New York Historical Society Acquires Annotated First Edition of Jacob Riis’ ‘How the Other Half Lives’

Posted on: January 23rd, 2014 at 11:20 am by

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Annotated ‘How the Other Half Lives, Photo: Rick Friedman, New York Times

The New York Historical Society recently acquired a photojournalistic gem; not only is it a first edition of Jacob Riis’ How The Other Half Lives, but it’s chock full of margin scribblings by the author. The notes are assumed to be musings for a possible 2nd edition; today, the annotations serve as unfiltered perceptions of how tenement life, slumlords, and culture clashes in New York City continued to impress upon Riis at the turn of the century.

Ted Gup recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times on his love affair with, and acquisition of, this very first edition.

How the Other Half Lives continues to speak to us today and remains a primer on how to break through collective apathy and self-centeredness in pursuit of a common good… Its place is in New York City — in a museum or public library — where it might yet rouse others to take up the causes of conscience that stirred Riis and generations of muckrakers. It is a part of New York, the city of its conception.

Gup made good on his word; the next question is what’s in store for this prized possession, now that it has found its way into the care of the New York Historical Society? Surely an exhibit built around NYC muckrakers and progressivism in the late 1800s is not out of the question.

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Street scene shot by Jacob Riis on the LES (1895), Photo: MCNY

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