Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection
At the turn of the 20th century, the United States was establishing itself as a world power through its imperialistic and economic ambitions. At the same time, New York City was emerging as the symbol of the new empire, through its growth in multicultural population and the physical structures that dotted its landscape, featuring architectural innovations unmatched in the world. Soon it became clear that as New York City grew, so too did the prestige and power of the U.S. This lesson analyzes the building blocks of the modern, imperial city – from its structures, the people, and its problems. Through this analysis, students will achieve a larger view of the country as a whole.
Overview/ Materials/LOC Resources/Standards/ Procedures/Evaluation/Rubric/Handouts/Extension
Overview Back to Navigation Bar
Explore the changing landscape of a large urban center (New York City) at the turn of the 20th century.
Determine the problems that occur due to the rapid growth of the urban environment and its population.
Analyze the photographs of Jacob Riis and their impact upon the government and the people of New York.
Compare the issues of an urban center in the 1900s to those of today’s society.
Relate the solutions to the problems of New York City then to how our society deals with urban problems today.
Compose short essays that relate to the topics discussed in the class.
Collaborate to produce visuals comparing the issues of the 1900s with those faced by today’s society.
Recommended time frame
3 days of 50-minute length classes.
Handouts #1 and #2
Magazines (i.e. Newsweek and Time)
Handouts #3 and #4
Ohio State Learning Standards Back to Navigation Bar
History – 10th Grade – B1: Explain the social, political and economic effects of industrialization.
Changes in work and the workplace;
Immigration and child labor and their impact on the labor force;
The emergence of a middle class and its impact on leisure, art, music, literature and other aspects of culture.
History – 10th Grade – B2: Analyze the impact of industrialization and the modern corporation in the United States on economic and political practices with emphasis on:
Standard of living.
History – 10th Grade – C5: Trace the development of the United States as a world power.
Geography – 10th Grade – A1: Explain how perceptions and characteristics of geographic regions in the United States have changed over time including:
Centers of industry and technology.
Skills and Methods – 10th Grade - B3: Use data and evidence to support or refute a thesis. Analyze one or more issues and present a persuasive argument to defend a position.
Procedures Back to Navigation Bar
Why did New York City grow as large and as fast as it did during the late 1800s and early 1900s? What specific observations can you make about the physical size and features of the city’s landscape?
How did Ellis Island play a part in the growth of New York City?
Why did immigrants come to the United States in the late-1800s? Why did many of them settle in New York City?
What would be going through the mind of an immigrant to NYC while going through Ellis Island and its checkpoints?
What are the negative effects of urbanization? How do the people and government of these cities deal with these issues?
What is the purpose of skyscrapers? Why did New York City have so many?
What different modes of transportation are shown in the video clips? Why were so many varied forms constructed within NYC?
Imagine you are one of the construction workers high atop a skyscraper. What are your daily activities? Why do you do this job? What are the dangers associated with this line of work?
What are the standard problems a newly emerging city has from its growth? What are the solutions offered by the city governments and the people of New York City during the early 20th century?
Day One: Urbanization (Size and Immigration) Process:
The teacher will set up the smart board and projector and show the following video clips from the Library of Congress website as an introduction:
Panorama of the waterfront from the East River
Panorama from the Times Building
Panorama from the tower of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The class will then discuss essential question number one as a written journal, using the visuals from the video clips as support. Students may share their findings with the class as a whole, as a way to move into a discussion on urbanization.
Students will then transition into a discussion on the importance of Ellis Island to the development of NYC and America.
The teacher will show the two videos from the resource list labeled:
Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island
Immigrants arriving to Ellis Island off the boat.
Then the teacher will go to the Scholastic website (link: http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/tour/stop1.htm) in order to discuss the step-by-step experience of the immigrants.
For homework, students will compose a one-page letter detailing the thoughts and experiences of an immigrant going through Ellis Island at the turn of the 19th century. The letter should be written to a family member back in the immigrant’s home country.
Day Two: Urbanization (Issues) Process:
The teacher will set up the LCD projector and present any of the following videos from the Library of Congress website:
5 and 10 cent store crowd
Easter morning on Fifth Avenue
Broadway at the intersection of Wall St.
