Charles Dickens publishes American Notes


Five Points was located in the “Bloody Ould Sixth” ward, where, reputedly, a murder per night was perpetrated. Drenched in “poverty, wretchedness and vice,” the home to America`s first urban underclass, the squalid warrens and streets of Five Points were “loathsome, drooping and decayed,” and its “hideous tenements . . . take their name from robbery and murder.” When Dickens—in the company of two policemen—climbed to the attic of one of the “leprous houses,” debauched, half-awakened creatures crawled from their corners “as if the judgment hour were at hand and every obscene grave giving up its dead.” Dickens mordantly noted that “where dogs would howl to lie, women, men, and boys slink off to sleep, forcing the dislodged rats to move away in quest of better lodgings.” Dickens found Five Points “in respect of filth and wretchedness” the peer of St. Giles and its Seven Dials, among the vilest rookeries of his native London.

Published, Oct 19, 1842