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Guide to the Arthur D. Chapman Photograph Collection
1908-1922, 1953
  PR 15

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


@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Ashley Forrest Curran

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 03, 2011
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Chapman, A.D. (Arthur Douglas), 1882-1956
Title: Arthur D. Chapman Photograph Collection
Dates [inclusive]: 1908-1922, 1953
Abstract: Collection of sixty photographs by Arthur D. Chapman featuring compositions of pictorial interest in his everyday surroundings in New York, and particularly in Greenwich Village. Two self-portraits are also included.
Quantity: 6.0 Linear feet (4 boxes)
Location note: Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections
Call Phrase: PR 15

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Biographical Note

Arthur D. Chapman (1882-1956) was born in Bakersfield, California. An amateur photographer, he moved to New York and worked as a printer for The Globe and Commercial Advertiser and The New York American; he also listed himself in the New York City directories as a bookbinder (1913) and a photographer (1917). Chapman lived in Greenwich Village from 1911 until 1917 and, in his afternoons off from work, photographed everyday scenes around Manhattan. In his own neighborhood, he chose to show not the Bohemian image the Village then projected, but rather what the residential Village looked like. With the use of shadow, Chapman was able to give depth and character to his photographs, and those focused down a street usually featured a striking foreground. His subjects include rooftops, buildings, and street scenes with such titles as "9½ Jane Street," "Clinton Court," and "Kelly's Alley." Most of the photographs are from the 1910s and show a quaint side of the Village that has all but vanished.

During the early 1950s Chapman thought it would be of historical interest to re-shoot some of the areas in Manhattan he had photographed almost a half-century before, in order to document how time had changed those places. Unfortunately, some of the scenes he wanted to photograph were still considered too "sensitive" so soon after the Second World War, and he was unable to obtain permission from the city government.

The New-York Historical Society bought this collection from Chapman between 1950 and 1955 as he, in his retirement, found and printed from old negatives which had lain hidden in his extensive collection. In 1953, Chapman gave two self-portraits to the Society as a gift, one taken in New York in 1913 and the second taken in 1953 in New Jersey. Both show him working with his photographic equipment.

In 1921, following his World War I service in France with the Photographic Section of the Army Signal Corp Chapman moved to New Jersey, where he continued with his "hobby" until his death on June 5, 1956. He was a member of Pictorial Photographers of America, and a member of New York Typographical Union No. 6 for over fifty years.

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Scope and Content Note

The Arthur D. Chapman photograph collection includes sixty black and white photographs printed by Chapman in the early 1950s from glass plate negatives he made between 1908 to 1922. One additional image, a self-portrait, was made in 1953. The collection documents New York City and Greenwich Village in particular. Each photograph was signed and dated by Chapman. The image titles given are those he assigned and are transcribed from labels he applied to the verso of each mounting board. The collection is divided into four series: I. Self Portraits; II. Lower Manhattan Scenes; III. Greenwich Village Scenes; IV. Miscellaneous Manhattan Scenes.

Arrangement

  1. Series I: Self Portraits
  2. Series II: Lower Manhattan Scenes
  3. Series III: Greenwich Village Scenes
  4. Series IV: Miscellaneous Manhattan Scenes

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Chapman, A.D. (Arthur Douglas), 1882-1956

Document Type

  • Gelatin silver prints
  • Photographic prints
  • Self-portraits

Subject Topics

  • Bridges (built works)--New York--New York
  • Building sites
  • Cityscapes–New York–New York
  • Marinas–New York–New York
  • Parks–New York–New York
  • Skyscrapers–New York–New York

Subject Places

  • Greenwich Village (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)–Pictorial works
  • New York (N.Y.)–Social life and customs

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Administrative Information

Provenance

The New-York Historical Society purchased fifty-eight photographs from Chapman between 1950 and 1955. Two self-portraits were gifts of the photographer in 1953.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 30 photocopies per day per person. Suitability of the original for photocopying is at the discretion of the staff. Neither blueprints nor tracings can be copied under any circumstances. Duplication of large-format items will be done by the house photographer. See Print Room guidelines for details.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from

Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
Two West 77th Street
New York, NY 10024

Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282
Fax: (212) 579-8794

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Arthur D. Chapman Photograph Collection, PR 15, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

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Container List

Series I: Self Portraits

Scope and Contents note

Series I includes two self-portraits that Chapman gave to the Historical Society in 1953. They are arranged in chronological order. The first was taken in 1913 in Chapman's workshop on Bank Street in Greenwich Village. It shows Chapman as a young man working with photographic equipment. The second, taken in 1953, shows a much older Chapman standing in the swamp of a nature preserve in the Palisades, once again posed with camera equipment. Both portraits clearly show his deep interest in photography.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Self-portrait, 28 Bank Street, Greenwich Village
1913
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Self-portrait, Swamp in Greenbrook Sanctuary of The Palisades Nature Association
1953

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Series II: Lower Manhattan Scenes

Scope and Contents note

Series II contains twenty photographs taken in downtown New York from 1911 to 1922. Photographs are arranged alphabetically by title. There are many river scenes, often with a bridge in the background as in "East River, Barges, Ferryboat and the Williamsburg Bridge" (1913), "From Fulton Ferry Slip" (1916), "Under Brooklyn Bridge, From Under The Pier on the Brooklyn Side" (1916), and "Boat Basin at The Battery" (1913). "From Brooklyn Bridge" (1916) is taken from beneath the structure of the bridge; this interest in the dynamics of buildings is characteristic of many of Chapman's downtown photographs, and is also reflected in "Woolworth Building from Washington Market" (1915).