The class should then discuss the issue of overcrowding in a city and the negative by-products of the issue. This transitions the class into the worksheet activities.
The teacher will pass out Handout #2, which is a web biography of Jacob Riis. The students will learn about Riis and his work as a photojournalist, who exposed the problems of American cities.
Students will then be moved into groups of 4-5 and given a copy of handout #1. Students will look at the images taken by Riis on the issues of poor housing, gangs, homeless, and the ghetto. The groups will then compare the problems of the turn of the 20th century to those of today. Are they better or worse?
Students will use magazines or Internet resources to show the changes from Riis’ photos to the reality of today.
The groups will collaborate to compose a short essay to answer the prompt at the end of their handout.
All groups will report out to the class at the end of the bell.
Day Three: Urbanization (Solutions) Process:
The teacher will review the issues of a big city as a way to introduce the lesson dealing with their solutions. The issues being dealt with will be:
The teacher will set up the LCD projector and computer to show the following videos:
Construction of a Skyscraper
Men Working at Skyscraper Construction
Demolishing of the Star Theatre
Opening of New East River Bridge
Broadway and One Times Square
Interior of N.Y. subway
NYC Police Parade
N.Y.C. Fire Department
The teacher will use handout #3, which is a list of discussion questions to use for the videos shown during class.
At the conclusion of the class, assign for homework a journal prompt to be completed in essay form. Please consult Handout #4 for the actual prompt.
Evaluation Back to Navigation Bar
Each of the three days has a rubric-based evaluation that assesses the student’s mastery of the content and the creativity to which they present the material. They are:
Day One: Immigrant Letter (homework)
Day Two: Poster on Riis photos (Group Work)
Day Three: Journal Essay (homework)
Each day has multiple opportunities for ungraded “snapshot” assessments during class discussion and group time.
Extension Back to Navigation Bar
The growth of New York City is covered in a PBS miniseries from the American Experience entitled, American Experience: New York: A Documentary Film by Ric Burns. This 8 part series chronicles multiple time frames of the city’s growth and has a tremendous section on the landscape changes and issues of the turn of the century.
The Ellis Island foundation also has a great site to help in your exploration of immigration in America. Their site is www.ellisisland.org A project option for further study of Jacob Riis and his work as a photojournalist is detailed below:
If photography is an interest or hobby, this might be for you. We will study the work of Jacob Riis, a photojournalist who documented the lives of people in cities during the Industrial Revolution. His writings and photos helped to advance the Progressive Movement, especially muckraking.
The student will find 10 Riis photos online or at their library and then do a photo comparison with today’s society and the lives of individual workers.
The student will then construct a photo album comparing their photos with that of Riis. On the last two pages the student will include an essay explaining the differences and similarities between their work and the photos of Riis.
The introductory paragraph has a strong hook or attention grabber that is appropriate for the audience. This could be a strong statement, a relevant quotation, statistic, or question addressed to the reader.
The introductory paragraph has a hook or attention grabber, but it is weak, rambling or inappropriate for the audience.
The author has an interesting introductory paragraph but the connection to the topic is not clear.
The introductory paragraph is not interesting AND is not relevant to the topic.
The position statement provides a clear, strong statement of the author's position on the topic.
The position statement provides a clear statement of the author's position on the topic.
A position statement is present, but does not make the author's position clear.
There is no position statement.
Evidence and Examples
All of the evidence and examples are specific, relevant and explanations are given that show how each piece of evidence supports the author's position.
Most of the evidence and examples are specific, relevant and explanations are given that show how each piece of evidence supports the author's position.
At least one of the pieces of evidence and examples is relevant and has an explanation that shows how that piece of evidence supports the author's position.
Evidence and examples are NOT relevant AND/OR are not explained.
All supportive facts and statistics are reported accurately.
Almost all supportive facts and statistics are reported accurately.
Most supportive facts and statistics are reported accurately.
Most supportive facts and statistics were inaccurately reported.
The conclusion is strong and leaves the reader solidly understanding the writer's position. Effective restatement of the position statement begins the closing paragraph.
The conclusion is recognizable. The author's position is restated within the first two sentences of the closing paragraph.
The author's position is restated within the closing paragraph, but not near the beginning.
