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Guide to the Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection ARC.201

128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201
718-222-4111
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Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Patricia Glowinski

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on May 01, 2012
English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator - Photographer: Armbruster, Eugene L., 1865-1943
Creator - Photographer: Brainard, George Bradford, 1845-1887
Creator: Geo. P. Hall & Son.
Creator - Photographer: Lewis, Elias, Jr., 1820-1894
Creator - Photographer: Nelson, Walter H.
Creator - Photographer: Young, A. R.
Title: Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection
Dates [inclusive]: circa 1860 to 1920
Abstract: The Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection is comprised of (roughly) 1,400 black-and-white photographs taken by various photographers from circa 1860 to 1920. The collection includes views of locations on Long Island, which is comprised of the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens (Kings County and Queens County respectively), Nassau County, and Suffolk County. The majority of the photographs in the collection depict views of Brooklyn and Suffolk County. The photographers are primarily amateur photographers and include George Bradford Brainerd, Elias Lewis Jr., A.R. Young, Eugene L. Armbruster, and Walter H. Nelson. The collection also includes photographs from the commercial photography firm George P. Hall & Son, as well as photographs where the photographer is unknown. Subjects include the built environment (houses, churches, railroad stations, mills, cemeteries, asylums, penitentiaries, ferry terminals, lighthouses, and parks, among others) and the natural environment (beaches, shorelines, trees, creeks, ponds, bays, and harbors, among others). The collection also includes many views of Coney Island and Prospect Park.
Quantity: 8.67 Linear feet in 14 manuscript boxes, two oversize boxes, three medium format negative boxes, and one large format negative box.
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 11 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 12 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 13 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 7 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 8 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 9 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 10 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 2 of 16
Graphic materials [Oversize]: ARC.201 (OS2) V1972.1.1254 to V1973.2.9 Box 16 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 1 of 16
Graphic materials [Oversize]: ARC.201 (OS1) V1972.1.1113 to V1972.1.1199 Box 15 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 14 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 6 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 5 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 4 of 16
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.201 Box 3 of 16
Call Phrase: ARC.201
Sponsor: This collection was processed and described as part of the project, "Uncovering the Secrets of Brooklyn's 19th Century Past: Creation to Consolidation," funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, with additional support from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

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Biographical note

George Bradford Brainerd (also spelled Brainard; 1845-1887) was a civil engineer, an amateur photographer, and an amateur natural historian. Brainerd was born on November 27, 1845 in Haddam Neck, CT. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. from which he graduated in 1865. As a civil engineer, Brainerd worked for the then-City of Brooklyn in the position of Deputy Water Purveyor--a position he held for 17 years (1869 to 1886). During this time, Brainerd published the 48-page book, The Water Works of Brooklyn (1873).

Brainerd's work as an amateur photographer began when he was just 13 years old. He began by making his own cameras and developing ambrotypes from them. While working as a civil engineer, Brainerd photographed public work projects, as well as street scenes in Brooklyn. He also took extensive photographs of areas in New York State, including on Long Island and along the Hudson River. His subjects included houses, churches, mills, railroad stations, gate houses, reservoirs, harbors, beaches, and ponds, among others. Over the years, Brainerd continued to design his own cameras and photographic techniques. Through his inventions, he was able photograph the human vocal organs thus contributing to the perfection of this type of medical photography. As an amateur natural historian, he amassed a large collection of bird skins, shells, and minerals, as well as maintained his own herbarium, and collected moss and lichens.

Elias Lewis, Jr. (1820-1894) was born in the Long Island town of Westbury, and relocated to Brooklyn in 1853, where he worked in business and finance. He served in several capacities at the Long Island Historical Society (now the Brooklyn Historical Society) including as secretary, as curator of the museum, and as a member of the board of directors. Lewis was also an amateur geologist and photographer. Between 1872 and 1877, he published numerous articles in Popular Scientist Monthly including "The Longevity of Trees;" "Ups and Downs of the Long Island Coast;" and "The Formation of Sand Dunes." His subjects as an amateur photographer followed his geological studies and included images of trees, boulders, rock formations, sea cliffs, and beaches, among others. He also photographed houses, mills, lighthouses, churches, and railroad stations. His photographs were primarily taken on Long Island, N.Y.

Eugene L. Armbruster (1865-1943) was a resident of the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn and worked at a cigar box manufacturing company in Brooklyn. He was born in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1865, immigrated to the United States in 1882, and settled in Brooklyn. Armbruster was also an amateur historian and photographer. As an amateur historian, he published several books and pamphlets including The Eastern District of Brooklyn;  Long Island: It's Early Days and Development; and  The Wallabout Prison-Ships, 1776-1783. As an amateur photographer, Armbruster focused on documenting locations throughout the Northeastern United States and Canada, though his dominant subject was the New York City area, including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, as well as areas of Long Island. His subjects were often street scenes, houses, and churches, among others. He also extensively photographed Coney Island circa 1910. Armbruster was married and had two children. He died on September 21, 1943 and is buried at Lutheran Cemetery in Queens.

