Jacob A. Riis (18491914). The Battle with the Slum. 1902.
My reporters notebook bears witness to the correctness of his statement, and it has many blank leaves that are waiting to be put to that use yet. The reckoning for eleven years showed that, of 35,844 fires in New York, 53.18 per cent were in tenement houses, though they were only a little more than 31 per cent of all the buildings, and that 177 occupants were killed, 523 maimed, and 625 rescued by the firemen. Their rescue cost the lives of three of these brave men, and 453 were injured in the effort. And when all that is said, not the half is told. A fire in the night in one of those human beehives, with its terror and woe, is one of the things that live in the recollection ever after as a terrible nightmare. The fire-chief thought that every tenement house should be fireproof, but he warned the commission that such a proposition would meet with strong opposition from the different interests, should legislation be requested. He was right. It is purely a question of the builders profits. Up to date we have rescued the first floor from him. That must be fireproof. We shall get the whole structure yet if we pull long enough and hard enough, as we will.
Here is a block of tenements inhabited by poor Jews. Most of the Jews who live over here are poor; and the poorer they are, the higher rent do they pay, and the more do they crowd to make it