tv American Artifacts CSPAN August 19, 2016 5:50pm-6:46pm EDT
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you're looking at a time-lapse video recorded by the library of congress showing the process of constructing the exhibition "jacob riis: revealing how the other half lives." next on american history tv's "american artifacts," we visit the exhibit in the library's thomas jefferson building to learn about the life of the danish-born journalist, social reformer, and photographer. this program is just under an hour. i'm cheryl regan, exhibit director in the interpretive office at the library after congress. >> i'm barbara baier, curator, al this exhibit and historian in the manuscript division of the library of congress. >> this exhibition, "jacob riis: revealing how the other half lives," is a co-presentation with the museum of the city of new york. it is the first time that the collections of the library of congress, "the jacob riis papers," have been married with
the photographs that are stellar collection at the museum of the city of new york. and we pick the word "co-presentation" very carefully because the exhibition here actually follows an exhibit that was at the museum of the city of new york, and really that exhibit which was called "jakob riis: revealing new york's other half," was slightly different. it looks at riis in a slightly different way and sort of concentrating more on his biography, more on his photography. here we're looking at riis as the journalist because that's the strength of our collection. the papers here which number 3,000 in the manuscript division are really featured well in this exhibition and sort of come to the forefront. >> we also really wanted to emphasize the combination of the photographs and manuscripts in terms of jacob riis' career.
often people think of him as a writer or photographer and we're emphasizing the combination of those twos things and his role as a communicator. we have organized the exhibit by the different ways that and the different mediums that riis used as a police reporter, as a writer, as a photographer, as a reformer and as an ally with other people who were active in social change move ps to get the word out and educate the public about urban poverty, about immigration, and the density of housing in lower manhattan and to provide solutions to those kinds of issues. and he's really a creature of the gilded age. he comes into real celebrity in the 1890s and the early 1900s so
he's kind of on that cusp between older models of poverty from the gilded age and the late victorian period and then the new progressive era, more governmental kinds of policies and solutions. so, he had a foot in both worlds and that's another one of our major points in the exhibit. jacob riis was born in 1849 in reba, denmark, and he was the son of a schoolteacher and was basically raised in this very beautiful small town in denmark. he was a rebellious youth and even though he was the son of a teacher, he was not a good student although he loved to read and he played hooky a lot and later when he was in new york he had a lot of sympathy for truant young boys and some of his articles are about truancy and how we can address that as an issue to get kids in school and he spoke from personal experience and a lot of what he wrote about he did have
personal experience because he was an immigrant to the united states. when he was 21 years old, in 1870, he came to the united states by himself and he had a very hard time initially here finding work. he did all kinds of odd jobs. worked as a laborer, a door to door salesman, sometimes hopeless, was sometimes sleeping at night in homeless shelters and the police lodging houses. and all of this experience he brought into his articles later when he was more established as a police reporter and actually had a salaried job in the lower part of manhattan. >> my name's bonnie yochelson. and i wrote the complete collection catalog of riis's photographies that was published on the occasion of this exhibition. and my engagement with the collection started in the 1980s when i was curator of princeton photographs at the museum of city of new york which owns riis' new york photographs.
