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Jacob A. Riis


Danish-born Jacob Riis (1849-1914) was a journalist, social reformer, and social documentary photographer. 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 Museum holds the complete collection that Riis used in his writing and lecturing career, including images he made, commissioned, or acquired. These depict men, women, and children of all 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.
Bandits' Roost - a Mulberry Bend Alley.

Bandits' Roost - a Mulberry Bend Alley.


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...

A "Scrub" and her Bed -- the Plank.

A "Scrub" and her Bed -- the Plank.

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

I Scrubs. Katie, who keeps house in West Forty-ninth Street.

I Scrubs. Katie, who keeps house in West Forty-ninth Street.


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

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 "Morgue."

A Downtown "Morgue."

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

An Italian Home under a Dump.

An Italian Home under a Dump.


"Slept in that cellar four years."

"Slept in that cellar four years."

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

Ready for Sabbath Eve in a Coal Cellar - a cobbler in Ludlow Street.

Ready for Sabbath Eve in a Coal Cellar - a cobbler in Ludlow Street.


The Tramp.

The Tramp.

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.


The Church Street Station Lodging-room, in which I [Jacob A. Riis] was robbed.

The Church Street Station Lodging-room, in which I [Jacob A. Riis] was robbed.


Bandits' Roost - a Mulberry Bend Alley.

Bandits' Roost - a Mulberry Bend Alley.


An All-Night Two-Cent Restaurant, in "The Bend".

An All-Night Two-Cent Restaurant, in "The Bend".


It costs a Dallar a Month to sleep in the Sheds.

It costs a Dallar a Month to sleep in the Sheds.

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

Poverty Gappers playing Coney Island.

Poverty Gappers playing Coney Island.


Their playground a truck -- Baxter Street.

Their playground a truck -- Baxter Street.

Photographs, Prints & Drawings

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

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


"Minding the Baby," Cherry Hill.

"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.

The Church Street Station Lodging-room, in which I [Jacob A. Riis] was robbed.

The Church Street Station Lodging-room, in which I [Jacob A. Riis] was robbed.


Poverty Gap Transformed -- the spot where Young Healey was murdered is now a playground.

Poverty Gap Transformed -- the spot where Young Healey was murdered is now a playground.


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.

"Little Susie at Her Work," Gotham Court.


The "Slide" that was the Children's only Playground once.

The "Slide" that was the Children's only Playground once.

Children and a woman sit on an inclined cellar door.

A Growler Gang in Session.

A Growler Gang in Session.


Getting Ready for Supper in the Newsboys' Lodging House.

Getting Ready for Supper 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 west side lodging house. Edward, the little pedlar, caught napping.

Night school in the west side lodging house. Edward, the little pedlar, caught napping.


Under the Dump at West 47th Street.

Under the Dump at West 47th Street.


Women's Lodging Room in Eldridge Street Police Station.

Women's Lodging Room in Eldridge Street Police Station.

Women sleeping on plank beds and the floor.

"Playground" of the Essex Market Public Shcool, Row of Closets [Toilets] Opening on It.

"Playground" of the Essex Market Public Shcool, Row of Closets [Toilets] Opening on It.

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

Lodging Room in the Leonard Street Police Station.

Lodging Room in the Leonard Street Police 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.

A Flat in the Pauper Barracks, West Thirty-eighth Street, with all its Furniture.

A Flat in the Pauper Barracks, West Thirty-eighth Street, with all its Furniture.

A room in a Hell's Kitchen tenement flat.

Court at No. 24 Baxter Street.

Court at No. 24 Baxter Street.


The 'Soup House Gang' Class in History in the Duane Street Newsboys' Lodging House.

The 'Soup House Gang' Class in History in the Duane Street Newsboys' Lodging House.


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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