Last month, we shared with you a curator walkthrough of the fascinating exhibit, Jacob Riis: Revealing New York’s Other Half at the Museum of the City of New York. Here are 10 highlights of the exhibit that showcase the breadth of the installation and demonstrate how reformer Jacob A. Riis was much more than just his photographic legacy.
1. The Teddy Roosevelt Letters
Teddy Roosevelt and Jacob Riis became close friends during Roosevelt’s tenure as New York City Police commissioner. Curator Bonnie Yochelson calls their friendship a “bromance,” telling us “The two men supported each other publicly, artfully using the media to enhance each other’s reputation.” The original letters displayed in the exhibition reveal the chumminess between the two. In the above, written on White House stationery in 1901, Roosevelt refers to Riis as “Jake” and asks when he will visit Washington: “I am getting homesick for you!” Roosevelt writes.
Another letter, on Civil Service Commission letterhead from 1894 is much longer (and begins more formally). “Dear Sir,” it reads, “Unfortunately I had to leave New York before being able to get down to see you again. I am very sorry, and I shall hunt you up the next time I come to New York.” Roosevelt expresses his desire to introduce Riis to New York City mayor-elect William Strong, the anti-Tammany Hall candidate who Roosevelt feels is a “working man’s mayor.” He praises Riis’ efforts: “I know barely any one who has done more than you to give people an intelligent appreciation of the great social problems of the day and who has approached these problems with more common sense and sobriety.”