There is no conclusion - the paper just ends.
Back to Navigation Bar Insert each handout as a separate page so that it can be printed for student use. We have provided four blank pages for you to copy and paste your student handouts.
Handout #1: After looking at the photographs by Jacob Riis dealing with urban issues at the turn of the 20th century, find pictures on the Internet or in magazines that would show these issues as they exist in today’s cities.
Group Question: In a paragraph or two, analyze the issues presented in this handout and decide whether American cities are better today than they were at the turn of the 20th century. Explain your reasoning.
Handout #2: Riis Biography and Excerpts from http://www.nyc-architecture.com/LES/LES016.htm
Jacob Riis, the third of fifteen children, was born in Ribe, Denmark, on 3rd May, 1849. He worked as a carpenter in Copenhagen before emigrating to the United States in 1870. Unable to find work, he was often forced to spend the night in police station lodging houses.
Riis did a variety of menial jobs before finding work with a news bureau in New York in 1873. The following year he was recruited by the South Brooklyn News. In 1877 Riis became a police reporter for the New York Tribune. Aware of what it was like to live in poverty, Riis was determined to use this opportunity to employ his journalistic skills to communicate this to the public. He constantly argued that the "poor were the victims rather than the makers of their fate".
In 1888 Riis was employed as a photojournalist by the New York Evening Sun. Riis was among the first photographers to use flash powder, which enabled him to photograph interiors and exteriors of the slums at night. He also became associated with what later became known as muckraking journalism.
In December, 1889, an account of city life, illustrated by photographs, appeared in Scribner's Magazine. This created a great deal of interest and the following year, a full-length version, How the Other Half Lives, was published. The book was seen by Theodore Roosevelt, the New York Police Commissioner, and he had the city police lodging houses that were featured in the book closed down.
Over the next twenty-five years Riis wrote and lectured on the problems of the poor. This included magic lantern shows and one observer noted that "his viewers moaned, shuddered, fainted and even talked to the photographs he projected, reacting to the slides not as images but as a virtual reality that transported the New York slum world directly into the lecture hall."
Riis also wrote over a dozen books including Children of the Poor (1892), Out of Mulberry Street (1898), The Battle With the Slum (1902) and Children of the Tenement (1903).
Jacob Riis, whose autobiography, The Making of An American, was published in 1901, died in Barrie, Massachusetts, on 26th May, 1914.
Jacob Riis, Children sleeping
in Mulberry Street (1890)
(1) Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives (1890)
What is a tenement? The law defines it as a house "occupied by three or four more families, living independently and doing their cooking on the premises; or by more than two families on a floor, so living and cooking and having a common right in the halls, stairways, yards, etc."
The tenement is generally a brick building from four to six stories high on the street, frequently with a store on the first floor which, used for the sale of liquor, has a side opening for the benefit of the inmates and to evade the Sunday law; four families occupy each floor, and a set of rooms consists of one or two dark closets, used as bedrooms, with a living room twelve feet by ten. The staircase is too often a dark well in the centre of the house, and no direct through ventilation is possible, each family being separated from the other by partition.
(2) Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives (1890)
On either side of the narrow entrance to Bandits' Roost is "the Bend". Abuse is the normal condition of "the Bend," murder is everyday crop, with the tenants not always the criminals. In this block between Bayard, Park, Mulberry, and Baxter Streets, "the Bend" proper, the late Tenement House Commission counted 155 deaths of children in a specimen year (1882). Their percentage of the total mortality in the block was 68.28, while for the whole city the proportion was only 46.20. In No. 59 next to Bandits' Roost, fourteen persons died that year, and eleven of them were children; in No. 61 eleven, and eight of them not yet five years old.
Jacob Riis, Bandits' Roost (1890)
(3) Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives (1890)
Ever since the civil war New York has been receiving the overflow of coloured population from the Southern cities. In the last decade this migration has grown to such proportions that it is estimated that our Blacks have quite doubled in number since the Tenth Census. Whether the exchange has been of advantage to the Negro may well be questioned. Trades of which he had practical control in his Southern home are not open to him here. I know that it may be answered that there is no industrial proscription of colour; that it is a matter of choice. Perhaps so. At all events he does not choose them. How many coloured carpenters or masons has anyone seen at work in New York?
