Friday, October 08, 2010

NARA's New York

Back when the world wide web was yet young, the US National Archives disseminated some digitized images of "Pictures of the American City." Though the internet has rearranged itself many times since that instant in 1996, this collection persists online and can be found at

Here are some of its classier shots of New York City scenes. Unfortunately, the NARA curators gave only the sketchiest of citations. They say, "The dates and mediums of the originals and the names of the artists are given whenever it has been possible to determine them." They also fail to tell how the works ended up in Archives collections, only that NARA's "Still Picture Branch preserves and services a collection of more than 5 million photographs, many thousands of which deal with the American city."

A few of the images are well-known and frequently shown — the ones by Lewis Hine and Alfred Steiglitz for example — but others are new to me and maybe you as well.

{New York City at night, ca. 1935. 306-NT-174.352c}

{Workman, perched on the end of a beam, bolting together the framework of the Empire State Building, New York City, 1930. Photograph by Lewis Hine. 69-RH-4K-1.}

{Row of men at the New York City docks out of work during the depression. Photograph by Lewis Hine, 1934. 69-R-1L-3.}

{Two oldtimers playing chess on a Central Park bench in New York City, May 1946. 306-NT-726C-11.}

{Two street vendors taking time out for lunch at a makeshift table of wooden crates covered with newspaper. New York, Aug. 1946. 306-NT-958F-1}

{"A Typical Cable 'Accident' on Broadway." New York. A horse-drawn ambulance arrives on the scene where a man lies in the street after being hit by a cable car. Illustration from Leslie's Weekly, Aug. 29,1895. 30-N-49-1767.}

{New York City's Sixth Avenue elevated railway and the crowded street below, ca. 1940. 208-EX-236-12.}

{"Terminal," by Alfred Steiglitz, 1892. Original lantern slide in the International Museum of Photography, New York. 208-PR-4K-2.}

A bit of searching turns up this old posting from the H-Net discussion lists:
From: "Mark Peel, H-Urban Co-Editor"
List Editor: "Mark Peel, H-Urban Co-Editor"
Editor's Subject: WWW/TEACHING: NARA's "Pictures of the American Cities"
Author's Subject: WWW/TEACHING: NARA's "Pictures of the American Cities"
Date Written: Fri, 20 Dec 1996 15:05:05 GMT+1000
Date Posted: Sat, 20 Dec 1996 15:05:05 -0500

Posted by Wendy Plotkin :

The U.S. National Archives (NARA) has a WWW site at

that includes a list of 170 slides held by NARA as part of its
"Pictures of the American City" collection. I am including the
text of the WWW site below, as I've heard from some H-Urban
subscribers with poor WWW connections of problems linking to the
sites we recommend.

The slides themselves are available at a related WWW site:

If you access the slides themselves, they do not include the captions.
Instead, refer to the list of slides at the WWW site (and shown below)
for the basic information on the slides: the "id" of the image (e.g.
City006.JPG) is included at the end of the description.

I am interested in the opinion of those of you who choose to look at
this WWW site on its value in your teaching.

Wendy Plotkin
H-Urban Co-Editor

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