Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

Brooklyn Historical Society logo

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

128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201

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

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.


  1. Brooklyn Museum. "Brainerd Photographs." Accessed May 10, 2011.
  2. New-York Historical Society. "Guide to the Eugene L. Armbruster Photograph Collection, 1894-1939." Accessed May 10, 2011.
  3. Queens Library. "Guide to the Eugene L. Armbruster Literary Manuscripts, 1909-1929." Accessed May 10, 2011.
  4. New York Historical Society. "Guide to the George P. Hall & Son Photograph Collection, 1876-1914." Accessed May 10, 2011.