Jacob Riis Biography
Jacob Riis August was a Danish-American social reformer, Georgist, “muckraking” journalist and social documentary photographer, known for using his photographic and Journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City. He was born in May 3, 1849 in Ribe, Denmark, Jacob Riis was the third of the 15 children, he was influenced by his father, who persuaded him to read and improve his English through Charles Dickens’s magazine All the Year Round and the novels.
He supported the implementation of “model tenements” in New York with the help of humanitarian Lawrence Veiller. Additionally, as one of the most famous proponents of the newly practicable casual photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash in photography. While living in New York, he experienced poverty and became a police reporter writing about the quality of life in the slums. He attempted to alleviate the bad living conditions of poor people by exposing their living conditions to the middle and upper classes.
Jacob Riis Career
At age 16, he worked as an apprentice carpenter, became fond of Elisabeth Gjørtz, the adopted daughter of the owner of the company. The father disapproved of the boy’s blundering attentions forced him to complete his carpentry apprenticeship in Copenhagen.He returned to Ribe in 1868 at age 19. Discouraged by poor job availability in the region and Gjørtz’s disfavor of his marriage proposal, Riis decided to emigrate to the United States.
He immigrated to America in 1870, when he was 21 years old, seeking employment as a carpenter. In arrival in New York City, he was one of a large number of migrants and immigrants, who came to urban areas during the years after the American Civil War seeking prosperity in a more industrialized environment. The demographics of American urban areas became significantly more heterogeneous as many immigrants arrived, creating ethnic enclaves often more populous than many of the cities of their homelands. He found work as a carpenter at Brady’s Bend Iron Works on the Allegheny River above Pittsburgh, he began mining for increased pay but quickly resumed carpentry. He returned to New York, and, having pawned most of his possessions and without money, attempted to enlist at the French consulate, but was told that there was no plan to send a volunteer army from America.
He returned to New York, he found work at a brickyard at Little Washington in New Jersey, and was there for six weeks until he heard that a group of volunteers was going to the war. Thereupon he left for New York, he left New York, buying a passage on a ferry with the silk handkerchief that was his last possession. By doing odd jobs and stowing away on freight trains, he eventually reached Philadelphia, he worked as a carpenter in Scandinavian communities in the western part of the state, also working a variety of other jobs. He achieved sufficient financial stability to find the time to experiment as a writer, in both Danish and English, although his attempt to get a job at a Buffalo, New York newspaper was unsuccessful, and magazines rejected his submissions. He returned to New York City, and was most successful as a salesman, particularly of flatirons and fluting irons, becoming promoted to the sales representative of them for Illinois.
He noticed an advertisement by a Long Island newspaper for an editor, applied for and was appointed city editor. He quickly realized why the job had been available and left in two weeks. Again unemployed, he returned to the Five Points neighborhood. He met his former school principal who sent him to the New York News Association, he went for an interview and got the job.
He did his job well and was able to become editor of a weekly newspaper, the News, he bought the News company. He worked briefly as editor of a south Brooklyn newspaper, the Brooklyn News. To supplement his income, he used a “magic lantern” projector to advertise in Brooklyn, projecting either onto a sheet hung between two trees or onto a screen behind a window. The novelty was a success, and with his friend relocated to upstate New York and Pennsylvania as itinerant advertisers. However, this enterprise ended when the pair became involved in an armed dispute between striking railroad workers and the police. Riis quickly returned to New York City.
His neighbour, the city editor of the New-York Tribune, recommended him for a short-term contract, he was then offered the job of police reporter. During these stints as a police reporter, he worked the most crime-ridden and impoverished slums of the city. Through his own experiences in the poorhouses, and witnessing the conditions of the poor in the city slums, he decided to make a difference for them. Working night-shift duty in the immigrant communities of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he developed a tersely melodramatic writing style and he became one of the earliest reformist journalists.
He tried sketching, but was incompetent at this. Camera lenses of the 1880s were slow as was the emulsion of photographic plates. In early 1887. Recognizing the potential of the flash, Riis informed a friend, Dr. John Nagle, chief of the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the City Health Department who was also a keen amateur photographer. Nagle found two more photographer friends, Henry Piffard and Richard Hoe Lawrence, and the four of them began to photograph the slums. Their first report was published in the New York newspaper The Sun on February 12, 1888. The article was illustrated by twelve line drawings based on the photographs.
Riis and his photographers were among the first Americans to use flash photography. Pistol lamps were dangerous and would soon be replaced by another method for which Riis lit magnesium powder on a frying pan. The process involved removing the lens cap, igniting the flash powder and replacing the lens cap. His first team soon tired of the late hours, and Riis had to find other help. He combined his own photographs with others commissioned of professionals, donations by amateurs and purchased lantern slides for three years, all of which formed the basis for his photographic archive.
He had already been thinking of writing a book and began writing it during nights. The book reused the eighteen line drawings that had appeared in the Scribner’s article and also seventeen reproductions using the halftone method. How the Other Half Lives sold well and was much quoted. Reviews were generally good, although some reviewers criticized it for oversimplifying and exaggerating. He attributed the success to a popular interest in social amelioration stimulated by William Booth’s In Darkest England and the Way Out, and also to Ward McAllister’s Society as I Have Found It, a portrait of the moneyed class. The book encouraged imitations such as Darkness and Daylight which somehow appropriated Riis’s own photographs.
Jacob Riis Marriage-Children
In 1874, he wrote to Elisabeth and proposed. She accepted and moved to New York City with Jacob to begin their married life together. In 1905, Elisabeth became ill and died that same year. Two years later, he married Mary Phillips and moved to Massachusetts. He had children with Mary, but none with Elisabeth.
Jacob Riis How The Other Half Lives
How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York is an early publication of photojournalism by Jacob Riis, documenting squalid living conditions in New York City slums in the 1880s.
Originally published: 1890
Author: Jacob Riis
Jacob Riis Beach
Jacob Riis Park
Jacob Riis Park, also called Jacob A. Riis Park or Jacob Riis State Park, is a seaside park at the southwestern end of the Rockaway Peninsula in the New York City borough of Queens.
Jacob Riis Book
- How the Other Half Lives
- The Making of an American
- The Children of the Poor
- The Battle with the Slum
- Children of the Tenements
- Theodore Roosevelt, the Citizen
- Out of Mulberry Street
- Is There a Santa Claus?
- Jacob A. Riis: Photographer & Citizen
- A Ten Years’ War: An Account of the Battle with the Slum in New York
- Hero Tales of the Far North
- A Ten Years’ War
- The Peril and Preservation of the Home
- Neighbors: Life Stories of the Other Half
- How the Other Half Lives
- The Old Town
- Jacob Riis Revisited
- Home Titles Genres Authors Languages New Titles Recommended Popular a Ten Year
- Nibsy As Santa Claus
- The Peril and Preservation of the Home
- How the Other Half Lives + Muckraking + Era of Franklin D. Roosevelt + Pearl Harbor And the Coming of the Pacific
- Nibsby’s Christmas
- Down the Chimney
- The Must-Read Novels for Christmas Time
- A Ten Year War
- American Philanthropy of the Nineteenth Century.
Jacob Riis Quotes
- The more I live, the more I think that humor is the saving sense.
- The slum is the measure of civilization
- Some defeats are only installments to victory.
- When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it.
- I’d look at one of my stonecutters hammering away at the rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet, at the hundred and first blow it would split in two, and I knew it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
- Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.