Chapter 1 Jacob A. Riis: The City as Christian Fraternity

ON THE evening of January 25, 1888, a middle-aged police reporter named Jacob A. Riis began a lecture that lasted for about two hours before the Society of Amateur Photographers at its headquarters on New York's West Thirty-sixth Street. By all accounts, "'The Other Half'--How It Lives and Dies in New York," illustrated with one hundred slides shown through a projector lantern, was a grim address. Later it would be copied and published by several New York papers. Scene after scene of urban misery stunned the audience. Glimpses of despair such as "Bandits' Roost," "A Baxter Street Alley," "Waked Up By Flashlight," and "A Black and Tan Dive," depicted a city in various stages of disintegration and dissolution. The plight of those disinherited from the basic needs of life--food, housing, work, a nurturing family and community--dramatically presented the failure of the city's public and private institutions to reverse the situation. After showing slide after slide of the homeless, of children given over to the streets, of the poor crowded into tenements, of those entombed within the slums, Riis ended his lecture with slides of Bellevue Hospital, the New York Morgue, the Blackwell's Island Penitentiary, the Lunatic Asylum on Ward's Island, and graves on Hart's Island.

So powerful were Riis's images of the city that the rarely squeamish New York press was anguished, if not morally revulsed. Riis's slides were "object lessons in squalor, vice and unclean and degraded humanity." A reporter observed that the "object of the exhibition was to picture to the audience the exact condition of the lowest phases of life as it at present exists in New York City." Another pointed out that "every place of misery, vice and crime that was not too horrible to show was presented." The lecturer, a journalist concluded, thought that "this treatment of the topic

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Makers of the City
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter 1- Jacob A. Riis: The City As Christian Fraternity 10
  • Chapter 2- Lewis Mumford: The City as Man 64
  • Chapter 3- James T. Farrell: The City As Society 119
  • Chapter 4- Paul Goodman: The City as Self 159
  • Epilogue 207
  • Notes 211
  • Bibliographical Notes 231
  • Index 237
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