Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 37
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 37
 
long afterward called the worst of the barracks “infant slaughter houses,” and showed, by reference to the mortality lists, that they killed one in every five babies born in them.
  The story shocked the town into action. Plans for a better kind of tenement were called for, and a premium was put on every ray of light and breath of air that could be let into it. It was not much, for the plans clung to the twenty-five-foot lot which was the primal curse, and the type of tenement evolved, the double-decker of the “dumb-bell” shape, while it seemed at the time a great advance upon the black, old packing-box kind, came with the great growth of our city to be a worse peril than what had gone before. But what we got was according to our sense. At least the will was there. Money was raised to build model houses, and a bill to give the health authorities summary powers in dealing with tenements was sent to the legislature. The landlords held it up until the last day of the session, when it was forced through by an angered public opinion, shorn of its most significant clause, which proposed the licensing of tenements and so their control and effective repression. However, the landlords had received a real set-back. Many of them got rid of their property, which in a large number of cases they had never seen, and tried to forget the source of their ill-gotten wealth. Light

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