Pictorial History of the Tenant Movement

1. New York City's first mass rent strike broke out in 1904 among Jews on Manhattan's Lower East Side; the issue was rapidly escalating rents. Part of the source of tenant bitterness was their sense that they were being exploited by poor but ambitious fellow Jews who, as "listers" or "cockroach landlords," leased whole buildings from landlords and then profited from the rents they charged for individual apartments. The socialist Jewish Daily Forward depicted this bitterness in a cartoon published during the strike. Its lengthy caption read: "The man is not a capitalist. He's showing off as a capitalist. The house is not his -- he's just a 'lister.' He rented the house on a lease. He wants to get rich in a hurry. The woman is the wife of an oppressed tenant. He is asking for another $4 per month. She is asking for pity, but he says he is a landlord and doesn't have any" (March 20, 1904).

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