Another of Chapman's concentrations was building construction. Downtown New York was constantly changing as it is today, and Chapman showed this clearly in his photographs. There are two images titled "Construction Work, Wall and William Streets" (1922) which document busy construction sites. Chapman emphasized the shape of the cranes and heavy equipment used, and captured steam escaping from a vent in the background. "The Burling Slip Plant of the New York Steam Corporation Under Construction" (1916) is another photograph which reflects the changing face of downtown New York.

The El train is featured strongly in Chapman's work, perhaps because he rode it daily. "Greenwich Avenue From Sixth Avenue El Station" (1914), "From Chatham Square Station of Third Avenue El" (1915), and "Hanover Square, El Structure Now (1951) to be Demolished" all show the El train, usually taken from below and looking up at the structure of the track.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Boat Basin at the Battery
1913
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Broadway, Looking South from Chambers Street, Showing Singer and Park Row Buildings and Old Post Office. Construction of the Woolworth Building is Beginning
1911
Box: 1 Folder : 5 The Burling Slip Plant of the New York Steam CorporationUnder Construction
1916
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Construction Work, Wall and William Streets
1922
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Construction Work, Wall and William Streets
1922
Box: 1 Folder : 8 East River, Barges, Ferryboat and the Williamsburg Bridge
1913
Box: 1 Folder : 9 From Brooklyn Bridge
1916
Box: 1 Folder : 10 From Chatham Square Station of Third Avenue El
1915
Box: 1 Folder : 11 From Fulton Ferry Slip
1916
Box: 1 Folder : 12 From the Manhattan Bridge
1913
Box: 1 Folder : 13 From New York Anchorage of Manhattan Bridge
1915
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Front Street from Manhattan Bridge
1913
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Greenwich Avenue from Sixth Avenue El Station
1914
Box: 2 Folder : 16 Hanover Square. El Structure Now (1951) to be Demolished
1913
Box: 2 Folder : 17 Manhattan From the Brooklyn Water Front. Municipal Building in the course of construction
1911
Box: 2 Folder : 18 On Brooklyn Bridge
1914
Box: 2 Folder : 19 Under Brooklyn Bridge, from Under the Pier on the Brooklyn Side
1916
Box: 2 Folder : 20 Woolworth Building from Nassau Street, Showing Old Post Office Building
1915
Box: 2 Folder : 21 Woolworth Building, from Porch of St. John's Chapel of Trinity Parish on Lafayette Street. Chapel Being Demolished
1917
Box: 2 Folder : 22 Woolworth Building from Washington Market
1915

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Series III: Greenwich Village Scenes

Scope and Contents note

Series III holds seventeen photographs taken by Chapman from 1913 to 1916. As an inhabitant of the Village and an advocate of photographing one's everyday scenes, Chapman used his own street, Patchin Place, as a subject, and made other pictures of buildings, places of interest, and residential areas often overlooked because of their normalcy. His framing is often close and intimate. Several of the photographs in this series are of alleys where women hung washing; "Minetta Place" (1914), "Clinton Court" (1915), and four photographs entitled, "Grove Court" (1913-1915) each have washing lines as a focal point. "Milligan Place" (1913), another of his intimate courtyard scenes, was photographed in the daytime with a baby carriage in the foreground, and then again at night in "Milligan Place, Night" (1913). This contrasting is used again with "Patchin Place" (1914) and "Patchin Place, Winter" (1915); the first is of that small alley with children playing, and the second is the same alley with snow on the ground.

Another characteristic of this series is Chapman's use of shadow to create visual interest. Two good examples are "Kelly's Alley" (1915), which is a rooftop scene with dramatic use of shadow, and "9½ Jane Street" (1915). In "Washington Arch" (1915) and "Washington Square" (1915), Chapman used a less intimate view. These images are more sweeping and use Washington Arch as the focal point but include buildings in the background. "Fifth Avenue, looking South from Thirteenth Street"(1916), is also a sweeping view of a snowy and busy city street. "'Diagonals' Christopher Street, from Sixth Avenue El Station" (1915) is perhaps Chapman's best-known image, and was shown at more exhibitions than any other of his photographs. In that picture, the view along Christopher Street is framed by the handrails of the El station stairs, giving it an angular feel.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 23 Clinton Court
1915
Box: 2 Folder : 24 "Diagonals" Christopher Street, From Sixth Avenue El Station
1915
Box: 2 Folder : 25 Fifth Avenue, looking South from Thirteenth Street
1916
Box: 2 Folder : 26 Grove Court
1913
Box: 2 Folder : 27 Grove Court
1913
Box: 2 Folder : 28 Grove Court
1913
Box: 2 Folder : 29 Grove Court
1913
Box: 2 Folder : 30 Junk Shop, West Fourth Street
1915
Box: 3 Folder : 31 Kelly's Alley
1915
Box: 3 Folder : 32 Milligan Place
1913
Box: 3 Folder : 33 Milligan Place, Night
1914
Box: 3 Folder : 34 Minetta Place
1915
Box: 3 Folder : 35 9 ½ Jane Street
1915
Box: 3 Folder : 36 Patchin Place
1915
Box: 3 Folder : 37 Patchin Place, Winter
1915
Box: 3 Folder : 38 Washington Arch
1915
Box: 3 Folder : 39 Washington Square
1913

