The Battle with the Slum (New York City)

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The Battle with the Slum

His earliest photographs were posed to approximate reality or starkly caught their subjects by surprise in the flash of magnesium powder and potassium chlorate. Later, he coaxed people to appear more natural as he interviewed them. He delivered his first illustrated lecture in , taking two hours to narrate slides to an audience of amateur photographers in Manhattan and, of course, invited journalists.

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Today, the poor often die pretty much the same way as he depicted: thousands of forgotten New Yorkers are buried annually in the same unmarked trenches on Hart Island off the Bronx that Riis photographed. Who was buried and who survived? Look into the eyes in his captivating photographs: Whatever happened to the three children of the English dockworker and his family living in a one-room flat on West 28th Street near what is now the High Line?

BROOKLYN NEW YORK STREETS AT NIGHT

As his letters and notes demonstrate, he did not merely appeal to Christian moralism. Everybody wanted to get ahead, but lessening inequality of opportunity, in the abstract, was, by itself, not enough of a goad.

A Slum City For Slum People: Jacob Riis' Photos Of New York's Other Half () - Flashbak

More than a century later, Dr. A lot of his themes are the same.

An Italian immigrant's shop on Mott Street circa Refuse piles up at the entrance to the tenements at 53 to 59 MacDougal Street, February In the late s and early s, New York City's trash problem reached epic proportions. In , newly elected mayor William Strong knew he had to do something, and offered the job of sanitation commissioner to Teddy Roosevelt, who refused, essentially saying that it was an impossible job.

Things got even worse during the garbage strike of November , Pictured: Crowds and police gather in the street during the strike.

The "White Wings" clean the streets, under police protection, during the garbage strike of November , The "White Wings" took to the streets under the orders of pioneering sanitary engineer George Waring, whose efforts ameliorated but didn't totally solve the city's trash problem. Children play near a dead horse left to rot in the street, circa Wikimedia Commons.

A woman carries a bundle of clothing to be sewn at home near Astor Place, February Poor immigrant workers often toiled for long hours and took their work home with them. Two women and a man gather in front of outhouses at an unspecified location, circa Most turn-of-the-century New York City tenements didn't have indoor plumbing.


  1. Photos show the original gangs of New York in the 19th century;
  2. JACOB A. RIIS!
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A food vendor sells his wares in the streets of the Lower East Side on February 24, Dead bodies lie in an alley off Monroe Street following a nearby fire, December Men wait on the bread line in the Bowery on February 7, Jewish immigrants carry packages of matzo, April The Municipal Lodging House for the homeless sits across the street from an abandoned lot on 25th Street, circa The house opened in February to help treat a citywide homelessness problem that saw as many as new applicants looking for shelter each day.

Men stand at a corner on Chinatown's Pell Street, circa Street festival in Little Italy, Clothes line the railings of the tenements at to Elizabeth Street, March Street dweller, circa Children wearing signs in English and Yiddish protest child labor conditions on May 1, At the turn of the century, just about one-fifth of America's workforce was under the age of 16 -- and New York was no exception.

Boys in Hell's Kitchen demonstrate how they rob people who have passed out. Two newspaper boys asleep in the press room of The Sun , Working for the newspapers was one dependable way for young boys to earn some extra money for their families. However, their labor was often exploited and undervalued, leading to the infamous newsboys strike of Chinatown storefront, circa Man killed by a bomb at an anarchist rally in Union Square on March 28, In the face of a depressed economic climate and exploitative labor conditions, among other far-reaching factors, anarchism saw a wave of popularity in the U.

Street merchants in Little Italy undated photo, most likely circa Children prepare to transport a load of kimonos on Thompson Street, February Hell's Kitchen, just before Impoverished populations in the Lower East Side, circa late s.

Inside Turn-Of-The-Century New York’s Immigrant Slums

Little Italy's Mulberry Street, circa The Bowery, February The Bowery, a street and eponymous neighborhood running through what is now Manhattan's East Village, was a notorious hotbed of crime, poverty, and taboo behaviors prostitution and homosexuality among them during the wave of immigration to New York City in the late s and early s. Robert L.


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  • A boy uses the curbside water pump at Trinity Place, just south of Cedar Street, Public pumps like these allowed poorer people who didn't have their own taps access to running water.