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Guide to the Eugene L. Armbruster Photograph Collection
1894-1939
  PR 81

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jenny Gotwals

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on February 04, 2016
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

The Eugene L. Armbruster Photograph Collection includes approximately 5,000 black and white gelatin silver prints, approximately 3,500 acetate film negatives; approximately 1,400 nitrate film negatives; four 4 x 5" glass negatives; 235 5 x 7" glass negatives; 230 6.5 x 8.5" glass negatives; and 48 8 x 10" glass negatives.

The collection spans the period from 1894-1939 and contains photographic views of New York State, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New England, and Canada. Most of the photographs show New York City, especially Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. These images document many structures that no longer exist, and in some cases may be the only extant photographic record. The collection is arranged into two series based on format: Prints and Negatives. The prints and negatives have not been matched to each other, although there are most likely many corresponding positives and negatives in the collection. Within each series, subseries are arranged by size or material, and thereunder alphabetically by state, and then by. Within New York State, the photos of New York City and Long Island are divided into county and then by neighborhood.

Series I. Prints is divided into the following subseries: Prints: 3.5 x 4.5" (and smaller); Prints: 5 x 7"; and Mounted Prints. Most prints are annotated in some manner on the verso. Some prints have Armbruster's map on the verso, showing the exact location of the building/house. Often he has included historical information on the house or building and in some cases he has added notes such as "still standing 1929."

The majority of photographs were taken after Armbruster's retirement in 1920. Earlier photographs are generally of New York City or nearby counties in New Jersey. With time on his hands, Armbruster traveled out of New York City, and those trips are well documented here. In July, 1925, for example, Armbruster traveled throughout New York State, New England, and Canada. It is notable that these photographs reflect only historic buildings and sites, not family or leisure shots.

Many of the Brooklyn and Queens photos (and all of the 5 x 7" prints) date from 1922. Most of the subjects no longer exist, mainly due to a building boom in the boroughs in the late 1920s. In some cases Armbruster seems to have been aware of demolition plans, and photographed houses for just that reason. The views of Brooklyn are also notable for their almost exclusive focus on historical sites and subjects. Other photographs of the borough from a similar time period often show modern improvements, such as elevated rail tracks, automobiles, industry and skyscrapers. Armbruster organized his Brooklyn photos in groups according to the six original towns in the county: Brooklyn, Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend and New Utrecht.

Notable Brooklyn structures pictured include Holland School, Lefferts Farm, and Packer Collegiate Institute. Other commercial buildings shown are grocery stores, engine houses, gymnasiums, banks, hotels, cigar stores, a tollhouse on Flatbush Avenue, florists, and a blacksmith and wheelwright shop.

Brooklyn residences include the homes of the following notable Brooklyn residents: Treadwell Abrams, Wynant Bennett, Fenwick Bergen, Jeremiah Bergen, John L. Bergen; Horace B. Claflin, Samuel Coland, Charles Ekoch, Joseph Fleming, John Franklin, Joseph Golden, Joseph Herrings, John F. James, Horatio King, Johannes Lott, Judge Ganet L. Martense, Henry Evelyn Pierrepont (1808-1888), W. A. Putnam, Derick Remsen, Johannes Remsen, James S. Rockwell, John J. Ryder, John F. Ryerson, John Schenk, Moses Snydaw, David D. Stillwell, Colonel David M. Stone (1817-1895), Charles Strohm, Spencer Trask, Rutgert Joosten Van Brunt, John H. Van Cleef, John L. Van Pelt, John J. Vanderbilt (d. 1842), Daniel D. Whitney, Lionel Wilbur, and Garrett Williams.

Churches in Brooklyn shown include: Central Presbyterian Church, Church of the New Jerusalem, Emanuel Protestant Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church, First Unitarian Church of Our Savior, Grace Church, Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, New Utrecht Reformed Dutch Church, Plymouth Church, Reform Church on the Heights, St. John's Lutheran Church, St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, and St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Series II. Negatives is arranged in five subseries: Acetate Film Negatives: 4 x 5"; Nitrate Film Negatives: 5 x 7"; Glass Plate Negatives: 5 x 7" (and smaller); Glass Plate Negatives: 6.5 x 8.5"; and Glass Plate Negatives: 8 x 10".

Negatives are arranged by geographic location, if known, as described above. Subject terms found in the Thesaurus for Graphic Material (Library of Congress: 1995) have been utilized to further organize negatives beyond geographical divisions. Photograph topics fall into the following categories: architectural elements, automobiles, barns, boats, buildings, churches, dams, farmhouses, interiors, landscapes, people, row houses, streets, and windmills.

Featured buildings in Subseries IV: Glass Plate Negatives: 6.5 x 8.5," include: the Abbey Pub, the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Waterworks, the Bushwick Hospital, Federal Courts Building, Fort Greene Tobacco Works, Mansion House, the Packer Collegiate Institute, and Underhill's Colonnade Buildings (on edge of Brooklyn Heights). Other commercial buildings shown are hotels, a horse-shoeing shop, ferry terminals, flour mills, printing offices, public school, race courses, a saw manufacturer, and several theaters. Among the churches shown are: Bushwick Church, First Reformed Church, Grace Church, New Utrecht Church, Old Assumption Church, Old St. Ann's Protestant Episcopal Church, Plymouth Church, St. James Roman Catholic Church, and St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

Houses shown in Subseries IV include those of: Thomas Bennett; Dewitt Clinton; Seth Low, mayor of Brooklyn and New York City; the Schermerhorn family; the Van Brunt family; and Mayor (of Williamsburgh) William Wall. Other views of interest are: a circular, dated October 1, 1869, announcing the opening of Wechsler and Abraham Clothing Store; the City of Williamsburgh Seal; and an October 3, 1860 Brooklyn survey map.

Arrangement

Within each series, materials are divided by format and by size.

  1. Series I: Prints
  2. Series II: Negatives