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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $17.00
  • June 2009
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93026-9
  • 576 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

How the Other Half Lives

Norton Critical Editions


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Jacob Riis (Author), Hasia R. Diner (Editor, New York University)


How the Other Half Lives occupies a premier place on a small list of American books—along with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Jungle, Silent Spring, The Feminine Mystique, and Unsafe at Any Speed—that changed public opinion, influenced public policy, and left an indelible mark on history.

The text of this Norton Critical Edition is based on the 1901 Scribner edition and includes all 47 of Riis’s unforgettable photographs, along with 2 maps. It is accompanied by Hasia Diner’s insightful introduction and detailed explanatory annotations.

An unusually rich “Contexts” section includes autobiographical writings by Riis, observations of “the other half” by Riis contemporaries, including William T. Elsing, Thomas Byrnes, William Dean Howells, Lilliam W. Betts, John Spargo, and Lillian Wald, and contemporary evaluations of Riis and his seminal book by, among others, Warren P. Adams, Joseph B. Gilder, Margaret Burton, and Theodore Roosevelt.

From the many hundreds of books and articles published on Riis and How the Other Half Lives, Hasia Diner has selected nineteen interpretations of the central aspects of author and work. Among these are Jacob Prager on Riis as immigrant and crusader; Louise Ware on Riis the police reporter, reformer, and “useful citizen”; Roy Lubove on the Progressive Movement and tenement reform; Richard Tuerk on Riis and the Jews; Maren Strange on American social documentary photography; Katrina Irving on immigrant mothers; and Timothy J. Gilfoyle on “street culture” and immigrant children.

A Chronology of Riis’s life and work and a Selected Bibliography are also included.



    A Note on the Text

    List of Illustrations

    The Text of How the Other Half Lives


    MAP: Lower Manhattan, Late 1800s

    MAP: The Five Points in the 1800

    About Riis—In His Own Words

    1. Jacob Riis • From The Making of an American

    Riis’s Contemporaries Observe the “Other Half”

    1. Charles Loring Brace • From The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years’ Work among Them
    2. J. O. S. Huntington • Tenement-House Morality
    3. William T. Elsing • The Poor in Great Cities
    4. Thomas Byrnes • “Nurseries of Crime”
    5. Marcus T. Reynolds • “The Housing of the Poor”
    6. Edward W. Townsend • From A Daughter of the Tenements
    7. William Dean Howells • From The Jewish East Side, 1881–1924
    8. From First Report of the Tenement House Department of the City of New York, 1902–3
    9. Francis R. Cope Jr. • Tenement House Reform: Its Practical Results in the Battle Row District • New York
    10. Lillian W. Betts • From The Leaven in a Great City
    11. John J. D. Trenor • Proposals Affecting Immigration
    12. John Spargo • From The Bitter Cry of the Children
    13. Anonymous • “Neighbors”
    14. Lillian Wald • From The House on Henry Street

    Contemporary Evaluations of Riis and How The Other Half Lives

    1. Warren P. Adams • “Boston and ‘The Other Half ’ ”
    2. Joseph B. Gilder • “The Making of Jacob A. Riis”
    3. Margaret Burton • From Comrades in Service
    4. Theodore Roosevelt • From An Autobiography
    5. Lincoln Steffens • From The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens


    1. Louise Ware • From Jacob A. Riis: Police Reporter, Reformer, Useful Citizen
    2. Charles J. Lotz • Jacob Riis
    3. Robert H. Bremner • From From the Depths: The Discovery of Poverty in the United States
    4. Roy Lubove • From The Progressives and the Slums: Tenement House Reform in New York City, 1890–1917
    5. Alexander Alland Sr. • Jacob A. Riis: Photographer & Citizen
    6. James B. Lane • From Jacob A. Riis and the American City
    7. Park Dixon Goist • From From Main Street to State Street: Town, City, and Community in America
    8. Beaumont Newhall • From The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day
    9. Richard Tuerk • “Jacob Riis and the Jews”
    10. Peter B. Hales • From Silver Cities: The Photography of American Urbanization, 1839–1915
    11. Maren Stange • From Symbols of Ideal Life: Social Documentary Photography in America, 1890–1950
    12. Keith Gandal • From The Virtues of the Vicious: Jacob Riis, Stephen Crane, and the Spectacle of the Slum
    13. Katrina Irving • From Immigrant Mothers: Narratives of Race and Maternity, 1890–1925
    14. Joel Schwartz • From Fighting Poverty with Virtue: Moral Reform and America’s Urban Poor, 1825–2000
    15. Robert M. Dowling • From Slumming: Morality and Space in New York City from “City Mysteries” to the Harlem Renaissance
    16. Joseph Entin • From “Urban Humanity”: Bodies of the Urban Poor and the Collapse of Realist Legibility
    17. Vincent DiGirolamo • “Newsboy Funerals: Tales of Sorrow and Solidarity in Urban America”
    18. Timothy J. Gilfoyle • “Street-Rats and Gutter-Snipes: Child Pickpockets and Street Culture in New York City, 1850–1900”

    Jacob Riis: A Chronology

    Selected Bibliography