South Side Back Then & Now

Old objects, or “artifacts,” and historic photographs help you understand how a neighborhood has changed over time. Take the South Side, for example. Long-time residents show students an electric toaster from the 1940s; a book from 1957 written in Slovak; photographs of glass and iron workers in the early 1900s; protective eye goggles from the 1930s; a flat iron to press clothes with, used between 1850 and 1945; children's clothing from around 1910 and 1918; china dolls from the 1890s; and an elaborately decorated Easter egg.

From these objects, and many others, South Side students understand that many immigrants came to live on the South Side because of the job opportunities in the glass, iron, and steel-making industries. It was dangerous working in the mills, and workers had to wear protective equipment. The local library had books in foreign languages because it took time for the immigrants to learn English. Women didn't have the modern conveniences we use today, and toast—and even clothes—could be easily burnt or scorched using early toasters and irons. Children had only one set of fancy clothes, and had very few toys. In the midst of their new lives, families continued to celebrate religious and cultural traditions from their homeland.

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