Before Hoovervilles were popping up around town in the 1930s, there were plenty of down and out New Yorkers living in makeshift shanty homes. Photographer Jacob Riis documented the structures, and the people living in them, for his book How the Other Half Lives, which introduced the middle and upper class to the squalor for the first time, according to LIFE. In his book Rediscovering Jacob Riis, author Daniel Czitrom wrote:
"I do think that Riis is the first muckraker. I think he represents the beginning of a sort of progressive sensibility... Riis believed that it was important, that it was crucial, to try to rouse the conscience of the public, to appeal to the conscience. This belief that if we could simply expose conditions, if people simply knew how bad things were, they would rise up and change them."
Click through for more photos, and more in the below video, which includes excerpts from the book: