Old House on a Bleecker Street Back Lot I

Old House on a Bleecker Street Back Lot

“Jacob August Riis (1849–1914) was a Danish American social reformer and social documentary photographer.He is known for helping the impoverished in New York City, the subject of most of his writings and photography. He attempted to alleviate the bad living conditions of poor people by exposing their living conditions to the middle and upper classes.

An Ash-Barrel

An Ash-Barrel

“Large groups of migrants and immigrants, seeking prosperity in a more industrialized environment, came to urban areas during the years after the American Civil War. Twenty-four million people relocated to urban areas, causing their population to increase eightfold. During stints as a police reporter, Riis worked the most crime-ridden and impoverished slums of the city. Through his own experiences in the poorhouses, and witnessing the conditions of the poor in the city slums, he decided to make a difference for them.

Bandits' Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street

Bandits’ Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street

“Working night-shift duty in the immigrant communities of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Riis developed a tersely melodramatic writing style and he became one of the earliest reformist journalists. Riis had for some time been wondering how to show the squalor of which he wrote more vividly than his words could express. Recognizing the potential of the flash, Riis and his photographers were among the first Americans to use flash photography.

Blind Beggar, 1890

Blind Beggar, 1890

“For some three years Riis combined his own photographs with others commissioned of professionals, donations by amateurs and purchased lantern slides, all of which formed the basis for his photographic archive.

Bohemian Cigarmakers at Work in their Tenament

Bohemian Cigarmakers at Work in their Tenament

“Because so much of the work was done at night, he was able to photograph the worst elements of the New York slums, the dark streets, tenement apartments, and “stale-beer” dives, and documented the hardships faced by the poor and criminal, especially in the vicinity of notorious Mulberry Street.

Bottle Alley, Mulberry Bend

Bottle Alley, Mulberry Bend

“How the Other Half Lives, subtitled “Studies Among the Tenements of New York”, was published in 1890.

Bottle Alley, Mulberry Road

Bottle Alley, Mulberry Road

Children of the Poor (1892) was a sequel in which Riis wrote of particular children that he had encountered.

Boys from the Italian Quarter I

Boys from the Italian Quarter I

“Theodore Roosevelt introduced himself to Riis, offering to help his efforts. After reading his exposés, Roosevelt befriended Riis for life, later remarking, “Jacob Riis, whom I am tempted to call the best American I ever knew, although he was already a young man when he came hither from Denmark”.”

Children's Playground in Poverty Cap, New York

Children’s Playground in Poverty Cap, New York

“After Roosevelt became president, he wrote:

“”Recently a man, well qualified to pass judgment, alluded to Mr. Jacob A. Riis as “the most useful citizen of New York”. Those fellow citizens of Mr. Riis who best know his work will be most apt to agree with this statement. The countless evils which lurk in the dark corners of our civic institutions, which stalk abroad in the slums, and have their permanent abode in the crowded tenement houses, have met in Mr. Riis the most formidable opponent ever encountered by them in New York City.”

