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"How The Other Half Lives"

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TessaMarie Shaffer

on 9 December 2014

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Transcript of "How The Other Half Lives"

"How The Other Half Lives: Studies among the tenements of New York" was published in 1890. The publishers were Charles Scribner's Sons. The illustrations and pictures in the book were taken by Jacob Riis. It contains 304 pages. There was 25 chapters, an introduction, and an appendix. As well as 44 pictures and illustrations.
Jacob Riis included a few diagrams of an average tenement building from this time. This one included 12 families on a flat, so it was pretty crowded. Many families all shared one room They were once houses of aristocrats, but they were divided up to fit many people. The rent was super high and cleanliness was not high on the list of priorities. On average the rent was anywhere from $5 to $8 a month. Many people killed themselves because they were so bad, and the upkeep was so horrible that many people would rather be homeless. The sewage and plumbing was open. They had not introduced air shafts yet. Not many people willingly entered a tenement building, so this was not well known information. This is what Riis exposed. The horrible conditions people went home to every night. I know many people would not want this to be revealed.
Jacob Riis
Riis immigrated from Denmark in 1870 as a 21 year old man. He lived in extreme poverty in Richmond Hill, New York, struggling from job to job, and being homeless majority of the time. Riis finally found employment as a police reporter for the New York Tribune in 1877. He became interested in progressivism and became a muckraker. His book, "How The Other Half Lives", exposed the tenements that the immigrants lived in and their other circumstances. He died in 1914, having becoming widely known in photography and reporting.
"How The Other Half Lives"
Tessa Shaffer
4th Period
Date- Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
Publication of "How The Other Half Lives"
He struggled to portray the conditions of the tenements to people with just words and text. In order to capture the life and conditions in tenements, Riis brought a camera with him on his nightly rounds. He was one of the first people to use flash photography. What he could not photograph he drew sketches for. He described in detail the daily and nightly life of the residents in the tenements, as well as captions for each picture.
(remastered picture)
His writing style was influenced by Charles Dickens. Like him, Riis's writing focused on the slums of their cities. Jacob wrote about New York tenements, lodging houses and some work places. Dickens wrote about London's slums.
The main difference was Riis was biased when it came to the immigrants since he was one himself, and he tended to be flippant towards the middle and upper classes. To play to the middle class and upper class he also wrote in the tone of their racial beliefs at the time especially towards Jews, Italians, and Irish.
D- dark L-light H-hallways
(Remastered picture)
Inside a tenement, one room.
The book was so popular in the Guilded Age and during the Progressive movement. This was because, unlike Progressive books of the time, Jacob Riis offered proposed solutions to the problems he wrote about. He was a well known investigative journalist and the facts and statistics he included were from the Registrar of Vital Statistics, so this helped the book's popularity and validity. The pictures, illustrations, and engravings did not hurt either.
1.Genesis of the Tenement
2.The Awakening
3.The Mixed Crowd
4.The Down Town Back-Alleys
5.The Italian in New York
6.The Bend
7.A Raid on Stale-Beer Dives
8.The Cheap Lodging-Houses
11.The Sweaters of Jewtown
12.The Bohemians-- Tenement-House Cigarmaking
13.The Color Line in New York
25.How the Case Stands
24.What Has Been Done
23.The Man with the Knife
22.The Wrecks and the Waste
21.Pauperism in the Tenements
20.The Working Girls of New York
19.The Harvest of Tares
18.The Reign of Rum
17.The Street Arab
16.Waifs of the City's Slums
15.The Problem of the Children
14.The Common Herd
At first Riis published his illustrations and pictures in Scribners Magazine. The magazine owner was not very willingly at first due to the raw and disturbing pictures and articles. Once he saw how successful they were, he published more and even published Riis's book,
"How The Other Half Lives."
The book became very successful quickly and found its way into
The New York Times
for a review. The Times said the book's content was very powerful. The book sold 11 editions withing five years after publication.
In this political cartoon you can obviously see a large family in a small, crowded, and messy room. Along the top it says a room with a view. I think it means that this was the best of the best when it comes to tenement rooms to live in because it had a "view". It is just showing had bad the conditions were, when this would probably be one the best rooms to live in with your family.
http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/uhic/PrimarySourcesDetailsPage/DocumentToolsPortletWindow?displayGroupName=PrimarySources&u=alli1510&u=alli1510&jsid=a78338c066e1536e54b2db01f385a08f&p=UHIC&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CCX2687400057&zid=54ae04e56c4257f3ebdd7a22302da473 11/5/14 (pictures) Riis, Jacob, A. The Battle with the Slum. New York: MacMillan, 1902.

Riis, Jacob, A. The Children of the Poor. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1892.
Riis, Jacob, A. How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1890.
google images

This diagram shows the changes that were slowly made to the tenements. This one has the air shafts to bring in fresh air and sunlight. The rooms are bigger and less cramped with more windows. The sewage is no longer open. Overall the conditions got better dramatically. There was no longer one family more room. Many of the old tenement buildings were torn down because of this book.
The book is still successful today with many new editions out. They add more facts as they slowly discover more of what happened in the tenements. They remaster the pictures. Over the years have turned his illustrations into pictures as well. You can order any of the new editions from almost anywhere and see the horrible conditions millions of people lived in for yourself.
Teddy Roosevelt admired Riis and all his work. He called him the most useful citizen of New York. They were close friends when Roosevelt was New York City Police Commissioner. Riis also provided Roosevelt with useful information about the police department and the slums of the city.

Jacob August Riis was born in Ribe, Denmark on May 3rd, 1849. He was the 3rd of 15 children. In Copenhagen, Denmark he worked as a carpenter until he immigrated to the US as 21 year old in 1870. Unable to find much work, Riis lived in police lodging houses. Because of this he experienced first hand some of the horrors of tenement buildings and other housing for immigrants. He finally landed a job a news bureau in NYC in 1873. Then in 1874 he was brought on to the South Brooklyn News and finally in 1877 became a police reporter for the New York Tribune. The next year he was then employed by the New York Evening Sun and used his flash photography. 1889, December, Riis's illustrations and pictures find themselves in Scribner's Magazine and in 1890, How The Other Half Lives is published.
The book had immediate effect when, NYC police commissioner, Teddy Roosevelt saw the book and images. He recognized some of the nearby lodging houses and had them shut down.
Harold Evans, a modern author, mentioned some facts and stats from Riis's work in one of his books.
New York's lower East side had 290,000 people per square mile.
one tenement block had 1,324 Italian immigrants in 132 total rooms.
In one 12 by 12 foot room there were five families (20 people) and only two beds.
a third of the entire city's population lived in similar situations (about 1.2 million)
There was a total of 43,000 tenement houses
No running water or indoor plumbing facilities, unless they were open and unsafe
Roughly 40% had tuberculosis
A third of all babies died before there first birthday and 1 in 10 younger children died as well.
This cartoon is not necessarily for the book, but I believe it is showing how Roosevelt became commissioner to help clean up New York and its slums. It goes along with the book because he really got into this movement and urge to fix New York because of Riis.
Riis continued his fight for the next 25 years. He introduced "magic lantern shows" and continued to lecture and write. He became a force to be reckoned with and many landlords and officials feared him. The main philanthropists of the time backed him. He slowly made a change and even got a Tenement House Commission. He led investigations that shut down whole city blocks of tenements and got many of then upgraded and monitored. He helped open parks and has one dedicated to him. Jacob Riis continued to open eyes to the atrocities many people suffered through and bettered lives until his death on May 26th, 1914 in Barrie Massachusetts. He published over a dozen of progressive books in his life though.
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