An American Muckracker
Jacob Riis was born in Ribe, Denmark on May 3, 1849, and found work as a carpenter in Copenhagen until his emigration to the United States in 1870. The experiences he endured during these early times of his arrival to the States were the events that would eventually come to shape his future and total impact on American, urban society. Incapable of finding work that was hiring, Riis was often forced sleep through difficult nights in police station lodging houses. He did a conglomeration of nominal tasks before finding a job with a news bureau in New York City in 1873; and following that year, he was then recruited by the South Brooklyn News. In 1877 Riis became a police reporter for the New York Tribune. Knowing the struggle of life in urban poverty, Riis was fixated on utilizing this opportunity to employ his writing abilities to communicate and raise awareness of this inhumane treatment that was present in a “civilized society” to the public. He ceaselessly claimed that the "poor were the victims rather than the makers of their fate.”
Riis was employed in 1888 as a photo-journalist for the New York Evening Sun. He came to be among the first photographers to ever use flash powder, which allowed for him to photograph both the insides and outsides of the slums during the night. In effect, he eventually became associated with what later would be termed as muckraking journalism. In the winter of 1889, an account of city life which was blatantly illustrated by these new, truth-filled photographs, appeared in the Scribner's Magazine. This created a very great deal of residential and social interest and consequently, the following year, a full-length version rightly titled How the Other Half Lives was published. The book was seen by Theodore Roosevelt, who was during that time period, the New York Police Commissioner. He almost immediately had the city police lodging houses that were brutally illustrated in the book shut down.
Spanning over the...