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How The ‘Other Half’ Lived In New York Back In The 1800s

America is known as the land of opportunity since it has generated life-changing possibilities for people all around the world. In the 1890s, a lot of people migrated to New York, in hopes of changing their lives for the better in the US. But this rallying up of expatriates caused overpopulation and bad living conditions.

One of the people who came to America in search of a better life is Jacob Riis a young man from Denmark of 21 years. He stepped into New York in 1870 with nothing but 40$ in his pockets. The thousands of other people who are in New York looking for jobs have created an over-populated atmosphere where jobs and living conditions were almost miserable.

Riis had set off New York with aspirations of becoming a carpenter. But the circumstances made him resort to one of the most undesired accommodations and a set of odd jobs just to get by. But luckily he landed a job as a training journalist at ‘New York News Association’  while he was struggling in New York. Quickly, he picked up the job and made his position as a skilled journalist, and was known in many newspapers.

He used his profession to relate his story and how immigrants live undesirable lives in New York at the time. Using the latest technology at the time, Riis used the camera to document the story which can capture the lives of the immigrants more than words ever could. Using the ‘flash’ technology, he could capture the dark and poorly lit nightlife in New York where the harsh lifestyles were exposed.

Putting together his work, the book ” How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York.” was completed in 1890. This book became a powerful message in turning the attention towards the livelihood and professions in New York City. So we thought of sharing some of these amazing and powerful photos with you. Scroll down to check them out and let us know what you think about them in the comments section.

More info & Photo courtesy: Museum Syndicate


Written by Alex Bradley

Reading, creative writing, poetry writing, language learning and grappling with literature have been my passions since I was young. Keen interest in cinematography and music feilds. Completed my Ordinary and Advanced levels in languages stream successfully. I have taken part in European Union missions in Sri Lanka. I have also completed my certificate courses in programming. And also a student and working in Tourism and Hotelling. Apart from writing, i am a vocalist and environmentalist.

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