Collection consists of correspondence, diaries, lecture notes, manuscripts, photographs, and printed matter. Correspondence includes family letters of Riis, his second wife and her family; and business letters regarding Riis's work, publications, lecture tours, and farm matters. Diaries cover Riis's early years in the U.S. as well as his later business and personal affairs. Lecture notes, 1896-1911, are for speeches on housing and organized charity among other topics. Holograph manuscripts represent some of his major works. Photographs are of Riis, his family, and scenes of Denmark. Also, newsclippings, published manuscripts, letters and notebooks.
Biographical/historical: Jacob August Riis (1849-1914) was a journalist, author, social reformer, and photographer. He was born in Denmark and emigrated to the U.S. in 1870. While working as a reporter for the New York Tribune, he began his crusade to improve urban life. His efforts to ameliorate conditions in the slums included campaigns for effective child-labor laws and building codes. Riis worked at the Tribune until 1888 when he became a police reporter at the Evening Sun. After his retirement in 1899, he continued to write books and articles and lectured extensively. Riis and his second wife, Mary Phillips, moved to a farm in Barre, Massachusetts in 1911.