Industrial New York

Image for Industrial New YorkNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Episode 3 of 3

Duration: 1 hour

Dan Snow travels back to a seething Manhattan in the throes of the industrial revolution. Millions fled persecution, poverty and famine in Europe in the 19th century in search of the promised land. When they arrived what they found was even worse than what they had left behind.

New York was a city consumed by filth and corruption, its massive immigrant population crammed together in the slums of Lower Manhattan. Dan succumbs to some of the deadly disease-carrying parasites that thrived in the filthy, overcrowded tenement buildings. He has a go at cooking with some cutting edge 19th century ingredients - clothes dye and floor cleaner - added to disguise reeking fetid meat. And he marvels at some of the incredible feats of engineering that transformed not just the city, but the world.

More episodes

See all episodes from Filthy Cities
  • Filthy Cities: My summer in the sewers

    Filthy Cities: My summer in the sewers

    "Perhaps my most important realisation was simply the debt that we owe the people who get rid of our waste and ensure we have clean water."

    Read and comment on Dan's post on the BBC TV blog
  • Welcome to New York

    Welcome to New York

    Dan and the crew get ready to film a piece to camera with a classic New York cityscape in the background.

  • Dan's new friend... Peanut the pig

    Dan's new friend... Peanut the pig

    Even though New Yorkers were paying for basic services like street cleaning, a large proportion of the cash was just being pocketed, thanks to endemic corruption. This left pigs as the only street cleaners, eating tonnes of rubbish every year.

  • Early flash photography

     Early flash photography

    Dan demonstrates an early method of flash photography. In 1888 photographer Jacob Riis became the first American to use this technology and captured, for the first time, the grim reality of life inside New York's dark tenement slums.

  • Boracic acid and rotten meat sausages

    Boracic acid and rotten meat sausages

    Dan finds out how some disreputable butchers in 19th century New York used a new cleaning product to turn their previously unsellable rotten meat into toxic sausages.

  • Coney Island

    Coney Island

    Dan visits Coney Island to investigate how New York deals with it's waste today. By the end of the 19th century so much waste had been poured into the Hudson and the East River that Manhattan was an island floating in its own filth.

  • Sunset on Coney Island

    Sunset on Coney Island

  • Iconic New York skyline

    Iconic New York skyline

  • Driving Lesson

    Driving Lesson

    Dan has a go at driving a vintage Ford Model T, the car which took America by storm and revolutionised New York's roads.

  • Fresh water on tap

    Fresh water on tap

    It may be something that we take for granted today, but in 19th century New York fresh water was in short supply. Completed in 1842, the Croton aqueduct finally connected the city to a reliable source of clean water, marking the first major step towards modernity.

  • Dr Stephen Smith's office

    Dr Stephen Smith's office

    The crew set up a drama scene to illustrate Dr Stephen Smith's role in battling cholera in 19th century New York. He created a map of victims suffering from the deadly waterborne disease and traced the outbreak back to specific contaminated water supplies, thus helping to contain it.


Dan Snow
Executive Producer
Eamon Hardy


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss