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Collection Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting


The 21st Avenue business district is especially interesting for a variety of reasons:

  • Like other business districts in Paterson, it plays an important role in shaping the character of its neighborhood.
  • Its many family-run businesses well illustrate the social and cultural dynamics of such enterprises.
  • Most of its businesses offer outstanding examples of the cultural dimensions of work, from the sale of commodities and services associated with a particular ethnic group to business conducted in a particular cultural style to the maintenance of business relationships based on ethnic or regional affiliations.
  • Recent trends in the cultural composition of businesses along the avenue reflect a transformation of the neighborhood and, to a certain extent, the city — a transition from European-American cultural dominance to Hispanic cultural dominance.
  • A few manufacturing businesses, such as Garden State Cutting and Watson Machine International, illustrate a simultaneopus connection to manufacturing industries important in Paterson's past and to the latest features of the emergent global marketplace.
Mari's Hair People on 21st Avenue.

Finally, then, the 21st Avenue business strip (and the surrounding neighborhood) merits attention because it is a place of conjunction. Here old industry (such as the Joseph Teshon, Inc., weaving mill) and new industry (such as Garden State Cutting Company) meet. The old neighborhood and the new highway (Route 80) intersect. Old industries (such as garment manufacturing and machine fabrication) adapt to a new economic order. Merchants from an established cultural community (Italians) and those from newer communities (Hispanics) do business. And traditions (such as the San Rocco procession and the Puerto Rican national day parade) symbolically claim territory.

Sign over main entrance to Joseph Teshon, Inc.
Altar boy with cross and men with banners at the head of the procession, during the annual San Rocco procession, sponsored by the Montescaglioso Club of Paterson.
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