Jacob Riis
Jacob Riis was born in Ribe, Denmark in the year 1849. He
immigrated to New York City in 1870. Through his photography
and writing Jacob Riis improved the living conditions for the poor.
Jacob Riis’ photo journalistic skills portrayed the horrors of
the way some people were living. In 1877, Riis started working
for the New York Tribune as a police reporter and worked their for
11 years. He was sent to the bad areas of New York City and took
pictures of poor people and horrible living conditions. One picture
shows 3 boys huddling over a train vent to get warm. Another
picture shows kids lying barelegged in Mulberry Street. His
pictures were among the first of their kind to be printed in
newspapers. These pictures made people aware of the pathetic
way of life some people had to follow. Because of his
photography and work, he inspired many photographers today to
show the injustices of how people live. In 1888, Riis started
working for the New York Evening Sun as a police reporter and
helped bring about the elimination of a New York City slum
district called Mulberry Bend.
With his powerful writing ability Riis managed to spread a
message to people about the poverty stricken parts of New York
City. Riis wrote 12 books during his life. In 1890, his first book
was published. It was called How the Other Half Lives. That
book influenced New York City Police Commissioner Theodore
Roosevelt, who later became president, to make an urban policy
plan. This helped provide better housing, new parks, and schools
for people who were living in slums. Because of Jacob Riis
influencing Theodore Roosevelt to make an urban policy plan,
many towns and cities have been inspired to have one. Another
book he wrote was titled Children of the Tenements. This book
was published in 1903. The stories in the book are fictional stories
based on fact on people who were living slum districts of New
York City. It made people aware of what it was like to be poor so
they would not always be thinking of themselves.
Because of Jacob Riis’ talents, a lot of New York City slums
were erased and standards of living improved. Jacob Riis died in
Barre, Massachusetts in the year 1914 at the age of 65.


1. Patterson, Edith Meyer. “Not Charity but Justice.” New
York: Vanguard Press, 1974.

2. “Riis, Jacob August.” American Social Leaders. 1993.

3. “Riis, Jacob August.” Cambridge Biographical Dictionary.

4. “Riis, Jacob August.” Concise Dictionary of American
Biography. 1970 fourth edition.

5. “Riis, Jacob August.” Webster’s American Biographies.