there's a great paradox to riis' photographs which is that he was a journalist and he was a celebrity and he saved all of the documentation of his career. he wanted to be remembered for posterity. he created scrapbooks, he saved his manuscripts. every scrap of paper. and he abandoned his photographs because he didn't even think they were of any value apart from his words, apart from his arguments and his articles and his publications. and the way they were discovered is a really fascinating story. there was a photographer, riis died in 1914. in 1940s, a photographer named alexander land noticed in riis' book "how the other half lives," that on the title page it says, "with illustrations after
photographs by the author." so he said to himself, well, where are these photographs? and after several years of searching, he tracked down riis' son and with much coercing got riis' son to try to find the pictures which turned out to be in the attic of the family's home in queens, new york, that was about to be torn down. so his son discovered a box filled with 400 negatives, 300 odd lantern slides and almost 200 paper prints. and delivered them to alexander hollande, the photographer, who again, taking a couple of years, created an exhibition of -- from the negatives making beautiful prints, modern prints from the negatives and working with the curator at the museum of the city of new york to put on an exhibition called "battle with the slum" named
for one of riis' books in which these beautiful, enlarged pictures along with excerpts of riis' writings established riis as an important photographer and that's how he entered the history of photography. so, my problem at the museum of the city of new york as a curator in the 1980s was, we don't have prints to show because those almost 200 image -- vintage prints about, half of which were not by riis at at all and the rest of which were in very poor -- most were in poor condition and not exhibitable at all. so working with the museum staff, we applied for -- i applied for a grant from the national endowment for the humanities and we made a set of what they call vintage material prints from the negatives. the purpose being to make prints that would look like those that riis would recognize, not to
aestheticize him, not to turn nim an artist. he himself never worked in the dark room. he took his negatives to a commercial -- several commercial studios and said i need prints, i need lantern slides. so he himself used the camera, but was not in any way an expert technician. and so we wanted these very expert technicians who the museum hired to make these prints, not to do what alexander hollande did in the 1940s but to simply make contact prints from the negatives and that is what is on exhibition here to represent riis' photographs. >> at the beginning of the exhibit we have chosen three very famous photographs from the lexicon of jacob riis. and, to the left is perhaps his most famous photograph called bandits' roost and it was in the middle of an area called mulberry bend, which was a section of mulberry street near
baxter street. it became a particular cause sa beb for riis in terms of urban reform. and he eventually would succeed in working with municipal authorities to demolish mulberry bend and replace it with a park which is another story that we tell deep near the exhibit with original items. again, the paradox about riis is that he himself said that he was a photographer after a fashion. in other words, that he wasn't a real photographer. he used the camera for very few years, less than ten years and he only took about 300 pictures, about a third of which were like family snapshots and, you know, other things that are not what we -- not of historical importance. his most famous picture today is bandit's roost which shows a couple of tufts, italian tufts
wearing bowler hats. in fact that, picture was copied by martin scorsese in a movie "the gangs an of new york," so it's a kind of iconic image. when he first had the idea to use photographs to illustrate the slums and that was in 1887, he reached out to a friend who was a photographer and he found two photographers who wanted to -- who were interested in flash. flash photography was the reason he had the idea to even use photographs at all. he had -- was a writer, a journalist. he was writing in a daily newspaper about the conditions in the slum. he read in the newspaper in 1887 that there was this new invention of flash powder that could illuminate the darkness and he said aha. he worked with two other photographers who were serious amateurs who were interested in flash.
they were interested in the technology. and among their photographs is bandits roost. which was actually taken with a stereographic, stereoscopic camera which has two lenses so they're actually two images of bandit's roost but it's the right side which has the two tufts in the bowlers. that's the famous image. another irony that riis' most famous image was not actually taken by him but the flash photographs what i think is most important of the flash photographs is one called five sent a spot. >> what it's demonstrating are people that paid five cents or seven cents a night to have temporary lodging inside a tenement house where they weren't living but they would come to sleep for the night. and those people on the floor paid five cents and the people up on the shelf paid seven. >> there was a law in new york that you had to provide a bed of some kind, an independent bed, for someone and the lowest price you could charge was seven cents.
so the title indicates to the viewer that this was illegal shelter. and riis took the picture that that was taken by him, not by the other amateurs. he took the picture with a member of the sanitary police, who were essentially raiding the place and saying, this, you know, get up and out. this is illegal. so entering this room which only had this slightest bit of light from a coal stove that was providing heat for the room, riis entered with the police, set up his camera, essentially set off an explosion which sounded like a gun, you know, a boom with smoke and fire. and what's captured in the picture is the faces some people are still sleeping, and other people have been aroused and look sort of
stricken, for good reason by the circumstance. the picture in his description of the scene in his book he says there were 13 people in that room. tiny little room. including an infant. a screaming infant. so it's a horrific scene, and he used that picture to try to enforce, to try to rouse authorities to enforcing the laws about these lodging houses. and he describes that in his book. so that is a fantastic example of one of riis' flash photographs creating a very powerful portrait of inhumane conditions. picture like that, pictures like that have been criticized for essentially victimizing his subjects that he came in, that there was no consent, that he scared these people to death, and that they look it. and that this is a criticism, a modern criticism today of these
flash photographs. it was not his intention but it is from a contemporary point of view a problem. >> the middle photograph is the signature photograph for our exhibit. and this is little katie. and, it represents another phase in riis' approach to his subject matter and photography. originally, he worked with amateur photographers to take the photographs. then he started taking them himself. and the first -- the bandits roost photograph and the five-cent lodging was in how the other half lives, his first famous book. and katie was in his second book which came out in 1892 called "children of the poor." and in that book, he was more like a social worker/caseworker. he actually had discussions with his subject matters where here the lodgers were just surprised by men bursting into the room and taking a photograph.
katie, he talked to katie, he learned her name. he learned her story. she -- her mother died. she was living with her siblings in a 49th street tenement and he took this picture at the 52nd street industrial school 37 and when he said, katie, what do you do? katie said, i scrubs. so her older siblings were working in a hammock factor during the day, but katie stayed home. she is 9 years old and she scrubbed and cooked for the family and also went to school when she could. >> this is a bird's eye view of new york in 1879. bird's eye views were popular until really the turn -- slightly after the turn of the century. and they put buildings in sort -- and sort of gave an idea of the density of space and put buildings in perspective. so you see the lower east side
here where riis was primarily working. and it is astounding sort of how many people are sort of crammed and how many structures are crammed into this space. the u.s. census bureau at the time said that this was the most densely crowded city in the united states. 1.5 million people lived primarily in lower manhattan. riis claimed it was the largest or largest population, most densely populated city on earth. which may or may not have been the case but that's what he claims in "how the other half lives." and i think if you look at this map it really sort of speaks to that density, that crowdedness. sort of the issues that he was addressing. >> so we had been talking about the importance of -- that jacob riis had lived many of the issues that he wrote about later
as a police reporter and how he came to the united states as an immigrant from denmark in 1870. he was 21 years old. and, in our first case in the exhibit, we emphasize his life story or biography. and one of the things that we decided to do in making the exhibit is to use notes that we have in his manuscript collection at the library of congress from "the making of an american," which was his auto begraphy which he published in 1901. but he also gave this as a lantern slide lecture. and we have in his collection his notes from a lantern slide lecture which are based on "making of an american," and also his book "battle of the schlup." and we have featured pages from that in almost all the cases. and here, for biography, we have used the very first one where he talks about his naivete coming
to new york. and back in denmark, had he loved to read american literature. he was quite fluent in english when he came to the united states. but one of his favorite authors was james fenmore cooper and he had this vision as many scandinavians did that america was the wild west. and he said, we didn't know the difference east and west and here he is. he gets out at castle garden and he's in this metropolis of new york, and there are no buffalos. but the very first thing he did was he bought a revolver. so this is, he's making fun of himself. often he was telling jokes in the lectures. this is a funny story about this green kid getting off the boat and buying a revolver which he strapped to the outside of his coat and he's strutting down broadway and a policeman stops him and says son, maybe you'll want to get rid of the gun. so, it's a funny story. and, it actually was a very, very hard time for jacob riis when he first came.
he had a lot of difficulties making a living, finding work. he was unable to find steady work. he worked a lot of odd jobs. and he got very depressed. and one of the things we're showing from the new york public library is a wonderful early diary of his that's written partly in danish and then he switches to english but in the diary it is about his loneliness when he first came here and his pining for his love elizabeth which was at that point unrequited. she was back in denmark. and his really -- his suicidal feelings, so it was very difficult in the beginning. and there's a great love story with riis and his wife elizabeth, eventually she does succumb to his courtship and they marry in 1876 in denmark. and come back and they settle first in brooklyn and then in
richmond hill up in queens, new york, and have a family. so a lot of jacob riis' motivation in life is that everyone should have a healthy, safe and happy family like he does. and he writes a lot about families and the welfare of children in particular. and he often would tell his audiences, there's no difference between these children or yours and mine. that's the wife elizabeth in the middle and the five children. there were some other children that died young. >> so next we are going to talk about what looks like a strange assemblage of equipment, things we're not used to seeing this days but this is photographic equipment very similar to what riis would have used on his raiding parties that barbara described earlier. then what we have here is actually a camera which is a
detective cram. so this was sort of a stealth camera. it could be used without a tripod. it could be held by the strap on the side. so it gave the photographer some mobility. and the other thing that was an innovation and sort of allowed for a lot of mobility at that time was the invention, introduction of dry plate negatives. previous to this time, you had to coat a plate with coloadian. it was a very laborious process. you had to expose your negative right away. this enabled you to buy these plates already prepared. this was the size of the plate. this is a holder here. that we see. and you could carry a few with you. and you could make a number of exposures in a particular outing. and what we have in the back here is a flash pan so riis
learns about the german invention of magnesium flash powder in 1887. and he's very interested in it. he understands that he could be using this to great effect for his work. and the first as barbara had said earlier, the first application of the flash powder was put into pistols and you would go in and sort of set it off. there would be a big boom, a big flash of light. of course, it would scare the people that were being photographed to no end. this flash powder holder was not that much better. and very, very dangerous. but you would put the magnesium flash powder in the pan, probably take a fuse, light the fuse and, again, it would go off in a big whomph.
and again, you would have a big burst of light and enable the photographs that riis took in these dark spaces, that these spaces would be il lupnated so that you would get some image on the dry plate. >> so there's also the question of, how did riis use his photographs? he made these initial photographs between 1887 and 1892. that was the peak period of his photography. and he really saw himself not as a photographer. he thought he was using photography as a tool for his journalism. we have to remember at the same time he was doing the lectures and showing them as lantern slides, he was also still a police reporter. and his intent was that he would use these images to -- as illustrations of his articles. and in this case, which is about him as a police reporter, we wanted to demonstrate how it would look when you had an actual print of a photograph and how it would show as a line
drawing in the periodical press. so what would happen is an illustrator would be hired. they would make a line drawing and then an engraving and that would be printed in the newspaper. and the reason for that is that the technology was not there yet to do half tones in the newspapers. they did make rather flat half tones that were in magazines and monthly journals for which riis also wrote as a freelance journalist. but it wasn't really until the 1890s that the quality was good enough that they had good reproduction photographs. at that time it, riis stopped taking photographs and he just purchased photographs that were taken by other people. but his original idea is to appeal visually and combine the image and the word in order to persuade people. riis was hired to work as a --
on the beat basically. reporting crimes and anything that happened through the police department. and for six years he was on night work where his newspaper office where he worked for the new york tribune and we have a photograph from the library of congress collections of riis in the tribune office which was at 301 mulberry street, right across the street from the police headquarters. and he's there with his friend and fellow reporter amos enson, they're -- riis is in the corner and enson at the desk. and, he would basically follow the police where they -- when they would get a call, a murder happened or a crime. and he would write about the stories. but he got a lot of human interest stories from this, from -- this is partly how he got access to the inside of tenement buildings and so on. he was a recognized face, many people in the neighborhood actually thought he was a doctor because he came so often with
the department of health or sanitation division when they were doing investigations of the tenements. and he would be with them. so he was a trusted and known face on the street. and so he reported for the newspapers but he also started doing human interest stories that focused on the conditions faced by the poor. and they're the kinds of issues that we're showing in the exhibit on the side walls, including housing and public health, public space, labor, immigration. and he wanted to expose how difficult the circumstances were under which the poor were living, especially the immigrant poor. and to encourage people to either give money to charities. there were over 138 charities active at the time that were dealing with indigent and the poor in one way or another or to
encourage philanthropists to give a lot of money, to endow things like lodging houses. and, to, also, work with the government to bring about municipal reforms. >> when riis went on the road, he started off doing his lantern slide lectures in new york city, but eventually had he tours all over the country and appeared in many different cities. and he would travel just with the lantern slides in a box, and every venue would you have to supply the lantern projector. >> and the operator to operate the lantern slide. he would be paid about $150 to -- for his services and he traveled across the country. it was astounding. we do have his appointment books that show that he would be in a different city every night practically. and so, this is a very deluxe model but, again, he could have been using this.
it's a stereo opticonner a biennial opticon to allow for one slide to fade in and one slide to fade out. and there are other models that just have one lens. >> and we have this in the exhibit at the courtesy of the american magic lantern theater who loaned this artifact just for this exhibit. it was also in the exhibit at the museum of the city of new york. >> and here in the exhibit we have a video running that is based on the one transcript that we have of riis' lecture. >> out of the alleys comes the problem of the children. this one came out to the alley just as she is here on the left. her hair was matted with blood and her whole body was covered with sores. the future of this child. can you read it in her face?
i can. and after she had been in the care of the society for the prevention of cruelty to children, this is the way she looked on the right. in the last 16 years, that society hasty arms around between 50,000 and 60,000 children. what a record of work. and this is the found laing sigh lum known all over the world as sister irene's asylum. that good sister gathered many thousands of waifs from the streets of new york into her fold. catholic or protestant, no difference. when one day the pearly gates swing an wide to let in that dear woman, i tell you, such a flapping of little wings will be heard come to greet her as has not been heard since the moving stars sang together. now you have seen the boys and girls.
and you have seen their homes. here is the father of some such so drunk that when we fired the photographic flash he never woke up. >> this case is about his lecturing and the postcards show these are postcards he wrote from all over the country and also from europe, home to usually his daughter katie and also to his wife elizabeth who he often called sweet lamb of minor lamby. and as cheryl mentioned, the notebooks show the itineraries where he was traveling and also, riis, the newspaper man became a subject matter for other newspapermen. so we are also showing reviews he got from other journalists that he kept in his scrapbook. >> so the re-creation we have done is based on actual
transcript here and lines are taken from it. the original lecture was -- ran two hours so we have condensed it down now to 6:51. >> and one of the historians he's written a lot about, riis made the point that it was almost a vaud little-like entertainment that we think he's showing these very in some cases gruesome images, including people being buried at potter's field, children abused, very serious subject matter but he lightened it up by telling a lot of jokes and some are not so funny to us anymore because they're ethnic jokes but they're also the kind of humor that would have been very common at that time in vaudeville. >> on one of my visits i came upon this tramp. i told him that if he'd sit still for a minute so i could take his picture i'd give him ten cents. that was probably the first and only ten cents that man earned by honest labor in the course of
his entire life and it was sitting down. at which he was an acknowledged expert. >> we were talking about the ways that jacob riis used his innovative photographs and that he gave lantern slide lectures and used images from the photographs in his journalism. but one day when he was giving a lantern side lecture on the -- which he called how the other half lives and dies, there were two scribners, editors in the audience and they approached riis and asked him top write an article for scribners which came out in december of 1889 in their christmas issue and included many of the images. and everyone that article, he was asked to write a book, and we do feature a first edition that have book in our case about him as a writer. >> so the result of that wonderful meeting with scribners
was that will jacob riis received a contract to white "how the other half lives." he was still a police reporter at the time. and, he wrote in the evening hours at home. and we have a wonderful first edition that was owned by richard wattson guilder, a close friend of a skriber's editor and also the head of what was known as the guilter committee, which was the ten meant house committee that was a government committee assigned to investigate the conditions of the poor. particularly the issues of sanitation and crowding in the tenement houses. much to riis' surprise, how the other half lives was a huge bestseller and it came out in a time when there was a certain kind of almost prurient interest in the slums among the middle class and that the slum tour was popular. other people had written books
that described conditions of the poor, but riis had a very special story telling style and also an almost sociological kind of approach to describing the different ethnic communities that were in the lower east side. and one of the things he did was use statistics. >> he used statistics. and in fact, i had never read "how the other half lives," and i listened to it as an audio book. and it was astounding, really, to hear a voice sort of, you know, illuminate his words and you realize, especially listening to it, how he was really evangelizing for reform, for describing these dark places that he was bringing light to with his photography. and he's most effective, i think, when he uses statistics. when he talks about population density. when he talks about deaths on a
particular block of children. that's when the power of his words really comes through. i also think that the power of the scribner's article was also attributed to the professional artists that they got to engrave his photographs in the magazine. so, kenyan cox, for instance, is the artist that's translating riis's photographs here. you see chinese opium den on the bottom and again than five-sent spot photo that we started with enlarged on the front wall is on the left-hand page. >> you know, one of the things that he was very concerned about were the very huge infant mortality rates that the gilder committee that i had mentioned, they referred to the rear enmentes as slouter houses for infants.
one out of five babies born in the tenements, especially in these rear tenements died in early childhood. and when we talk about rear tenements, and it's not only that the tenement buildings themselves were overcrowded, that many people couldn't even afford to live in the buildings so where else did they live? they lived in dumps. they lived on the street. and they lived in these rear tenements were basically wood shack structures that were built onto the -- into the back alleyways of often wood or brick tenement buildings. so, high mortality rate's also -- and also the issues of public health, of cholera, diphtheria, typhus, contagious disease, also disease that was food born or was based on polluted water. and one of the points of the statistics is how closely riis worked with roger tracy and
other individuals in the board of health so it was a governmental connection for him in the municipal government to work with the sanitation engineers, the scientists and to -- it worked both ways. he got information from them in terms of the statistics. he also gave them evidence that they used in the statistics. >> here in the exhibit, we basically have two major ways to see the material. when you come in the front, you see the originals in the cases. and when you get to the back and turn around, you have a big surprise because we're showing some of the famous photographs in very large graphic size. and one reason we wanted to do that is to show people how people in the audiences at the lantern slide lectures would have seen those images. and they wouldn't have been the very small things based on the actual size of the magic lantern or the prints in the newspaper. or the basically kind of crude
illustrations that appeared in his articles. but they would have been these very large, detailed images that people would have been projected on the wall from the magic lantern projector and people could really study and they're life sized. so it helps also people to really identify with these other human beings that are the same as us. it helped with the empathy. jacob riis was not alone as a social reformer and he himself said i was only 1/1,000 of the solution and i just was the one that yelled the loudest. we don't want to portray the idea that he was singly the only person pointing out these kinds of problems in urban decay and the way that immigrants were having to live when they arrived in the united states. many, many people had been addressing these issues indeed from earlier in the 19th
century. and what was very special about him is he was a very good publicist and the lantern slide lectures helped with that, with bringing the message all across the country and then with the publication of how the other half lives, other people read the books that he raised the awareness and the consciousness of the people on issues of poverty. he also had some very important allies in high places. and, there were many of them we had only a little bit of space so we chose three. and they are theodore roosevelt, booker t. washington and lewis and andrew carnegie. one reason we chose those is we have major collections of those individuals here in the manuscript division of the library of congress. and we're highlighting here an image that comes from our prints and photographs division and it is a political cartoon from puck and it is portraying what we would call theodore roosevelt's kitchen cabinet so it is not the actual members of the cabinet it's people that were friends of
his and close to him, political allies and people that he had relied on for advice. and you can see jacob riis is in the picture so he's in that inner circle and he is the small figure in colonial uniform, that's the second from the left. holding the hanky to his face. and you can see booker t. washington is also in the doorway so it's sort of a metaphor of the civil rights status at that time and of him being welcomed at the white house by theodore roosevelt. and roosevelt himself is the only person in the picture that's not crying. so how did riis meet theodore roosevelt? that's the story of his activism in new york city. and we have here in our case on allies the basic story of the bromance between theodore roosevelt and jacob riis.
they first met in 1894 when a new administration was elected in new york city that was a reform administration under mayor william strong. and it's often described as the good government movement. and in that one brief administration, a lot of the social reforms that riis had been recommending as well as the other people in his network of reform were manifested including better sanitation. one of the things that strong was famous for was appointing a sanitary engineer who created the white wings, who were sanitary workers that wore pristine white uniforms and at one point paraded down fifth avenue as a kind of army of sanitation. but the issue that theodore roosevelt and riis worked on primarily was the closing of police lodging houses. and the way they met was that mayor strong appointed theodore roosevelt as police commissioner during his administration and the police headquarters was right across the street from
jacob riis' journalism office, after and theodore roosevelt was already aware of riis. he had read his work, his articles and his book. so, they met and jacob riis says, i loved him the moment i saw him. so they immediately formed a bond, and they went about it at night on the night raids so that riis could familiarize roosevelt with the neighborhood and what was going on there in terms of criminality and police work at night. he showed them bandit's alley and some of the things that were happening in the tenements and they checked up on what policemen were doing, but one of the cause selbres for riis is police lodging houses as shelters. riis had a very personal reason for a grudge about police lodging houses. as i had mentioned earlier, when he was a new immigrant new to the country and hopeless
sometimes he stayed overnight in the shelters and he tells the story in his autobiography if i "making of an american," a night when he was in particular despair where he had considered throwing himself into the east river. and he was befriended by a stray dog, and the dog was his little buddy. his only friend in america and that night he went to stay at a lodging house. they wouldn't let the dog in. the dog was waiting for him outside. and in the night as he slept, a very precious golden locket that he had brought with him to america that had a picture and a lock of hair of his beloved elizabeth was stolen from him while he was sleeping and when he went to report this to the policeman on duty, the policeman didn't believe him. he thought why would this tramp boy have a golden locket? yeah, sure. he was very rough in throwing riis out of the police lodging house. the dog waiting outside sees the his friend being roughed up by
the police and snarls and the policeman beat the dog to death. so, it's a very tragic story. and riis never forgot it and when he wrote about the closing of the police lodging houses, which he successfully did with theodore roosevelt's help, he titled the chapter in the autobiography "my dog is avenged. and" he was concerned about the lodging houses because of the crowdedness and also because the criminality, a lot of younger people in particular were exposed to hardened criminals or were recruited to be pick pockets and so on. that it wasn't a whoasome environment for the young. but also there was the spread of disease because of the crowdedness so this particular article that we're highlighting police lodging houses, are they heatbeds for typhus fever? is the story of a man where he is shown here lying on the floor. he's very ill. he's at the elgar street police station, and he did have typhus.
so riis uses this as an example of the danger of contagious disease to the people that are staying there, that who would then spread it when they left in the morning but also to the policemen themselves. the police were concerned about this issue. so they do succeed in closing down the lodging houses and the idea that the police or policing authority should have the major fellow supplying homeless shelters. and riis believed that private charities should take over that role in partnership with the municipality so with shared funds, both city and charitable funds to open model lodging houses that would have showers orways to bathe and ways to wash clothes and a real bed for people to sleep in and so on. >> on the side walls, we have paired the photograph attributed
to riis with a fire insurance map from the paris and brown company. so each panel features one of these maps that locates where this photograph was or probably was taken. these maps date from 1880. they're block by block. what you can see if you are unsure is what the building material is made of. so yes locates that that's a wooden structure. pink is brick. green indicates that there's some sort of fire insurance hazard, whether it be because of what goes on in that building or building materials. but you can see where the police station is. the elder street station is in the lower right quadrant here or the lower right portion of the map. and also, this illustrates what riis was railing against which
is that there was no light, no sort of air circulation in these structures. so if you can imagine that there's a window on the street side, but then you see that there are buildings that are back to back so there's no light getting in. >> one of the reforms that happened through the tenement house commission is regulations to require that windows be cut through in interior rooms and there were some 40,000 windows that were cut through so that there could be light from an exterior window. inside rooms like we saw at the five cent spot. that was a 13 x 13 room with no ventilation and no light. >> so these films are taken by the thomas edison company and the american mute i scope and biograph company right around the same time that riis is working in new york.
so primarily, they're dating, these films in particular are, indicating from 1903, 1904. and, this is the fish market on the lower east side. on the right-hand side. and you see a vibrancy that is really missing in the static images, in the still images and it shows, you know, the life of the street. and i think that it adds a nice dimension, i think, to the exhibition. >> and these particular films, they date mainly from the 1903 era so they are from riis' lifetime. so it really is as he would have seen new york at the time. and one of the things they're showing, like this particular one are men that are sorting things at the dump. and riis did a famous article about men who -- and children
called -- there was a picture in it that's called "children of the dump" who lived underneath the street there and at the rivington street dump and other places. and part of what they're doing is sorting things out of the garbage that can be recycled for money. so, they sorted rags and then the rags would be recycled to make paper and they also sorted bones and cleaned the bones and the bones would be used for fertilizer for baking soda. and he covered this partly as an issue of homelessness, but also, as an issue about disease and sanitation. we had mentioned earlier that jacob riis came into fame during the guilded age and then he dies in 1914 during the progressive era. and he had many friends that were progressive reformers, including lillian wald who was the head of the nurse's settlement, also known as the
henry street settlement in the lower eastside. and he became a particular patron of the another settlement house, the king's daughter settlement and we have here in this section about his legacy a -- something that he saved from -- but actually his wife, his second wife mary saved. from the jacob riis papers. and he was a patron of the kings daughters group which is a group of episcopal women who started off following health inspectors in the lower eastside and they eventually had purchased this property. and he helped them do that by giving lantern slide lectures and then donating money that he gave. and so he was the major fund-raiser for the creation of the settlement and continued to raise funds for its operation and they had a kindergarten, social services, nursing services. they had a playground in the backyard for the kids.
and it was a chunk-based settlement house, which he was, as a very pious protestant, he was very comfortable with the church-based charity. some of the other settlements were nonsectarian or nor secular and among the people that lived in it lillian wald's henry street settlement was florence kelly and florence kelly lived previously at whole house in chicago that was founded by jane adams and ellen gate star in 1889 and was a factory inspector for the state of illinois and came to new york. she came to new york. she moved into the henry street settlement and she worked on child labor, on the eight-hour day for women and working women's rights. and receives a leader of the national consumers league and we have the papers of the national consumers league here at the library of congress and we highlighted one of the articles that florence kelley wrote and published very much in riis style, an expose about the
issues of women and children in the labor force and their poor wages, the lack of protection for hours. and this particular article was illustrated by a photograph by lewis hind. we also have the papers of the national child labor committee and hind was hired by them to go undercover and basically do investigative reports. so this is another riis-like activity that riis was doing these exposes of the slums and basically pioneering investigative reporting, and hind went into canneries and factories and also the fields and took photographs that are now considered some of the most important documentary photographs of the 20th century, particularly of child labor. and then he used them like riis had used the pictures of the children of the slums in an earlier time to show as magic lantern slides to social
reformers and also to testify before congress, and it did lead to major child labor legislation. >> well, one importance about this exhibit and especially the kinds of issues that we emphasize in our side walls about public housing and public health, the status and attitudes towards immigrants, all these issues are still very much with us today. and we'd like people to understand that they go back far into the 19th century, that the people grappled with them at that time and we continue to grapple with them today. >> and i think that riis would be astounded today to learn that he's best known for being a photographer which is not what he thought of himself as. and so, i think that this exhibit as does the -- did the exhibit in new york and the upcoming exhibits in denmark, they're repositioning riis more as he saw himself, as a communicator.
>> the exsbigs "jake cook riis: revealing how the other half lives," can be viewed online at the library of congress website, l.o.c.gov. american history tv airs on c-span3 every weekend telling the american story through events, interviews and visits to historic locations. this month, ""american history tv"" is in timetime to introduce to you programs you could see every weekend on c-span3. our features include lectures in history, visits to college classrooms across the country to hear lectures by top history professors, american artifacts takes a look at the treasures at u.s. historic sites, museums and ar keavs "reel america," revealing the 20th century through archival films and newsreels, the civil war, where you hear about the people who shape the civil war in reconstruction, and the presidency focuses on u.s. presidents and first ladies to learn about their politics, policies l