African-Americans made up a small portion of Irvington's population in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many lived along Arlington, Rawles, Dewey, Campbell, Webster, Sheridan, and Catherwood Avenues. Some lived in the Glenco settlement at East 21st Street and Emerson Avenue. The black population worked in and around Irvington as blacksmiths, liverymen, carpenters, barbers, and as domestic help. In these photos taken in 1907, Emma Cook holds newly born Isabelle Layman (5731 East Washington Street). Many wealthy Irvington residents employed African-Americans to work as nannies, cooks, maids, and butlers. The 1900 and 1910 census reveals that dozens of local families employed black and white servants.
Little is known of Ms. Cook other than her name. The 1900 census does list an Emma Cook, age 35, living with her husband Charles and other relatives at 1116 East 22nd Street. I do not know if this is the same Emma Cook seen in these photos seven years later. She is not listed as living with the Laymans in the 1910 census. These rare photos are courtesy of Isabelle Layman Troyer.