NYC Street Peddler Licenses #usa

Richard Stower

Does anyone know if it is possible to find Lower East Side street peddler licenses from the early 1900s? Long shot, I know.

Richard Stower
Yarmouth, Maine 

Dobrowa Tarnowską: KANNER, SCHMIDT, WERNER

Linda Habenstreit

That’s a great idea! I’d like to know this as well. My paternal grandfather Refuel HEBENSTREIT made the voyage to the US from Rawa Ruska, Galicia, Austria, with his friend, Moses SHERBER. I searched for SHERBER and I found him living at 280 Monroe in NYC, NY, in 1916 and his occupation was peddler. I would like to know if this SHERBER is the same person who traveled with my paternal grandfather. 

In addition, my paternal grandfather and his friend listed different people they were going to stay with upon arrival in NYC. SHERBER was going to his friend Mandeus GRAF at 141-143 Attorney Street, NY, NY.  

Mr. Stower, I see the surname GRAFF as one of your ancestral surnames. Is Mandeus GRAF one of your ancestors? It would be interesting if we were connected somehow through these people. Thanks!


HEBENSTREIT—Rawa Ruska/Belzec, Galicia, Austria
REITZFELD—Rawa Ruska, Galicia, Austria
STECKMAN—Husiatyn, Galicia, Austria
BECKER—Liczkowce, Galicia, Austria

Sherri Bobish


If NYC pushcart license records still exist that would be an interesting new genealogy resource.

Interesting article from The Tenement Museum:
"In 1899 the price of a municipal pushcart license fell from $15 to $4 and by 1904 there were 6,747 push-cart peddlers in New York City."

Another article from The Museum at Eldridge Street claims that in 1900 there were 25,000 pushcarts.

Perhaps 6,747 were licensed, and the rest not?

A 1903 article in The NY Sun (found at  titled "The Plague of Pushcarts" states that to get a NYC pushcart license one had to show "first papers" towards naturalization, but that many newcomers used other peoples papers.


Sherri Bobish


I am unsure if old NYC pushcart licenses still exist, but I can tell you for sure that old NYC "stand" licenses, for small outdoor stalls and stands that were in front of buildings but still within the bounds of a building's property line, do exist! Thousands of them!
They're stored at the NYC Municipal Library, which is at 31 Chambers Street in Manhattan. Note that this is the same building as the Municipal Archives, but the Library is in a separate area (in the back) and the Library has a different focus and breadth of collections than the Archives. Also, generally speaking, the staff at the Municipal Library are extremely nice and helpful people, while the staff at the Municipal Archives...well, I literally spent my morning today drafting and notarizing an affidavit against some of their latest shenanigans, so draw your own conclusions.
These "stand" licenses have the name of the person who owned the building or property, the building's address, the name of the license applicant who wants to run the stall out front, and the types of business they want to operate. They sometimes, but not always, included the applicant's "first papers" or naturalization information on them, including court name. There appear to be two different standardized forms that the city used and information required on one form was slightly different than the other.

Most of the documents that have survived are still folded up in a tri-fold format, brittle and delicate, and then packed in large boxes labeled by approximate year. But a few of the years -- most of 1899, 1900, and most of 1901 -- have been carefully flattened out and preserved and put into neat folders by the staff at the Municipal Library.
I tried using the online Municipal Library catalog today to see what years still exist for these licenses; as far as I remember, it's from about 1880-1910 with a few gaps, which is primetime for many of our immigrant ancestors in New York. But annoyingly, I cannot find the files listed in the Municipal Library's own online catalog anymore.
Luckily, I took hundreds of photos of most of these already-preserved records, though just the better-preserved 1899/1900/1901 ones. I haven't put them online anywhere yet, so they haven't been transcribed yet. But they're really neat, and this entire set of records should be something that New York area researchers, or ideally a New York area genealogy society, might want to work on to photograph and publish and transcribe.
Attached are some of the photos I took of these "stand" licenses in June 2019. I'll put more photos of the actual licenses in a follow-up message, since this e-mail system limits the number of photos allowed to be attached per message.
- Brooke Schreier Ganz
Mill Valley, California


Okay, part two of my message about the surviving NYC "stand" licenses, for small stands and stalls (though not mobile pushcarts) that were located within the property lines of buildings in New York City, usually out front.
Attached are examples of the two different kinds of license application forms I saw represented in the files, one that lists naturalization information and one that doesn't:
Just as an estimate, I think about a third or even a half of all the licenses I read through were from people who had recognizably or plausibly Jewish names, and maybe a third were from people with recognizably or plausibly Italian names. Somewhat surprisingly, about one in twenty of all the license applications were from women.
A very, very large percentage of the Jews were applying to sell soda water, and a large percentage of the Italians were selling fruit, and some in both groups were boot blacks. Quite a few of the Jews signed their names to the documents in Hebrew/Yiddish.
Again, a large number of these licenses, probably tens of thousands of them, have survived from about 1880-1910, with some gaps in the years. Almost all of them are from Manhattan, but I found some Brooklyn and Bronx ones mixed in with the others, possibly fortuitously misfiled years ago. (If similar licenses in such large numbers have survived from the other boroughs, I would guess they're still stashed in the basements of their respective courthouses, which I've heard are a real mess.)
It would be really great if someone or some group could set up a project to photograph and publish and transcribe them. I hope someone will take on that challenge, when the Municipal Library re-opens later this year.
- Brooke Schreier Ganz
Mill Valley, California


By pure luck I have a copy of a relative's peddler license for a "basket" peddler in NYC, costing $2 in 1936, and which includes his picture. He lived on Rodney St (lower east side) and presumably carried his wares (hats) around the local streets. I have no idea where these were issued or whether they are in some dusty box somewhere, but they do have a lot of information, and the picture is priceless.
Susan Cullen SCHWARTZ



Would these licenses apply to an actual store that wanted to set up a display outside their doors?



Debra asked: "Would these licenses apply to an actual store that wanted to set up a display outside their doors?"
Sorry, Debra, I don't really know. I would assume not, though, since that would not be a separate individual/company/tenant from the one that was located indoors, and would just be their additional display area.
But the real way to find out is for someone to get all the stand/stall records photographed, uploaded, and transcribed...
- Brooke Schreier Ganz
Mill Valley, California


What a great question!  For decades my mother, who had never met my father's mother, insisted that my paternal grandmother had a candy stand after her husband died. Only late in life did my father correct her and say that she had a tiny restaurant in a building. If I could search these records, I might determine where and when she had her business. 
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC