Gilder, Richard Watson


1895 ALS as Chairman to NY Governor Levi Morton on Report of the Tenement House Committee


Autograph ID: 3846
Condition: Very good, circular letter book stamp and 1/16/95 in red ink at top left; few light creases
Description: “(1844-1909) American poet, editor, prime mover in the late-19th century world of arts and letters, social reformer. Gilder studied law in Philadelphia and served as a private in Landis’s Philadelphia Battery in the Emergency Volunteer Militia during Lee’s 1863 invasion of Pennsylvania. After the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, his unit was mustered out. He co-founded the Newark Register and later was editor of Hours at Home and edited Scribner’s Monthly (later, The Century Magazine). In 1881 he succeeded Dr. Josiah G. Holland as editor in chief of The Century, a position he held to his death. He took an active interest in all public affairs, especially reform and good government, and was a member of many New York clubs. He was a founder of the Society of American Architects, the Authors’ Club, and the International Copyright League. He was a founder of the Anti-Spoils League and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.. Gilder received an 1883 LL.D. from Dickinson College. Gilder and his wife, Helena de Kay were the models for the characters Thomas and Augusta Hudson in Wallace Stegner’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel, “Angle of Repose.” Some of his works are: The New Day (1875); The Celestial Passion (1887); The Great Remembrance; Five Books of Song (1894); In Palestine, and Other Poems (1898); Poems and Inscriptions (1901); In the Heights (1905); and, A Book of Music (1906).

Very good content 2pp (separate sheets) ALS in purple ink on 9 ¾ x 8 “No. 55 Clinton Place” (later renumbered 13 E. 8th St., Greenwich Village) letterhead, January 15 1895, as Chairman of the New York Tenement House Committee, to Governor Levi Morton. Gilder apologizes as illness prevents his paying “…my respects to you in person and asking your kind service in behalf of the Tenement House Committees Report, which will tomorrow be carried to Albany by our Secretary, Mr. Edward Marshall. The Committee had thought that you might be willing to send it to the Legislature in their behalf but as to this suggestion Mr. Marshall will have the favor of conferring with you.” Gilder reports that the Committee has collected a very unusual quantity of new and valuable information and statutes, and has prepared maps plans and other graphic illustrations of a novel character; and it sincerely hopes that there may be as little delay as possible in the proper presentation of this material to the public by means of governmental publication. The Committee has made certain well considered recommendations, and drawn laws all as it believes in strict accordance with its statutory duties and in the interests of the public health, safety, and well-being. Apparently, they were ultimately successful. Public concern about New York tenements was stirred by the publication in 1890 of Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives. The 1894 New York State Assembly Tenement House Committee report surveyed 8,000 buildings with approx. 255,000 residents and found New York to be the most densely populated city in the world, with part of the Lower East Side denser than Bombay. It used charts and photographs (1st official use of photographs) to make its case for reform. The 1895 publication by the US Dept. of Labor of a special report on housing conditions and solutions elsewhere in the world ultimately led to passage of the Tenement House Act of 1901 (The New Law) which implemented the Tenement House Committee’s recommendation of a maximum of 70% lot coverage and strict enforcement, specified minimum of 12 for a rear yard and 6 for an air & light shaft at the lot line or 12 in the middle of the building (increased for taller buildings), required running water and water closets in every apartment, a window in every room, and fire safety requirements. Gilder’s letter refers to the Report of the Tenement House Committee as authorized by chapter 479 of the Laws of 1894 transmitted to the Legislature Jan. 17, 1895″.”
Type: Letter

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