George P. Hall & Son was a commercial photography firm that operated from 1886 to 1914. The firm, located in Manhattan, was started by George P. Hall (1832-1900), an Ohio native, who began his photographic career as a daguerreotypist in 1854. In 1872, Hall relocated to New York City, where he opened a commercial photography studio. His son, James S. Hall, joined his father in business in 1886, and George P. Hall & Son was established. The firm photographed in all five boroughs of New York City, and focused on documenting the built environment throughout the city, thus capturing the dramatic changes in the city from the 1880s to 1914. When George P. Hall died in 1900, James S. Hall continued to run the business until it ran into financial difficulties and Hall was forced to close the business in 1914. Both George P. Hall and James S. Hall lived in Brooklyn.

Sources:

  1. Brooklyn Museum. "Brainerd Photographs." Accessed May 10, 2011. http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/exhibitions/1653/Brainerd_Photographs
  2. New-York Historical Society. "Guide to the Eugene L. Armbruster Photograph Collection, 1894-1939." Accessed May 10, 2011. http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/nyhs/armbruster.html
  3. Queens Library. "Guide to the Eugene L. Armbruster Literary Manuscripts, 1909-1929." Accessed May 10, 2011. http://www.queenslibrary.org/ext/central/longisland/manuscripts/index.asp?f=a-2.xml&tt=Eugene+L.+Armbruster+Literary+Manuscripts+
  4. New York Historical Society. "Guide to the George P. Hall & Son Photograph Collection, 1876-1914." Accessed May 10, 2011. http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/nyhs/hall.html

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Scope and Contents

The Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection is comprised of (roughly) 1,400 photographic prints, measuring 8.67 linear feet, taken by various photographers from circa 1860 to 1920. The collection includes views of locations on Long Island, which is comprised of the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens (Kings County and Queens County respectively), Nassau County, and Suffolk County. The majority of the photographs in the collection depict views of Brooklyn and Suffolk County. The photographers are primarily amateur photographers and include George Bradford Brainerd (also spelled Brainard), Elias Lewis Jr., A.R. Young, Eugene L. Armbruster, and Walter H. Nelson. The collection also includes photographs from the commercial photography firm George P. Hall & Son, as well as photographs where the photographer is unknown. Subjects include the built environment (houses, churches, railroad stations, mills, cemeteries, asylums, penitentiaries, ferry terminals, lighthouses, and parks, among others) and the natural environment (beaches, shorelines, trees, creeks, ponds, bays, and harbors, among others). The collection also includes many views of Coney Island and Prospect Park.

The collection is organized into four series:

  1. George Bradford Brainerd photographs, circa 1870 to 1880
  2. Elias Lewis, Jr. photographs, 1877 to 1879
  3. A.R. Young photographs, circa 1870 to 1880
  4. Miscellaneous photographers, circa 1860 to 1920

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Cabinet photographs
  • Exterior views
  • Interior views
  • Landscapes (representations)
  • Photographic prints
  • Photographs
  • Stereographs

Subject Organizations

  • Green-Wood Cemetery (New York, N.Y.).

Subject Topics

  • Church buildings -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Dwellings -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Dwellings -- New York (State) -- Long Island
  • Farms -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hotels -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Landscape photography -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Landscape photography -- New York (State) -- Long Island
  • Lighthouses -- New York (State) -- Long Island
  • Outdoor recreation
  • Prisons -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • School buildings -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ships
  • Storefronts -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Street photography -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bay Ridge (New York, N.Y)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Buildings, structures, etc. |v Pictorial works
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Commerce
  • Coney Island (New York, N.Y.)
  • Flatbush (New York, N.Y.)
  • Fort Hamilton (New York, N.Y.)
  • Greenpoint (New York, N.Y.)
  • Hempstead (N.Y.)
  • Huntington (N.Y.)
  • Long Island (N.Y.)
  • Newtown Creek (Kings County-New York County, N.Y.)
  • Port Jefferson (N.Y.)
  • Prospect Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)
  • Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)
  • Roslyn (N.Y.)
  • Suffolk County (N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

All commercially produced photographs are in the public domain. Copyright for unpublished works with a known creator are protected until 70 years following the death of the creator. Copyright for anonymously created items will remain in effect for 120 years following the date of creation. For information on securing rights to publish or reproduce, please see the Brooklyn Historical Society Reproduction Rights Policy.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201, Box number, Object ID number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Related Materials

Brooklyn Historical Society holds a related collection. See: Charles E. West memorial speech for Elias Lewis, Jr. (1973.311)

The Brooklyn Museum holds a collection of photographs by George Bradford Brainerd. See: the Brainerd Photographs.

