Many know Jacob Riis as a successful photographer, writer, and reformer. What few know is his personal struggles on his way to a groundbreaking career. Jacob Riis, the third of fifteen children, was born in Ribe, Denmark, on 3rd May, 1849. The son of a school teacher, Riis’s father wanted him to value education, but Jacob did not pay much attention to it. He was a carpenter’s apprentice in Copenhagen as a young adult, hoping to make a living. Riis adored a young woman from his town for years, and finished his carpentry work in order to impress and marry her, but she turned him down. Broken hearted, the young hopeful emigrated to the United States in 1870.
There, Jacob Riis struggled very much. He lived in intense poverty though his first years. He jumped around many low-income careers, working for the longest time as a carpenter. Despite this, Riis found himself jobless during the Great Panic in 1873. He was homeless and was often forced to spend the night on the floor of police station lodging houses. Riis’s story turned around when he found his proper job as a police reporter. From then on, his success built.