Dens of Death, New York

Dens of Death, New York

Drilling the Gang on Mulberry Street

Drilling the Gang on Mulberry Street

Family Making Artificial Flowers

Family Making Artificial Flowers

Feast of Saint Rocco, Bandit's Roost, Mulberry Street

Feast of Saint Rocco, Bandit’s Roost, Mulberry Street

Getting Ready for Supper in the Newsboys' Lodging House

Getting Ready for Supper in the Newsboys’ Lodging House

Girl and a Baby on a Doorstep

Girl and a Baby on a Doorstep

Girl from the West 52 Street Industrial School

Girl from the West 52 Street Industrial School

Gotham Court Girls

Gotham Court Girls

Greek Children in Gotham Court

Greek Children in Gotham Court

Hell's Kitchen and Sebastopol

Hell’s Kitchen and Sebastopol

Hester Street

Hester Street

Ice on Burnt-Out Building

Ice on Burnt-Out Building

In a Chinese Joint

In a Chinese Joint

In a Dive

In a Dive

In a Seven-Cent Lodging House

In a Seven-Cent Lodging House

In Poverty Gap, West 28 Street - An English Coal-Heaver's Home

In Poverty Gap, West 28 Street – An English Coal-Heaver’s Home

In the Sun Office, 2 AM

In the Sun Office, 2 AM

In the Sun Office, 3 AM

In the Sun Office, 3 AM

Jewish Neighborhood

Jewish Neighborhood

Lodgers in Crowded Bayard Street Tenement

Lodgers in Crowded Bayard Street Tenement

Ludlow Street Sweater's Shop

Ludlow Street Sweater’s Shop

Minding Baby, Cherry Hill

Minding Baby, Cherry Hill

Minding the Baby, Scene in Gotham Court

Minding the Baby, Scene in Gotham Court

Mountain Eagle, an Iroquis, and Family

Mountain Eagle, an Iroquis, and Family

Mulberry Bend, Southwest Corner of the Block

Mulberry Bend, Southwest Corner of the Block

Necktie Sweatshop in a Division Street Tenement, 1889

Necktie Sweatshop in a Division Street Tenement, 1889

Newsboy in the Duane Street Lodging House

Newsboy in the Duane Street Lodging House

Old Barney in Cat Alley

Old Barney in Cat Alley

Pietro Learning to Write, Jersey Street

Pietro Learning to Write, Jersey Street

Police Station Lodgers, Madison Street

Police Station Lodgers, Madison Street

Prayer time in the Nursery - Five Points House of Industry

Prayer time in the Nursery – Five Points House of Industry

Quarters for the Night

Quarters for the Night

Room in a Tenement

Room in a Tenement

Sabbath Eve in a Coal Cellar, Ludlow Street

Sabbath Eve in a Coal Cellar, Ludlow Street

Sewing and Starving in an Elizabeth Street Attic

Sewing and Starving in an Elizabeth Street Attic

Shoemaker, Broome Street

Shoemaker, Broome Street

Sisters, Vandam Street

Sisters, Vandam Street

Stale Bread Vendor

Stale Bread Vendor

Street Arabs in Sleeping Quarters

Street Arabs in Sleeping Quarters

Street Arabs in Sleeping Quarters, Church Corner

Street Arabs in Sleeping Quarters, Church Corner

Street Arabs in their Sleeping Quarters

Street Arabs in their Sleeping Quarters

Street Cleaning, Fourth Street

Street Cleaning, Fourth Street

Tenement Fire Escapes

Tenement Fire Escapes

Twelve-Year-Old Boy Pulling Threads in a Sweat Shop, 1889

Twelve-Year-Old Boy Pulling Threads in a Sweat Shop, 1889

Typical Tenement Fire Escape

Typical Tenement Fire Escape

Under the Dump at West 35 Street

Under the Dump at West 35 Street

Vegetable Stand in the Bend

Vegetable Stand in the Bend

Women in Elizabeth Street Police Station

Women in Elizabeth Street Police Station

Women in Gotham Court Sewing

Women in Gotham Court Sewing

“Though Riis emphatically supported the spread of wealth to lower classes through improved social programs and philanthropy, his personal opinion of the natural causes for poor immigrants’ situations tended to display the trappings of a racist ideology. Several chapters of How the Other Half Lives open with Riis’ observations of the situations of different ethnic and racial groups via indictments of their perceived natural flaws”

- Wikipedia

7 Responses

  1. Jamie

    Superb! Totally enthralling and absorbing. Now back to reality. Thanks for curating.

    Reply
    • Ella

      Sort of disturbing that you’d refer to this kind of rampant squalor as ‘The Good Ol’Days’…..

      Reply
  2. Heloise

    If you look at the pictures of parts of many big cities at this time you will see this kind of poverty. It wasn’t that long ago that the west had the kind of poverty we only now expect in places like India

    Reply

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