Cleanliness is the characteristic of the Negro in his new surroundings, as it was his virtue in the old. In this respect he is immensely the superior of the lowest of the whites, the Italians and the Polish Jews, below whom he has been classed in the past in the tenant scale. This was shown by an inquiry made last year by the Real Estate Record. It proved agents to be practically unanimous in the endorsement of the Negro as a clean, orderly, and profitable tenant.
Poverty, abuse, and injustice alike the Negro accepts with imperturbable cheerfulness. His philosophy is of the kind that has no room for repining. Whether he lives in an Eighth Ward barrack or in a tenement with a brown-stone front and pretensions to the tile of "flat," he looks at the sunny side of life and enjoys it. He loves fine clothes and good living a good deal more than he does a bank account.
(4) Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives (1890)
The homes of the Hebrew quarter are its workshops also. You are made fully aware of it before you have travelled the length of a single block in any of these East End streets, by the whirr of a thousand sewing-machines, worked at high pressure from earliest dawn until mind and muscle give out together. Every member of the family, from the youngest to the oldest, bears a hand, shut in the qualmy rooms, where meals are cooked and clothing washed and dried besides, the live-long day. It is not unusual to find a dozen persons - men, women and children - at work in a single room.
(5) Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives (1890)
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children maintains five of these boys' lodging-houses, and one for girls, in the city. The Duane Street Lodging House alone has sheltered since its foundation in 1855 nearly a quarter of a million different boys. In all of the lodging-houses together, 12,153 boys and girls were sheltered and taught last year. Besides these, the Society has established and operates in the tenement districts twenty-one industrial schools, co-ordinate with the public schools in authority, for the children of the poor who cannot find room in the city's school-houses, or are too ragged to go there; two free reading-rooms, a dress-making and typewriting school and a laundry for the instruction of girls; a sick-children's mission in the city and two on the sea-shore, where poor mothers may take their babies; a cottage by the sea for crippled girls, and a brush factory for crippled boys in Forty-fourth Street.
The Italian school in Leonard Street, alone, had an average attendance of over six hundred pupils last year. The daily average attendance at all of them was 4,105, while 11,331 children were registered and taught. When the fact that there were among these 1,132 children of drunken parents, and 416 that had been found begging in the street, is contrasted with the showing of $1,337.21 deposited in the school savings banks by 1,745 pupils, something like an adequate idea is gained by the scope of the Society's work in the city.
Jacob Riis, Homeless Children (1890)
Handout #3: Teacher Discussion Sheet for Solutions to the Problems of 1900 New York City.
Title of Video
Picture of Video
Questions related to video
Construction of a Skyscraper
What is a skyscraper? Why were they built? How do skyscrapers help alleviate the issues of a big city?
Men Working at Skyscraper Construction
Who would work this type of job? What are the daily activities and dangers associated with this job?
Demolishing the Star Theatre
Why would buildings like the Star Theatre be torn down? How does this type of activity affect the landscape of NYC?
Opening of New East River Bridge
Why were bridges built in cities like NYC? What are the benefits from bigger and longer bridges?
Broadway and One Times Square
What type of transportation is depicted in this video? What are the benefits and detractions of this type of transportation?
Interior of N.Y. subway
Why are subways so efficient and beneficial to cities like New York? How do average Americans benefit from the use of a subway?
NYC Police Parade
Why would the police department use horses? Why would the police have parades through the streets?
N.Y.C. Fire Department
What is the purpose of the fire department and why were they so necessary to NYC? What are the dangers associated with the job at the turn of the century?
Handout #4: Journal Prompt for Day 3 homework.
All cities have issues that the people or government must formulate solutions. The past three days we have discussed the issues facing New York City at the turn of the 20th century as it grew into a vast urban environment. Now, think about your surrounding community and the problems that exist in your local environs. Identify one such issue confronting your community government or your neighborhood and then formulate a solution to the issue. This should be a short essay of 5 paragraphs in which you clearly identify and explain the issue in detail. This should then be followed by a step-by-step proposal on how to fix the problem and should also have a timetable for when this should be resolved.