Tag Archives: Jacob Riis

Corruption With A Growl

Excerpted from Jacob Riis’ autobiography, The Making of an American, ©1901: You bring up the people slowly to a reform programme, particularly when it costs money. They will pay for corruption with a growl, but seem to think that virtue ought always to be had for nothing. It makes the politicians’ game easy. They steal …


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“Joyless children do not make good men.”

One of the causes Jacob Riis championed was building playgrounds for New York’s children: I wanted the sunlight in there, but so that it might shine on the children at play. That is a child’s right, and it is not to be cheated of it. And when it is cheated of it, it is not …

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Loving Sympathy

“What if, when the poor leper came to the Lord to be healed, he had said to Peter, or some other understrapper, ‘Here, Peter, you go touch that fellow and I’ll pay you for it’? Or what if the Lord, when he came on earth, had come a day at a time and brought his …

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Two Pins

Jacob A. Riis writes in his autobiography of his life of poverty upon arriving as an immigrant in America, and how it affected his decision later in life to become a newspaper reporter: It was under such auspices that I made the acquaintance of Mulberry Bend, the Five Points, and the rest of the slum, …

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Blue Overcoat

In this excerpt from his autobiography, The Making of an American ©1901, Jacob Riis recalls an incident as a young man in Denmark: The third day after I reached the capital, which happened to be my birthday, I had appointed a meeting with my student brother at the art exhibition in the palace of Charlottenborg. …

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“A Great Doer”

Photographer Jacob A. Riis published his autobiography, The Making of an American, in 1901.  He died 13 years later in 1914, and a eulogy written by Theodore Roosevelt was included as an introduction when the book was republished in 1924. I think this says a lot about both men: It is difficult for me to …

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