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Jacob A. Riis


Danish-born Jacob Riis (1849-1914) was a social reformer and photojournalist. He is best known for his 1890 book How the Other Half Lives, which brought public attention to New York's squalid housing, sweatshops, bars, and alleys. The City Museum holds the complete collection of images that Riis used in his writing and lecturing career, including photographs he made, commissioned, or acquired. These depict men, women, and children of many nationalities at home, work, and leisure. This collection contains vintage prints, glass-plate negatives, and lantern slides, as well as a set of recently produced prints from all of Riis's original negatives.
Bandit's Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street.

Bandit's Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street.


The Mulberry Bend.

The Mulberry Bend.


The Short Tail Gang (Corlears Hook) Pier at foot of Jackson Street, now Corlears Hook Park. Photographed from the Police Boat.

The Short Tail Gang (Corlears Hook) Pier at foot of Jackson Street, now Corlears Hook Park. Photographed from the Police Boat.


The Board of Election Inspectors in the Beach Street School.

The Board of Election Inspectors in the Beach Street School.

Portrait of three girls who served as inspectors in the first Board of Election at the Beach Street Industrial...

Police Station Lodgers 8. An ancient women lodger in Eldridge Street Station.

Police Station Lodgers 8. An ancient women lodger in Eldridge Street Station.

An old woman with the plank she sleeps on at the Eldridge Street Station women's lodging room.

"I Scrubs," Little Katie from the W. 52nd Street Industrial School (since moved to W. 53rd Street).


Lodgers in a crowded Bayard Street tenement -

Lodgers in a crowded Bayard Street tenement - "Five cents a spot."


In the home of an Italian Ragpicker, Jersey Street.

In the home of an Italian Ragpicker, Jersey Street.

Italian mother and her baby in Jersey Street.

A Downtown

A Downtown "Morgue."

Men in a crowded in an "Black and Tan" dive bar.

In sleeping quarters - Rivington Street Dump.

In sleeping quarters - Rivington Street Dump.


One of four pedlars who slept in cellar of 11 Ludlow Street rear.

One of four pedlars who slept in cellar of 11 Ludlow Street rear.

A man atop a make-shift bed that consists of a plank across two barrels.

Ludlow Street Hebrew making ready for Sabbath Eve in his coal cellar -- bread on his table.

Ludlow Street Hebrew making ready for Sabbath Eve in his coal cellar -- bread on his table.


James M'Bride, one of the City's Pensioners, Father of the notorious Blanche Douglass.

James M'Bride, one of the City's Pensioners, Father of the notorious Blanche Douglass.


Tramp in Mulberry Street yard.

Tramp in Mulberry Street yard.

A pipe-smoking man seated in a yard in front of a ramshakle shanty.

Street Arabs in sleeping quarters.

Street Arabs in sleeping quarters.

Three children curled up on a metal grate in a below-grade areaway.

Prayer time in the nursery, Five Points House of Industry.

Prayer time in the nursery, Five Points House of Industry.


In a Sweat Shop.

In a Sweat Shop.

"12 year old boy at work pulling threads. Had sworn certificate he was 16 -- owned under cross-examination...

Talmud School in a Hester Street Tenement.

Talmud School in a Hester Street Tenement.


Police Station Lodging Rooms, Church Street Station, in which Jacob A. Riis slept in 1870.

Police Station Lodging Rooms, Church Street Station, in which Jacob A. Riis slept in 1870.


Bandit's Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street.

Bandit's Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street.


Bandit's Roost -- In a stale beer dive in cellar -- flashlight at 3 a.m.

Bandit's Roost -- In a stale beer dive in cellar -- flashlight at 3 a.m.


Yard in Jersey Street (now gone) where Italians lived in the then worst slums.

Yard in Jersey Street (now gone) where Italians lived in the then worst slums.

A woman holding a child, and men sitting in a rear yard of a Jersey Street tenement.

Children's Playground in Poverty Gap.

Children's Playground in Poverty Gap.


Their playground a truck -- Baxter Street.

Their playground a truck -- Baxter Street.

Photographs, Prints & Drawings

Lodgers in a crowded Bayard Street tenement -

Lodgers in a crowded Bayard Street tenement - "Five cents a spot."


"Minding the Baby," Cherry Hill.


Hester Street. The Street, the school children's only playground.

Hester Street. The Street, the school children's only playground.

