Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Wealth flowed during the 1880s and 90s, but only to the upper echelons of society. A vast gulf opened between rich and poor, earning this era the nickname "the Gilded Age." One immigrant photographer captured what it was like for New York's poor during this time, and his images remain arresting today.

The Danish-born carpenter Jacob Riis (1849-1914) migrated to the US in 1870. He started his career as a journalist in 1873 as a police reporter, only three years after he arrived in New York. Later he became the city editor of the New York Tribune.

When flash photography was born in 1887, he and three photographer friends began to photograph the slums of New York City and three years later he published How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York with more than a hundred photographs.

Later he wrote some other books, but none of those could approach the success of How the Other Half Lives. The whole book with photos and illustrations is available here.

Baxter Street, Mulberry Bend

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Mulberry Bend

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Bandits Roost, a Mulberry Street back alley

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Baxter Street Alley, behind the Bandit's Roost

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Street Arabs – tens of thousands of begging homeless kids, mostly boys

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

A shoemaker in 219 Broome Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Police Station lodgers in Elizabeth Street Station

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Scene on the Roof on the Mott Street Barracks

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Sabbath Eve in a coal cellar, Ludlow Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Dens of Death

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Bohemian cigarmakers at work in their tenement

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Lodgers in a crowded flat on Bayard Street. It cost five cents a day.

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

The old Mrs. Benoit in her tenement on Hudson Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Mulberry Bend Park

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

"Knee-pants" at forty-five cents a dozen – A Ludlow street sweatshop

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

A school on the East Side

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Immigrant children saluting the flag in the Mott Street Industrial School

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Home of an Italian ragpicker

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Essex Market School, East Side

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

A Flat in the Pauper's Barracks with All Its Furniture

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Swine

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Bunks in a seven-cent lodging house named Happy Jack's Canvas Palace, Pell Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Hell's Kitchen

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

A Rear Tenement in Roosevelt Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

A pedlar who slept in the cellar of 11 Ludlow Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Under the dump, Rivington Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Under the dump at West 35th Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Headquarters of the Whyo gang, Bottle Alley

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Men's lodging room in West 47th Street Station

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Mountain Eagle and his Family of Iroquois Indians — One of the few Indian families in the city, found at 6 Beach Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

A Black-and-Tan Dive in "Africa"

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

The Short-Tail Gang, Corlears Hook, under the Pier at the foot of Jackson Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

It cost a dollar a month to sleep in these sheds

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

A Talmud school in Hester Street

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

A downtown "morgue" (an unlicensed saloon)

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Lodgers

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

A family making artificial flowers

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Police Station Lodgers

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Eldridge Street Police Station:

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

West 47th Street:

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

Getting ready for supper in the newsboys' lodging-house

Slum Life In New York City During the Nineteenth Century's Gilded Age

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The photos are from Zeno, except when noted otherwise.