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© 2011 New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Lighthouse Photograph and Print Collection
 PR 38

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

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Holly Hinman and Jennifer Lewis

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

Scope and Content Note

The Lighthouse Photograph and Print Collection spans the period from about 1860 through 1938 and consists predominantly of photographs depicting American lighthouses, beacons, keepers' dwellings, lighthouse equipment, light vessels, and related subjects. The collection is arranged in five series: Cyanotype Album, Lighthouses, Floating Aids to Navigation, Light Station Equipment, and Lithograph Album by Julius Bien. Throughout this finding aid, names of lights have been standardized to those currently used by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. National Park Service. Alternate or former names which are in popular usage are in parentheses after official names; names which could not be confirmed have been written in brackets.

The collection consists primarily of photographs of lighthouses and stations along the eastern coast of the United States, but lighthouses in California, Puerto Rico and England are also included. Light vessels, tenders (ships responsible for tending to buoys), and lighthouse equipment, including lights, lenses, audible signals, and engines are also included. Miscellaneous materials include views of exhibition displays, two pamphlets, a letter, and a few mounted clippings. The collection includes an album of cyanotype views of lighthouses and associated structures (ca. 1884-1900) and an album of lithographs by Julius Bien (ca. 1860).

Materials in this collection originate from a variety of photographers and publishers, and as a result, photographic styles vary. The collection includes both detailed technical work and commercially-produced scenic views. For the majority of materials in this collection, the photographer is unknown. Professional commissions include photography by Underhill, Alexander & Tolman, and the Fairchild Airviews Company, all of New York. Other large-scale surveys may have commissioned lesser known professional photographers or assigned staff photographers to systematically document U.S. Lighthouses. Photographer's names occasionally appear hand-written on the verso; names have been given in parentheses in the folder listing when available. There are a few survey series, including those of West Quoddy Head Light Station in Maine and Devil's Light Station in Wisconsin, which show stylistic consistency; they are all 8 x 10 inch contact prints with similar numeration and descriptive information set on the negatives and printed directly into the photographs. These may have been done by the same person, but it is more likely that they reflect Lighthouse Service standards for photographic documentation.


  1. Series I: Cyanotype Album
  2. Series II: Lighthouses
  3. Series III: Floating Aids to Navigation
  4. Series IV: Light Station Equipment
  5. Series V: Lithograph Album by Julius Bien