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Guide to the New-York Historical Society Collection of Albums
(Album File)
circa 1800-circa 1980 (bulk 1860-1920)
 PR 2

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

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Janet Murray, with later additions by others

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on March 14, 2023
The finding aid is written in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Contents

Portrait albums make up the bulk of the Album Collection (formerly referred to as the Album File). These include family albums, class albums, and albums depicting celebrities and government officials. Many family albums are included, from early carte-de-visite albums dating to the 1860s, to series of albums depicting the Canoune family from 1892-1929, and the Robert Ludlow Fowler family from 1917 to 1951. Another significant series is the group of albums that had belonged to the Countess Magri, the widow of Tom Thumb, which feature many well-known personalities of the 19th century. Some albums come from well-known people, including the artists J.Q.A. Ward and Joseph Keppler, and the singer Emma Thursby. Other albums document firemen, Civil War regiments and classes of various colleges, including Amherst, Rutgers Institute, Packard Business College and others. Some family albums have clear ethnic associations, such as images made in both Ireland and America, or in Germany and America, and some albums include images of African Americans

Albums documenting geographic locations make up the next largest group of albums. Many depict New York City scenes, including interiors and exteriors of residences, churches, businesses, construction projects, including Grand Central Station, the water system and the George Washington Bridge, and such civic celebrations as the subway opening in Manhattan and the Columbian Quadricentennial Celebration. The file also includes an early album of photographs of San Francisco made in 1856 by George Fardon. Two volumes of early Kodak snapshots record an 1891-1892 tour of western states. Other albums include commercial images of Europe and Cuba that were collected by travelers.

Some albums concentrate on specific subjects. Albums relating to the Civil War include an album by George Barnard depicting Sherman's campaign in the south, a book of 120 cartes-de-visite caricature photographs from the 1860s, and two volumes showing New York monuments at the Gettysburg battlefield. The Spanish American War, and World War I are also each represented by several albums. Another album depicts the harbor defenses in New York during World War II. Among less well-known military actions that are documented in the Album file are the activities of the 1st New York Cavalry during the punitive expedition against Pancho Villa in 1916 and an expedition by the American Asiatic Fleet in Korea in 1871. Albums depicting ships, hunting, fishing and camping, costume balls, picnics, sports such as boxing and fencing, and one depicting the career of Richard I of the Crag, a bull terrier show-dog, are other examples of subjects found in the Album File.

A large number of prominent and not-so-well-known photographers, printmakers and publishers are represented in the Album Collection. Prominent portrait photographers include Mathew Brady, Falk, Sarony, Rockwood, and Man Ray. George P. Hall, Wurts, and Brown Bros. photographed scenes in New York City, and George Fardon, I.W. Taber, and William Henry Jackson photographed in the West. In addition to Civil War images by Brady, there is an album of photographs by George N. Barnard. Talented amateurs include Howard Masten Canoune, Ernest L. Scott (who was a member of the Camera Club of New York), and the artist Edward Willard Deming. The work of etchers and engravers are represented in full length works, including images of World War I by Bernhardt Wall and images of animals by Samuel Howitt.

Most of the volumes in the Album Collection are manufactured albums made specifically to contain photographs: carte-de-visite albums, albums with brittle, black kraft paper pages from the late 19th and early 20th century, and three-hole binders with plastic-covered pages. More expensive albums include tooled leather or velvet covers, and ornate clasps and embellishments. The compilers of some albums were creative in their presentation, embellishing the pages with drawings, poetry and other writing. The photographs in the album are primarily albumen and silver gelatin prints. The albums also include tintypes, cyanotypes, platinum prints, snapshots, clippings, engravings and etchings, drawings, postcards, pamphlets, greeting cards, and other materials.


Albums are filed sequentially by numbers assigned, initially during the creation of the database that provided access to key information about the albums, and subsequently as albums were accessioned into the collection. Every effort was made to bring together albums related by provenance or in some cases categories or subjects. However, the main shelf arrangement is by size so it was not always possible to place related albums together. Reference is made in the note field of the database to albums related by provenance.