The Art of Darkness

How the Other Half Lives

July 16th, 2013 by Cobwebs

Riis Photo

In the last decade of the 19th Century, a police reporter named Jacob Riis set out to make people in New York’s upper- and middle class aware of the squalor of their city’s slums. The result was How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York, and it’s considered to be a landmark of social reform.

The book was filled with photos, sketches, and graphic descriptions of the wretched daily lives of the poverty-stricken. And, wonderfully, it did what it was intended to do: The public was galvanized by Riis’ muckraking and there were sweeping reforms which helped to improve the lives of the poor.

It’s a fascinating glimpse at the underbelly of New York at the turn of the last century, and it’s in the public domain so it’s readily available from a variety of sources. Authentic History has the book’s full text, plus a handy image index. There’s an audio version free at LibriVox. Museum Syndicate has a gallery of Riis’ photos. And there are several hardback and e-book versions available, many with endnotes and other expanded material. Really interesting stuff.

(via BoingBoing)

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