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I first stumbled upon this image in my texts book (The Americans Pg468).  It was photographed by Jacob Riis around 1889. He left his native home, Denmark, for the United States in 1870 at the age of 21. He worked as a police reporter in some of the worst slums of New York City, where he used his talents to expose the filthy tenements and the hardships of New York City’s poor. He published a book  How the Other Half Lives that shocked many Americans by vividly portraying the suffering of the urban poor. This book fostered the progressive movement  that lead to better working and living condition for many immigrants.


http://youtu.be/87SCTEsIufY = video with images and narration by Riis.

Urbanization : the process by which towns and cities are formed and become larger as more and more people begin living and working in central areas.

Between 1880-1900 the  # of Americans living in cities more than doubled.  Chicago went from 0.5 million to 1.7 million while New York went from 1.2 million to 3.4 million.  In 1860, just before the American Civil War, 20% of the American population  lived in towns of over 8,000 but by 1910 nearly 50% lived in towns of over 8,000.  Growth areas were mostly in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, but the Pacific Coast–LA & Seattle–also grew due to global trade,  the gold rush and the transcontinental railroad.

Thousands of poor people also lived in the cities. Lured by the promise of prosperity, many rural families and immigrants from throughout the world arrived in the cities to work in the factories. It is estimated that by 1904 one in three people living in the cities was close to starving to death. For many of the urban poor, living in the city resulted in a decreased quality of life. tenement housing provided a solution to the less fortunate and the over crowding of the city but its cramped space and less sanitary conditions were a breeding ground for diseases. A family of 20 cramped in to a single room that had a max. capacity of about only five people.  These houses were built with almost no windows; the air was noxious and unbearable.  Typhus  from rats and dysentery was common place.  Many children died from the plague of the slums.

Do you think the urban poor still suffer in ways that go unnoticed by many?