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Highlights of the Collection

Berenice Abbott (2,401 images)

Born in Springfield, Ohio, Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) began her career in the 1920s in Paris as an assistant to portrait photographer Man Ray. Returning to New York in 1929, she had her first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York in 1934. The Abbott collection consists primarily of her landmark series, Changing New York, created for the Museum under the auspices of the Federal Art Project between 1935 and 1938. It includes the 695 negatives created for the series, along with multiple versions of 307 images printed by the photographer for the finished project.

[Browse images by Berenice Abbott]

John Albok (145 images)

John Albok (1896-1982) emigrated from his native Hungary in 1921 and opened a tailor shop on Madison Avenue, between 96th and 97th Streets, which he also used as a location for his pursuit of photography. His first solo exhibition was staged at the Museum of the City of New York in 1938. The Museum's collection consists of images of daily events in his immediate neighborhood, from the late 1920s through the 1960s.

[Browse images by John Albok]


Jessie Tarbox Beals (199 images)

Jessie Tarbox Beals (1870-1942) is widely considered to be the world's first female photojournalist. Born in 1870 in Ontario, Canada, she was hired by the Buffalo Inquirer in 1902 and, in 1905, moved to New York City and set up a portrait studio and took freelance work. The collection features Beals's prints and negatives of artists, writers, and actors, as well as the environs of Greenwich Village bohemian culture.

[Browse images by Jessie Tarbox Beals]

Robert Bracklow (422 images)

Robert Bracklow (1849-1919) began actively producing photographs as an amateur in the 1880s. A member of the Camera Club of New York, Bracklow combined his love of city history with his picture-making and chose to document historic and newly created landmarks with his camera. This collection of prints and negatives includes views of Gracie Mansion, the Brooklyn Bridge, the High Bridge, and the Federal Reserve Building.

[Browse images by Robert Bracklow]

Brooklyn Bridge Construction (22 images)

This collection of large-format photographs documents the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. The images made by commercial photographers C.W. Pach, S.A. Holmes, and Talfor date from 1870 to 1878 and include views of the caisson and pier construction, views of the anchorage, and a portrait of the bridges president, treasurer, engineers, and foremen on location.

[Browse images of Brooklyn Bridge Construction]



Byron Company (24,174 images)

For half a century, the Byron Company (1892-1942) was one of New York City's preeminent commercial photography studios. Two major areas of specialization - stage and ship photography - provided steady work for the firm while it pursued thousands of other commissions. Important subjects include New Yorks social elites, street scenes, sports, buildings, and workplaces.

[Browse the Byron Company Collection]

Arthur D. Chapman (16 images)

Amateur photographer Arthur D. Chapman (1882-1956) worked nights as a newspaper printer and by day strolled Manhattan with his view camera, recording compositions of pictorial interest in the everyday cityscape. This collection of photographs depicts the intriguing architectural contours of Greenwich Village, a neighborhood he found of particular interest as a resident of Washington Place.

[Browse images by Arthur D. Chapman]

How New York Lives, 1939 (16 images)

This collection was originally featured in "How New York Lives", an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York in 1939. Organized by the Citizen's Housing Council of New York, the exhibition documented the streets and tenements populated by the city's poor as they struggled through the Great Depression. The collection features the work of several members of the Photo League, including Arnold Eagle, Morris Engel, David Robbins, and Aaron Siskind.

[Browse the How New York Lives Collection]


Clark & Rogers (76 images)

These photographs of New York shop windows from 1935 were made by Katherine H. Clark and Herman L. Rogers. The images focus on retail centers on Broadway, Madison, and Fifth Avenues and depict such notable retailers as Bergdorf Goodman and Gimbel Brothers.

[Browse images by Clark & Rogers]

Andreas Feininger (113 images)

Born in Paris to an American family of German origin, Andreas Feininger (1906-1999) was raised in Germany and studied at the Bauhaus. For 60 years, from his early 30s until his death in 1999, he called New York City his home. As a staff photographer for LIFE magazine, he was keenly interested in Manhattan’s built environment. The Museum’s collection features the photographer’s work exploring the towering skyscrapers and the details of city life in the 1970s and 1980s.

