In the 1880s and 1890s, Wilton experienced a \u201cmodest increase\u201d in its immigrant population, according to Robert H. Russell\u2019s Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress.Gilbert & Bennett Manufacturing recruited immigrants from Sweden and Finland to work at its Georgetown mill and factory in the 1880s.\u201cThey found them to be careful and reliable workers and they sent recruiters to the docks in New York City,\u201d Mr. Russell wrote. \u201cAs word got back to their friends in the home country, more came over.\u201d Wilton wasn\u2019t the only place to experience an increase in its foreign-born population \u2014 the entire nation did.\u201cThere was an enormous influx of immigrants at the time because the economy was booming,\u201d said art historian and independent curator Bonnie Yochelson, who will lead this year\u2019s fourth scholarly series lecture at Wilton Library on Sunday, March 8.However, the nation\u2019s booming economy put more money in some people\u2019s pockets than in others\u2019. While \u201csome people were getting very rich,\u201d said Ms. Yochelson, \u201cother people were getting the short end of the stick.\u201dMs. Yochelson\u2019s scholarly series lecture will focus on Jacob A. Riis, a Danish-born social reformer and photojournalist whose best-selling book How the Other Half Lives (1890) brought public attention to the squalid living conditions of New York\u2019s poor.Ms. Yochelson is a former curator of prints and photographs at the Museum of the City of New York \u2014 home to the Jacob A. Riis Collection of Photographs, which depict New York\u2019s \u201csqualid housing, sweatshops, bars and alleys\u201d in the late 19th Century. Jacob A. Riis Before he was known as a social reformer, Mr. Riis worked as a daily crime reporter in New York. \u201cHe was reporting on things like burglaries and murders and suicides and things like that,\u201d said Ms. Yochelson, \u201cand he became very, very familiar with the lives of the poor in New York.\u201d After many years of reporting in the city, Ms. Yochelson said, Mr. Riis asked himself what he could do to help the city\u2019s poorer citizens.\u201cA couple of things made a huge difference \u2014 one was he changed from a day shift to a night shift,\u201d said Ms. Yochelson, \u201cwhich allowed him to have more time to think and learn what kind of [resources] might be available to [expose] the conditions and what had been happening in the city.\u201dThe second thing, she said, was Mr. Riis\u2019s discovery of photography.\u201cIn 1897, he read in the newspaper about the invention of flashbulb photography,\u201d said Ms. Yochelson, \u201cwhich set off a burst of light at the time of exposure so that you could photograph things in the dark.\u201dAt first, Mr. Riis did not use a camera himself, said Ms. Yochelson. Instead, he enlisted amateur photographers to come with him to locations and photograph whatever he asked them to.\u201cDuring those night raids, they would go photograph some of the terrible conditions that existed,\u201d said Ms. Yochelson. How the Other Half Lives In 1888, Ms. Yochelson said, Mr. Riis used those photos to create an illustrated lecture and presented it to audiences in the New York area. \u201cHe was then given the opportunity to write an article based on the lecture for a national magazine, and then based on that, he wrote a book, that was published in 1890, called How the Other Half Lives,\u201d said Ms. Yochelson. \u201cThat book became a national best seller and that was what established his career as a social reformer as opposed to just a newspaper writer.\u201d Ms. Yochelson said Mr. Riis\u2019s \u201cgenius\u201d lay in his ability to publicize issues and touch the hearts and minds of people. \u201cHe was such a passionate speaker and he was such a good storyteller. He managed to take a subject that people really didn\u2019t want to confront and addressed it in a way that was sort of exciting and entertaining,\u201d she said.\u201cWithout being over-moralizing, he managed to give a good show \u2026 and capture people\u2019s interests and bring their attention to something they otherwise might prefer not to think about.\u201dMr. Riis spent the next 10 years working on social reform, said Ms. Yochelson.\u201cHe helped with a lot of very practical changes in New York and then gave lectures and wrote about them for a national audience,\u201d she said.\u201cHe would show pictures to explain the problems of urban poverty and presented some solutions.\u201dMs. Yochelson said people who attend her upcoming lecture will learn that many of the problems that exist today are similar, if not the same, as those faced during the Gilded Age.\u201cImmigration, the importance of education, crime rate, and figuring out how to go about correcting some of these problems, who is responsible, should we all care, should everyone be involved \u2014 all those problems we see today are all the problems that Jacob Riis was addressing,\u201d said Ms. Yochelson.\u201cFor me, these parallels and comparisons are striking. We have entered another Gilded Age, with enormous disparities between rich and poor, which was very much the situation 100 years ago.\u201dIn addition to preparing a complete catalog of Mr. Riis\u2019s photograph collection, Ms. Yochelson is organizing an accompanying exhibition with the Library of Congress, which holds the Jacob A. Riis papers \u2014 correspondence, diaries, lecture notes, holograph manuscripts, clippings, photographs, and miscellaneous printed materials.\u201cComing up on this major public presentation of new research and the catalog,\u201d she said, \u201cit\u2019s very timely to be giving this lecture about Jacob Riis.\u201dMs. Yochelson\u2019s \u201cHow the Other Half Lives\u201d lecture will begin at 4 p.m. There is no fee, but registration is essential.To register, visit www.wiltonlibrary.org or call 203-763-3950, ext. 213.