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Guide to the William E. Light Collection of New York City Photographs
 PR 37

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

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Rebecca Dean

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on December 13, 2011
Description is in English.

Biographical Note

When William E. Light donated this collection, he included a note indicating that he received these photographs from his grandmother, Emily Underhill. Emily Underhill was born in 1845 to William Underhill and Martha Maria Barker and married Dewit C. Light in New York in 1869. According to census data, by the 1880s, she was living with her husband and children in South Evanston, IL. Her geographical location during the 1880s strongly suggests that another member of the Underhill family took these photographs. Information about her immediate relatives is difficult to trace, but there were a large number of Underhills living in New York at this time. Of particular interest as possible photographers are two different William Underhills (we know from tracing Emily Underhill's parents and grandparents that William was a recurring family name). A William H. Underhill lived on West 27th Street and worked as a carman or driver in the 1880s; this profession would explain the emphasis on carriages and coaches in this collection. A William K. Underhill worked as a milliner at 5 Union Square West; this location would explain the many photographs of Union Square, and his profession would explain the careful attention the photographer pays to clothing in these photographs. Although we have no way of definitively identifying the photographer, one possibility is that a relative of Emily Underhill (possibly one of the William Underhills mentioned above) took these photographs.