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Series IV: Miscellaneous Manhattan Scenes

Scope and Contents note

Series IV consists of twenty-one photographs. Many images feature the water, including "Boat Basin, Harlem Ship Canal" (1913) and "Harlem River, From the Washington Bridge at One Hundred and Eighty First Street, looking South" (1909). Chapman also took two photographs of Admiral Peary's ship, "The Roosevelt", in 1908, one at close range with a policeman in the foreground looking at her. A second photograph shows a scene of excitement as "The Roosevelt" embarks for the North Pole; the ship is shown alongside others that were perhaps giving her a send-off.

Madison Square is the focus of several photographs. Three entitled "Madison Square" show the Square in summer and again in winter with snow on the ground; two were taken in 1913 and the third in 1912. "Madison Square from Twenty Sixth Street" (1910) again shows the Square in winter with snow-covered trees creating a sharp contrast to the angular Flatiron building in the background. "Madison Square, Looking Out From Under the Colonnade of Madison Square Garden" (1913) is another of Chapman's photographs of Madison Square, taken from an interesting angle below a colonnade which overhangs and frames the square with the statue of Stanford White in the center. "Metropolitan Tower, Looking East Across Madison Square. The "Parkhurst" Church in the Background" (1914) employs both shadow and framing. The photograph has two tall buildings that are completely in shade. Between them is the Metropolitan Tower bathed in sunlight, with snow piled up on the sides of the street, and people hurrying past.

In "From Recreation Pier, 24th Street and East River" (1912) and "From a West Shore Railroad Ferryboat" (1916), Chapman's framing is exquisite. The first has a ship viewed through a doorway, a simple but effective composition. The second is of the cityscape, framed by men lounging casually. In "Boat Basin, Spuyten Duyvil" (1913), Chapman uses the same framing technique, but employing the branches of a tree.

Chapman's interest in construction is again seen in two 1916 photographs, "The 'Derrick' Close-up, Excavation on Madison Avenue," and "'The Derrick' Going Down, Excavation on Madison Avenue." Both show heavy equipment, men working and plenty of steam, with a particular focus on the equipment. "Excavation, 7th Avenue and 24th Street" (1912) is another photograph which shows construction, and the changing face of the city.

Dramatic use of shadow is once again evident in this series in "Madison Avenue, Looking North From 38th Street" (1916). Chapman focuses on a row of brownstone houses with a large building rising behind; one side of the street is in complete shade, but the brownstones and building behind are in bright sunlight.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 40 Admiral Peary's Ship, "The Roosevelt", at East 24th Street Pier
1908
Box: 3 Folder : 41 Admiral Peary's Ship, "The Roosevelt", Starting for the North Pole from East 24th Street Pier
1908
Box: 3 Folder : 42 Blackwell's Island (Now Queensboro) Bridge, Under Construction
1908
Box: 3 Folder : 43 Boat Basin, Harlem Ship Canal
1913
Box: 3 Folder : 44 Boat Basin, Spuyten Duyvil
1913
Box: 3 Folder : 45 Campaign Banner Strung across Fifth Avenue at Madison Square During the Taft-Bryan Presidential Contest
1908
Box: 4 Folder : 46 The "Derrick" Close-Up, Excavation on Madison Avenue
1916
Box: 4 Folder : 47 "The Derrick" Going Down. Excavation on Madison Avenue
1916
Box: 4 Folder : 48 Excavation, 7th Avenue and 24th Street
1912
Box: 4 Folder : 49 From Recreation Pier, 24th Street and East River
1912
Box: 4 Folder : 50 From a West Shore Railroad Ferryboat
1916
Box: 4 Folder : 51 The Garden Theatre, Night, from the Corner of Madison Avenue and Twenty-seventh Street
1908
Box: 4 Folder : 52 Harlem River, from the Washington Bridge at One Hundred and Eighty-First Street, Looking South
1909
Box: 4 Folder : 53 Madison Avenue, Looking North From 38th Street
1916
Box: 4 Folder : 54 Madison Square
1912
Box: 4 Folder : 55 Madison Square
1913
Box: 4 Folder : 56 Madison Square
1913
Box: 4 Folder : 57 Madison Square from Twenty Sixth Street
1910
Box: 4 Folder : 58 Madison Square, Looking Out from Under the Colonnade of Madison Square Garden
1913
Box: 4 Folder : 59 Metropolitan Tower, Looking East across Madison Square. The "Parkhurst" Church in the Background
1914
Box: 4 Folder : 60 Pier on East River
1912

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