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Guide to the Pictorial Lettersheet Collection
ca. 1840-1890
  PR 144

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

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jenny Gotwals

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on December 29, 2022
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

The Pictorial Lettersheet Collection spans the period from the 1840s to the 1890s and primarily contains writing paper featuring urban views. The collection is divided into two series: Loose Lettersheets and Albums of Lettersheets. Most were printed in New York by Charles Magnus.

The majority of these lettersheets are unused, but a few contain correspondence. Most sheets measure 8.5 x 10.5 inches, the standard size of the folded page. A few are larger, and several are 5.5 x 8.5 inch or "note size" sheets. Some of the views are cut off from their sheets and the sheets discarded. Other views are annotated with specific details, such as street names, dates, or building numbers, by New-York Historical Society staff. Some of the Magnus' views have German captions, as well as both German and English text on the same sheet.

The lettersheets predominantly show birds-eye views and street scenes of New York City. Also pictured are views of the Hudson River and upstate New York towns: Albany, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester, Saratoga, Syracuse, Troy, and West Point. New Jersey area towns include Egg Harbor City, New Brunswick, and Newark. Other American cities pictured are Detroit, Michigan; Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Martin's Ferry, Ohio; Norfolk, Virginia; San Jose and San Francisco, California; Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland; Providence, Rhode Island; Bangor, Maine; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Milwaukee and Sheboygan, Wisconsin; and Washington, D.C.

Subject-oriented lettersheets often show New York City transportation scenes -- bridges, ships, and elevated railroads are well represented. A group of firemen is pictured, as are important events of the period, such as Lincoln's funeral procession through New York (1865), and the erection of the Crystal Palace. Other New York landmarks shown include the Brooklyn Bridge, the Custom House, City Hall, and the Statue of Liberty. Some of these prints are the only surviving contemporary views of a locality or building, as the urban streetscape changed so rapidly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

This collection was removed from the Graphic Arts File (PR 022) in 2002.


Missing Title

  1. Series I. Loose lettersheets
  2. Series II. Albums of lettersheets