Daytime foot traffic on Hester Street.

Indians (Iroquois) at 511 Broome Street.

Indians (Iroquois) at 511 Broome Street.

Three Iroquois women working at a table.

Police Station Lodging Rooms, Church Street Station, in which Jacob A. Riis slept in 1870.

Police Station Lodging Rooms, Church Street Station, in which Jacob A. Riis slept in 1870.


Playground established in Poverty Gap in the

Playground established in Poverty Gap in the "Alley Gang" preserves.


New York, Old house (torn down) in Bleeker Street, on a back lot between Mercer and Greene Streets.

New York, Old house (torn down) in Bleeker Street, on a back lot between Mercer and Greene Streets.

A rear-lot house on Bleecker Street as seen from an adjacent excavation site.

Baxter Street Alley in Mulberry Bend, now destroyed.

Baxter Street Alley in Mulberry Bend, now destroyed.


Pietro learning to write.

Pietro learning to write.

A woman with an infant seated at a table with a boy using writing tools.

The Potter's Field, the Common Trench.

The Potter's Field, the Common Trench.

Laborers loading coffins into an open trench at the city burial ground on Hart's Island.

The Ashbarrel of old.

The Ashbarrel of old.

An ash barrel on the sidewalk.

Mullen's Alley, Cherry Hill.

Mullen's Alley, Cherry Hill.


"Little Susie at Her Work," Gotham Court.


A

A "Slide" in Hamilton Street. (Shopkeepers hammered the cellar door full of nails to stop their using it as their grand slide).

Children and a woman sit on an inclined cellar door.

"The Montgomery Guards" (A Growler Gang).


"Washing Up" in the Newsboys' lodging house.

Newsboys cleaning their faces in a lodging house washroom.

Saluting the Flag in the Mott Street Industrial School.

Saluting the Flag in the Mott Street Industrial School.

Young students salute the American flag at Mott Street Industrial School.

Night School in the Seventh Avenue Lodging House - run by The Children's Aid Society.

Night School in the Seventh Avenue Lodging House - run by The Children's Aid Society.


Under the Dump at West 47th Street.

Under the Dump at West 47th Street.


Police Station Lodgers 18. Eldridge Street Station, Women lodgers (only women lodgers in Eldridge St.).

Police Station Lodgers 18. Eldridge Street Station, Women lodgers (only women lodgers in Eldridge St.).

Women sleeping on plank beds and the floor.

East Side Public Schools 4. Same playground (as 246) with children moving in it at recess.

East Side Public Schools 4. Same playground (as 246) with children moving in it at recess.

A hallway at the condemned Essex Market School filled with students playing.

Police Station Lodging Room 5. Midnight in the Leonard Street Station.

Police Station Lodging Room 5. Midnight in the Leonard Street Station.


Old Barney in Cat Alley.

Old Barney in Cat Alley.


Cat Alley, when it was being torn down.

Cat Alley, when it was being torn down.


Baby in slum tenement, dark stairs--it's playground.

Baby in slum tenement, dark stairs--it's playground.


Showing their trick, Hell's Kitchen boys.

Showing their trick, Hell's Kitchen boys.

Boys in Hell's Kitchen demonstrating how they rob people who have passed-out.

Flat in Hell's Kitchen

Flat in Hell's Kitchen "Ruin".

A room in a Hell's Kitchen tenement flat.

Court at No. 24 Baxter Street.

Court at No. 24 Baxter Street.


Newsboys' Lodging House (Duane Street) night class in history -- called the

Newsboys' Lodging House (Duane Street) night class in history -- called the "Soup House Gang" by the other boys, 1892.


Organized Charity. Night Messenger Service.

Organized Charity. Night Messenger Service.


The Potter's Field Consecrated Ground.

The Potter's Field Consecrated Ground.

A man covering coffins with dirt in an open trench at the city burial ground on Hart's Island.

Manual Training Class, Public School.

Manual Training Class, Public School.

Boys in summer school wood shop class at Brooklyn's P.S. 32.

Waiting at table, vacation school.

Waiting at table, vacation school.


Main Entrance of Public School 153 Bronx.

Main Entrance of Public School 153 Bronx.


Prayer-time in the Nursery - Five Points House of Industry.

Prayer-time in the Nursery - Five Points House of Industry.


Paper bags.

Paper bags.

Four boys standing at counter-tops making paper bags.

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