The Long Island Division at the Queens Borough Public Library holds two related collections. For more photographs by George Bradford Brainerd, see the Ron Ziel Photographic Collection, 1874-1996. To access a manuscript collection of Eugene L Armbruster, see the Eugene L. Armbruster Literary Manuscripts, 1909-1929.

The Milstein Division Visual Collections and Ephemera at the New York Public Library holds photographs by Eugene L. Armbruster. See: the Eugene L. Armbruster Collection of Long Island Photographs.

Other Finding Aids

Item level description and digital versions of images from the collection are available for searching via the image database in the library. Please consult library staff for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source and date of acquisition for this collection are unknown. This collection was formally accessioned in 1972.

Processing Information note

Fully processed to the item level.

This collection combines the accessions V1972.001 and V1972.002.

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Container List

Series 1: George Bradford Brainerd photographs, circa 1870 to 1880. 1.87 Linear feet in four and one half manuscript boxes.

Scope and Contents

This series consists of (roughly) 300 black-and-white photographic prints taken by George Bradford Brainerd (1845-1887). The photographs were taken from circa 1870 to 1880 and depict both the built environment (historic houses, churches, mills, reservoirs, and railroad stations, among others) and the natural environment (harbors, bays, creeks, and ponds, among others). The majority of photographs show locations and town on Long Island, primarily in Suffolk County, though there are some views of locations in Brooklyn. Views of towns in the series include (but are not limited to) Shelter Island, N.Y., Sag Harbor, N.Y., Port Jefferson, N.Y., Hempstead, N.Y., Southold, N.Y., Southampton, N.Y., and Huntington, N.Y.

Series 2: Elias Lewis, Jr. photographs, 1877-1879. 0.42 Linear feet in one manuscript box.

Scope and Contents

This series consists of (roughly) 120 black-and-white photographic prints taken by Elias Lewis, Jr., between 1877 and 1879. The photographs, all taken on Long Island, depict both the built environment (historic houses, churches, mills, lighthouses, and railroad stations, among others) and the natural environment (trees, beaches, bluffs, pastures, and ponds, among others). Views of towns include (but are not limited to) Montauk, N.Y., Rockville Centre, N.Y., Roslyn, N.Y., Port Jefferson, N.Y., Huntington, N.Y., and Hempstead, N.Y.

Series 3: A.R. Young photographs, circa 1870 to 1880. 0.42 Linear feet in one manuscript box.

Scope and Contents

This series consists of (roughly) 120 black-and-white photographic prints taken by A.R. Young from circa 1870 to 1880. The photographs depict views of locations in Brooklyn, Nassau County, and Suffolk County on Long Island. Locations in Brooklyn include the neighborhoods of Red Hook and Greenpoint, as well as views of Newtown Creek, Prospect Park, and Green-Wood Cemetery. Views of Long Island include areas in or near the towns of Mill Neck, Cold Spring Harbor, Roslyn, and Valley Stream, among others. Subjects include depictions of the built environment (historic houses, churches, mills, ferry terminals, cemeteries, and asylums, among others) and the natural environment (shorelines, ponds, and harbors, among others).

Series 4: Miscellaneous photographers, circa 1860 to 1920. 6.0 Linear feet in seven and one half manuscript boxes and two oversize boxes.

Scope and Contents

This series contains (roughly) 900 photographs, measuring 6 linear feet, created by various known and unknown photographers. Known photographers in this series include, but are not limited to, the following amateur and commercial photographers: Eugene L. Armbruster, Walter H. Nelson, and the commercial photography firm of George P. Hall & Son. The majority of the photographs in this series consist of views of Brooklyn, as well as photographs of people, presumably Brooklynites. Studio portraits, group portraits, and informal portraits are represented. There are also a few images of locations outside of Brooklyn including views of Queens, and locations along the Hudson River. Photographic prints, stereographs, and cabinet photographs comprise the series, as well as two boxes of black-and-white oversized photographic prints, measuring 2.83 linear feet.

This series chiefly depicts the built environment in Brooklyn and documents the period circa 1860 to 1920. There are many views of Coney Island and Prospect Park. Further, many Brooklyn neighborhoods are represented including Flatbush, Bay Ridge, Gowanus, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Hamilton, and Downtown Brooklyn, among others. Subjects include houses and homesteads (exterior and interior views), farms and farm animals, schools, bridges, prisons, ships, hotels, hospitals (exterior and interior views), businesses (exterior and interior views), and storefronts.

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