[Browse images by Andreas Feininger]

Federal Arts Project (1,048 images)

The Work Projects Administration (WPA) was created in 1935 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, to provide work relief for the unemployed. Under the auspices of the WPA, the Federal Arts Project (FAP) was created specifically to aid visual artists by paying wages for their creative endeavors. In 1943, the Museum of the City of New York received a donation from the WPA/FAP of the negatives from twelve agency-sponsored photographic projects, many of which document the social situation of the ordinary people during the Great Depression. They include Arnold Eagle and David Robbins's "One Third of a Nation," documenting poverty in New York; Arnold Eagle's "Sabbath Studies”; Sid Grossman's Harlem project; several projects by Andrew Herman, including work on the garment industry, outdoor markets, Coney Island, the construction of the Sixth Avenue subway, and other New York scenes; a project on food in New York by Sol Libshon; David Robbins's study of the waterfront; and city scene projects by George Herlick and Mark Nadir.

[Browse images by FAP photographers]

Samuel H. Gottscho (5,782 images)

As a young man, Samuel Gottscho (1875-1971) recorded the nighttime glories of Coney Island's early 20th-century amusement parks, but he became a professional success with the establishment of his own architectural photography firm in 1925. He received numerous important commissions from New York architects, developers, and contractors, including photographing private homes and major projects such as Raymond Hood's Rockefeller Center. Straddling the line between artistic and commercial photography, the collection includes not only pictures made for his commercial clients, but also non-commissioned work depicting iconic portraits of New York's changing skyline, bridges, and skyscrapers in the years between the world wars.

[Browse images by Samuel H. Gottscho and the Gottscho-Schleisner firm]


Alta Ruth Hahn (24 images)

Alta Ruth Hahn was an amateur photographer active in New York in the 1930s, and the photographs in this collection center on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Most are portraits of street vendors, although several general street scenes and skyline views are also included.

[Browse images by Alta Ruth Hahn]


William Davis Hassler (279 images)

Pennsylvania-born William Davis Hassler (1887-1920) moved to New York in 1905, and from 1909 to his death, he made a successful living here as a commercial photographer. This collection includes images of Manhattan from the Financial District to Inwood in northern Manhattan, made primarily for realtors and real estate developers. Many of the images depict commercial building exteriors or potential development sites, areas that at the time were on the outskirts of the city.

[Browse images by William Davis Hassler]


Ernest Walter Histed (252 images)

Born in Great Britain, Ernest Walter Histed (1862-1947) was a noted portrait photographer with a studio on Fifth Avenue in New York. This collection largely includes portraits depicting New York society personalities, including the Astors, Belmonts, Fricks, and Vanderbilts, ranging from 1898 to 1933.

[Browse images by Ernest Walter Histed]


William Hale Kirk (38 images)

William Hale Kirk created this collection of panoramic views depicting roadways, meadows, and other scenic sites of Central Park around 1900. Many of these photographs were included as illustrations in the popular book, The Art of Landscape Architecture by Samuel Parsons Jr., superintendent of planting in Central Park and landscape architect to the City of New York for nearly 30 years.

[Browse images by William Hale Kirk]


Office of War Information (97 images)

This collection was gathered by the U. S. Office of War Information's Overseas Branch in 1944 and used to form two traveling exhibitions on New York City highlighting the city's infrastructure and the quality of life of the average citizen. Subjects include such landmarks as the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central, and Washington Square Park, as well the subway and bus systems, street life, educational facilities, and factory workers.

[Browse images from the Office of War Information Collection]


Roy Perry (188 images)

Born in New York City in 1911, Roy Perry began as an amateur photographing the residents and environs of his Lower East Side neighborhood. The photographs in this collection primarily depict the lives of the children in the Lower East Side whom Perry observed while working for the Children’s Aid Society and the Greater New York Fund in the 1930s.

