Martha E. Vargas
Prof. Donna Giordano
Modern American History HS 104
How the Other Half Lives
Jacob A Riis was born in Denmark on May 3, 1849. He came to America in 1870 in search of a better life. The first three years in America were difficult for him because he was unable to find a permanent job and was often forced to spend the night in police lodging houses having no money and nowhere else to go. Feeling overwhelmed with the situation he came to understand and sympathize with the immigrants who were forced to become beggars, drunks, criminals or simply the worse of the poor only because they were victims of the conditions of living to which they had no other option.
In 1873 he found a job as a reporter for the New York News Association and then for the South Brooklyn News. In 1877 working for the New York Tribune as a police reporter, Riis began his career as an investigative journalist. He was determined to use this opportunity to employ his journalist skills to communicate this to the public. He constantly argued that the “poor were the victims rather than the makers of their fate” (xxviii)
With important officials of the time, who Riis accompanied on inspections of the tenements, he began preparing slides to use as evidence in his lectures about life in Tenements. The first lecture, using the slides, was given for the New York Society of Amateur Photographers in 1888 under the name “The Other Half: How It Lives and Dies in New York”. This led to the title of the manuscript of the book he published in November of 1890. It became a best seller and a real eye opener to make the “Other Half” realize that it was not only the problem of the POOR but their problem. If you really think about it, “the gap that separates the man with the patched coat from his wealthy neighbor is, after all, perhaps but a tenement. Yet, what a gap! And of whose making? (41)
In How the Other Half Lives, Riis wants to bring to light how the immigrants...