Making of an American

Jacob RIIS

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Item#: 122814 price:$6,500.00

Making of an American
Making of an American


RIIS, Jacob. The Making of an American. New York: Macmillan, 1901. Octavo, original gilt-stamped navy cloth rebacked with original spine laid down, top edge gilt. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $6500.

First edition of the pioneering photographer and reformer's autobiography, published the decade after his influential work, How the Other Half Lives, with frontispiece portrait and 83 photographic illustrations, many full-page, in original bright gilt cloth, inscribed to a prominent social reformer and close friend of Jane Addams mentioned in the text: "Mrs Emmons Blaine with the admiration and respect of the author Jacob A. Riis. New York, Dec 9, 1901."

In this profusely illustrated autobiography, Riis charts his life, from his youth in Denmark to his immigration to America and his dedication to documenting the social injustice of New York's slums, first as a police photographer and then as a newspaper photographer—"the first photographer to use the power of the image as a tool for reform" (McDarrah, 381). His 1890 photobook, How the Other Half Lives, marks the landmark beginning of "a photographic attitude, an ethos-humanist documentary photography—in which the photographic social document is employed to bear critical witness to what is going on in the world" (Parr & Badger I:53). "A pioneer in the development of the documentary," to Theodore Roosevelt, Jacob Riis was "the staunchest, most efficient, friend the children of New York City have ever had" and "the ideal American citizen" (ANB). With rear leaf of publisher's advertisements. This copy is inscribed to Anita McCormick Blaine, a famous Chicago philanthropist and the widow of Emmons Blaine. The son of a powerful political operative (his father was a former Republican Secretary of State who lost the presidential race to Grover Cleveland), Emmons Blaine was vice president of the B&O Railroad. However, he died at just 33 years old, leaving his 26-year-old wife a widow. Fortunately, her family's intervention into the financial aspects of her marriage ensured that she was a wealthy widow while her late husband guaranteed that she was welcomed into the highest social and political circles. As a newly single mother, Blaine became deeply interested in her son's education. She became acquainted with Col. Francis Parker and began to absorb and enact progressive ideas on education. She helped to found the Chicago Institute (for teacher training). She also founded two additional schools, including a free school for poor children. The success of Blaine's educational initiatives earned her a spot on the Chicago School Board. Blaine soon came to be recognized as a leading philanthropist and social reformer. Much of her work focused on Jane Addams' Hull-House and similar ventures aimed at improving the lives of the poor. Blaine's empirical mindset set her apart and the information and data she doggedly collected supported further social and legislative reform. As a result, Blaine was welcome onto the Chicago Board of Charities and the United Charities. She also worked together with Jane Addams to create the City Homes Association dedicated to providing housing for the poor. Collaborating with Addams, Blaine fought for labor reform, particularly the eight-hour work day, and peace. Peace soon became her primary interest after her son died from the 1918 flu spread by World War I. A supporter of the League of Nations and, later, the United Nations, Blaine hoped that she could spare other mothers her fate. At her death, Blaine was one of the greatest philanthropists of her time, the acknowledged doyenne of the social reform world. She donated over 10 million dollars to social causes and left a huge fortune to the New World Financial Trust. Blaine is mentioned in the last chapter of The Making of an American, which is essentially an acknowledgments chapter. Riis writes: "Jane Addams and Mrs. Emmons Blaine, leaven that shall yet leaven the whole unsightly lump out yonder by the western lake and let in the light" (page 436). Blaine's archived correspondence at the University of Wisconsin reveals a request from John Bogue to sell tickets for Riis' lecture, "How the other half lives," and an invitation from Maud Warner McCormick to a lecture by Jacob Riis. Interestingly, Warner McCormick was married to Alexander Agnew McCormick, a Chicago alderman and Daily News editor who was a residential member of the University of Illinois' Chicago Literary Club and a member of Chicago Historical Society with possible relative Cyrus Hall McCormick, Jr., Blaine's brother).

Interior generally fine, slight rubbing and soiling to original cloth, a bit of coloring along cloth edges, gilt bright. An attractive copy, most desirable inscribed.

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