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National Humanities Center Jacob Riis and Progressive Reform a live, online professional development seminar.

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Presentation on theme: "National Humanities Center Jacob Riis and Progressive Reform a live, online professional development seminar."— Presentation transcript:

1 National Humanities Center Jacob Riis and Progressive Reform a live, online professional development seminar

2 Jacob Riis and Progressive Reform JOY S. KASSON NHC FELLOW, 1996-97 PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN STUDIES AND ENGLISH UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL Buffalo Bill ’ s Wild West: Celebrity, Memory, and Popular History Marble Queens and Captives: Women in Nineteenth- Century American Sculpture Artistic Voyagers: Europe and the American Imagination in the Works of Irving, Allston, Cole, Cooper, and Hawthorne

3 Jacob Riis and Progressive Reform Focus Questions How did urban poverty and immigration give rise to Progressivism? What can we learn about poverty, urbanization, and immigration by considering Riis’s first-hand accounts of them, both verbal and photographic? How did Riis use photography as an instrument for political advocacy? What was the importance of Riis’s How the Other Half Lives as a document of Progressive reform?

4 Jacob Riis 1849-1914


6 A barrack down town where he has to live because he is poor brings in a third more rent than a decent flat house in Harlem. The statement once made a sensation that between seventy and eighty children had been found in one tenement. It no longer excites even passing attention, when the sanitary police report counting 101 adults and 91 children in a Crosby Street house, one of twins, built together. The children in the other, if I am not mistaken, numbered 89, a total of 180 for two tenements! Or when a midnight inspection in Mulberry Street unearths a hundred and fifty "lodgers" sleeping on filthy floors in two buildings. Spite of brown-stone trimmings, plate-glass and mosaic vestibule floors, the water does not rise in summer to the second story, while the beer flows unchecked to the all-night picnics on the roof. The saloon with the side-door and the landlord divide the prosperity of the place between them, and the tenant, in sullen submission, foots the bills. Chapter 2 The Tenement

7 Old house with tenement

8 Bandit’s Roost, Tenement alley

9 This man slept in this cellar for four years

10 In the home of an Italian rag picker

11 The bulk of the sweater's work is done in the tenements, which the law that regulates factory labor does not reach. To the factories themselves that are taking the place of the rear tenements in rapidly growing numbers, letting in bigger day-crowds than those the health officers banished, the tenement shops serve as a supplement through which the law is successfully evaded. Ten hours is the legal work-day in the factories, and nine o'clock the closing hour at the latest. Forty-five minutes at least must be allowed for dinner, and children under sixteen must not be employed unless they can read and write English; none at all under fourteen. The very fact that such a law should stand on the statute book, shows how desperate the plight of these people. But the tenement has defeated its benevolent purpose. In it the child works unchallenged from the day he is old enough to pull a thread. There is no such thing as a dinner hour; men and women eat while they work, and the "day" is lengthened at both ends far into the night. Factory hands take their work with them at the close of the lawful day to eke out their scanty earnings by working overtime at home. Chapter 11 The Sweat Shop

12 Necktie Workshop in a Division Street Tenement

13 Bohemian Cigar Makers

14 Sewing and Starving

15 The message came from one of the Health Department's summer doctors, last July, to the King's Daughters' Tenement-house Committee, that a family with a sick child was absolutely famishing in an uptown tenement. The address was not given. The doctor had forgotten to write it down, and before he could be found and a visitor sent to the house the baby was dead, and the mother had gone mad. The nurse found the father, who was an honest laborer long out of work, packing the little corpse in an orange-box partly filled with straw, that he might take it to the Morgue for pauper burial. There was absolutely not a crust to eat in the house, and the other children were crying for food. The great immediate need in that case, as in more than half of all according to the record, was work and living wages. Alms do not meet the emergency at all. They frequently aggravate it, degrading and pauperizing where true help should aim at raising the sufferer to self-respect and self-dependence. (Chapter 21) Health Issues

16 Bottle Alley

17 Stale Bread Vendor

18 A home nurse

19 Children of the slums

20 The street their playground

21 Didn’t live nowhere


23 Street Arabs in Sleeping Quarters

24 The Street Arab has all the faults and all the virtues of the lawless life he leads. Vagabond that he is, acknowledging no authority and owing no allegiance to anybody or anything, with his grimy fist raised against society whenever it tries to coerce him, he is as bright 'and sharp as the weasel, which, among all the predatory beasts, he most resembles His sturdy independence, love of freedom and absolute self-reliance, together with his rude sense of justice that enables him to govern his little community, not always in accordance with municipal law or city ordinances, but often a good deal closer to the saving line of "doing to others as one would be done by"— these are strong handles by which those who know how can catch the boy and make him useful. Chapter 17 Children of the slums

25 Prayer Time in the Nursery

26 The crowds that jostle each other at the wagons and about the sidewalk shops, where a gutter plank on two ash-barrels does duty for a counter! Pushing, struggling, babbling, and shouting in foreign tongues, a veritable Babel of confusion. An English word falls upon the ear almost with a sense of shock, as something unexpected and strange. In the midst of it all there is a sudden wild scattering, a hustling of things from the street into dark cellars, into back-yards and by-ways, a slamming and locking of doors hidden under the improvised shelves and counters. The health officers' cart is coming down the street, preceded and followed by stalwart policemen, who shovel up with scant ceremony the eatables--musty bread, decayed fish an d stale vegetables--indifferent to the curses that are showered on them from stoops and windows, and carry them off to the dump. Chapter 10 Immigrants

27 Sabbath Eve in a Coal Cellar

28 Talmud SchoolPublic School

29 The Bend The Bend becomes a Park

30 How the Other Half Lives, 1890

31 Final slide Thank you.

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