[Browse images by Roy Perry]

Victor Prevost (63 images)

Among the most important founders of American photography, the French-born Victor Prevost (1820-1881) moved to New York in 1850 and opened a studio. Prevost created some of the earliest paper prints of the city, utilizing the negative/positive collotype process invented by William Henry Fox Talbot and refined by Gustave Le Gray. The Museum's collection of Prevost photographs primarily focuses on Upper Manhattan.

[Browse images by Victor Prevost]


Jacob A. Riis (1,415 images)

Danish-born Jacob Riis (1849-1914) was a journalist, social reformer, and social documentary photographer. He is best known for his 1890 book How the Other Half Lives, which brought public attention to New York's squalid housing, sweatshops, bars, and alleys. The Museum holds the complete collection that Riis used in his writing and lecturing career, including images he made, commissioned, or acquired. These depict men, women, and children of all nationalities at home, work, and leisure. This collection contains vintage prints, glass-plate negatives, and lantern slides, as well as a set of recently produced prints from all of Riis's original negatives.

[Browse the Jacob A. Riis Collection]

Aaron Rose (118 images)

Aaron Rose began photographing Pennsylvania Station in the fall of 1963, just as the demolition of the massive Beaux Arts structure designed by Charles McKim of the renowned architecture firm McKim, Mead & White was beginning. This collection, not developed and printed until the 1990s, provides a three-year chronicle of the building at every stage of its demolition.

[Browse images by Aaron Rose]


Street Views (8,753 images)

Over the course of many decades, curators of the Museum of the City of New Yorks Photography Collection assembled a large body of images documenting specific streets, buildings, and locations in New York City. This collection is a valuable tool for anyone doing historic research of the citys streetscapes, and for those who are simply curious what a particular block looked like 50, 75, or 100 years ago. Though images of Manhattan predominate, all five boroughs are included. The photographs are in all formats, including cyanotypes, cabinet cards, albumen prints, and gelatin silver prints. Of the images whose photographers are known, some were made by professionals and others by amateurs.

[Browse images for Street Views]

Sherril Schell (18 images)

American-born photographer Sherril Schell (1877-1964) ran a successful portrait studio in London during the first two decades of the 20th century. Returning to New York after World War I, he became interested in the city's architecture. The images of the built environment in this collection, made between 1929 and 1932, approach abstraction while conveying the energy of the changing city.

[Browse images by Sherril Schell]


Carl Van Vechten (2,176 images)

Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and in 1906 moved to New York City, where he established a reputation as an essayist, opera critic, and novelist. He mingled with New York's avant-garde cultural and intellectual leaders - among them George Gershwin, Billie Holiday, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Paul Robeson - many of whom became his photographic subjects. This collection contains many of these portraits alongside a wealth of theatrical imagery, including a series on the Broadway show "This is the Army" and a series devoted to servicemen at the Stage Door Canteen during the Second World War.

[Browse images by Carl Van Vechten]

Charles Von Urban (597 images)

In 1932 realtor J. Clarence Davies, collector of New Yorkiana and patron of the Museum of the City of New York's Print Department, commissioned photographer Charles Von Urban to document New York City buildings that were thought likely to be threatened with demolition. This collection depicts, among other structures, every wood-frame building then in existence on Manhattan Island.

[Browse images by Charles Von Urban]


World's Fair Design Drawings (287 images)

This collection of design proposals and renderings for the 1939 World's Fair includes depictions of buildings, displays, and objects, demonstrating the development of the fair as it evolved from 1936 to 1939. Many structures were built as depicted in the drawings, others were modified, and still others were never realized.

[Browse the World's Fair Design Drawings]


Wurts Brothers (13,985 images)

The Wurts Brothers Company (18941979) was among the first studios in New York City to specialize in architectural photography. Founded by brothers Norman and Lionel Wurts, the firm earned commissions from numerous New York City architects, developers, and contractors. They documented the construction of such landmarks as the Woolworth Building and Rockefeller Center. This collection of digital images includes all of the glass plate and flexible negatives housed at the Museum of the City of New York.

[Browse images by the Wurts Brothers]