A recent All About History article posted by writer/historian James Hoare showcases some of the fantastic work done by Danish-American photographer Jacob Riis in the late 1800’s. The subject matter that made a name for himself was the notorious Gangs of New York. These photographs, along with some interesting commentary, can be found in his 1888 book entitled How the Other Half Lives, which is now public domain and can be read in full online.
Where Mulberry Street crooks like an elbow within hail of the old depravity of the Five Points, is “the Bend,” foul core of New York’s slums. Long years ago the cows coming home from the pasture trod a path over this hill. Echoes of tinkling bells linger there still, but they do not call up memories of green meadows and summer fields; they proclaim the home-coming of the rag-picker’s cart. In the memory of man the old cow-path has never been other than a vast human pig-sty. There is but one “Bend” in the world, and it is enough.
Check out the full article on All About History for more info on each photo, and accompanying quotes from How the Other Half Lives.