Photographs from the Community Service Society Records, 1900-1920

Housing Reform > Tenement House Exhibit of 1900

The Tenement-House Exhibit of 1900, organized by COS and Lawrence Veiller, marks the critical turning point in the professionalization of scientific charity work and housing reform strategies.  Using photographs, maps, charts, diagrams, graphs, and models, the organizers “believed that visitors to the exhibition will have placed before them in concrete form a clear and comprehensive statement of existing conditions, so that intelligent action may be taken to remedy them and prevent their recurrence," as a New York Times reviewer wrote. Veiller, who had helped create COS’s Tenement House Committee in 1898, wanted to incite reform through reason rather than sentiment, and his strategies proved extremely successful: in just two weeks, 10,000 people visited and, as a result, Governor Theodore Roosevelt helped pass the proposed legislation and set up a Tenement House Department the following year. 

Exhibitions became an important publicity and pedagogical tool for charity and social work organizations over the next two decades. Other exhibitions addressed tuberculosis, congestion, and urban industrialization.

Below are photographs that are representative of images that would have appeared in the exhibition.


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