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Erik Visits an American Grave (X)

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Underneath this rock is buried Jacob Riis. A Danish immigrant, Riis became one of the leading muckrakers of the Progressive Era, exposing the terrible conditions of immigrants and the urban poor in his extremely influential How the Other Half Lives, published in 1890. Particularly important were his photographs of children on the streets. While one might think that rich citizens would have seen these images with their own eyes walking or riding through the city, the reality was that the citizens of rich and poor neighborhoods generally didn’t interact very much. The other half might live 1/2 mile away, but that was another world. Riis himself had several hard years after immigrating to the U.S. in 1870. Poverty was something he understood personally, not just as a sociological abstract. The book caught the attention of Theodore Roosevelt and the two became fast friends. Riis’ ideas became highly influential in the world of Progressive reform, which blossomed nationally after the ascendancy of Roosevelt to the presidency in 1901. Riis retired to a farm near Barre, Massachusetts in 1905 after his first wife died and he remarried. He died in 1914.

Jacob Riis is buried at Riverside Cemetery, just off a dirt road in the hills outside of Barre, Massachusetts.

The other half may live one way, but we all end up the same in the end.

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