Photos of Manhattan 1870-1900, when the island was a slum of New YorkBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/article/photos-of-manhattan-1870-1900-when-the-island-was-a-slum-of-new-york.html
In the last decades of the XIX century, Lower Manhattan in New York could be safely called the capital of the slums. In those years, New York was attacked by immigrants who dreamed of finding their dream on a new continent. Entrepreneurs bought up buildings and divided them into small cubicles, turning the houses into housing for hundreds of homeless people. Very quickly, housing in Lower Manhattan turned into a cluster of small, dark, unventilated rooms.
By acts of 1867 and 1879, city officials tried to impose standards of safety, ventilation and health on landlords in the premises they rented, which eventually led to the appearance of a "dumbbell" design, where a narrow central hall became the main source of lighting and ventilation for the rooms on its sides.
Jacob A. Jacob August Riis, an immigrant of Danish origin, spent part of his life in complete poverty. After several years of hard work, he got a job as a reporter in Lower Manhattan. In this position, he sought to show the squalor and extreme poverty of people and the environment, which he himself faced.
In 1887, he discovered photography and began adding to his articles author's photographs taken on the streets of Lower Manhattan. Although his audience was limited to visitors to presentations of his articles, which he conducted in churches, in 1889 he managed to publish an 18-page article with his photographs in Scribner's Magazine. The following year he expanded it and published a book.
The public of New York cheered his book, which for many became a real revelation, opening up the world of urban poverty, which had previously been deliberately ignored. Theodore Roosevelt himself became a friend and admirer of Riis and a supporter of his idea of rebuilding slums. Riis' book is still considered one of the standards of social journalism in the USA.