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    Danish immigrant Jacob Riis, armed with a simple camera, took on the tenement housing that millions of immigrants called home in America's dismal urban neighborhoods.  In his book, How the Other Half Lives, Riis, for the most part, let his pictures do the talking, exposing the nightmares for which many immigrants had settled.  America, to Riis, had become a broken promise.

riis_tenements.jpg (14464 bytes) riis_barrels.jpg (10158 bytes) riis_bunks.jpg (11236 bytes)
WB00827_.GIF (132 bytes) Tenements were cookie-cutter buildings, erected closely together, leaving little room for living. They provided cheap housing for immigrants who arrived with little or nothing in their pockets. WB00827_.GIF (132 bytes) Young males, who immigrated to American alone, to find work and send money home, often found themselves sleeping wherever they could find space. WB00827_.GIF (132 bytes) Daily bunks were cheap, 5-cents a spot.   But poor conditions made even a nickel-a-night seem overpriced. Crime and disease ran rampant.
riis_family.jpg (11877 bytes) riis_alley.jpg (9803 bytes) riis_urchins.jpg (8347 bytes)
WB00827_.GIF (132 bytes) Many immigrant families worked out of their home, a 20X20 room that held everyone from the grandparents to the youngest children. WB00827_.GIF (132 bytes) Outside the tenements, alley formed the playground of the youth, who often turned to a life of crime to just get by. WB00827_.GIF (132 bytes) Some children were even abandoned by their parents, leaving them to live life on the streets. 
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WB00827_.GIF (132 bytes) Riis' photographs of mothers with young children hit the hardest WB00827_.GIF (132 bytes) Her gaze of hopelessness spurred the reaction that Riis had hoped:  This was wrong and needed to be changed.