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Guide to the Jessie Tarbox Beals Photographs
(Bulk 1904-1920)
  PR 4

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 September 05, 2019
Description is in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Beals, Jessie Tarbox
Title: Jessie Tarbox Beals photographs
Dates [inclusive]: [1900-1940] (Bulk 1904-1920)
Abstract: Jessie Tarbox Beals, who was among the first female photojournalists, lived in New York City for many years and documented the Greenwich Village bohemian scene, city scenes, and backyard gardens. The collection spans the period from 1900-1940 and contains 418 black and white photographs, primarily of New York City and its inhabitants. Sizable portions of the collection show the city of Boston between 1902 and 1910 and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Mo. in 1904. In addition, the collection includes an inscribed copy of Beals's book of poetry Songs of a Wanderer and three other poems by her.

The Jessie Tarbox Beals photograph collection is digitized and available in the  Shelby White and Leon Levy Digital Library.
Quantity: 2.3 Linear feet (6 boxes)
Call Phrase: PR 4

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Biographical Note

All entries below refer to Jessie Tarbox Beals (JTB) unless otherwise specified. The studio addresses and dates in the following chronology were established by consulting New York City directories, phone books, and other sources. In some cases, Beals both lived and worked in her studios.

1870 Dec. 23 Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
1887 Earns teaching certificate and moves to Williamsburg, Massachusetts to teach school
1888 Wins camera in magazine contest; begins taking photographs of students and local residents
1893 Moves with her older brother to Greenfield, MA
1897 Marries Alfred Tennyson Beals (ATB)
1899 Takes her first photograph for a newspaper (published uncredited)
1900 JTB & ATB leave Greenfield and become itinerant photographers throughout New England
1900 Sep Several photos are published in two Vermont papers; the credit line gives her the distinction of being the first published woman photojournalist
1900-1901 JTB & ATB travel to Florida and other southern states, taking and selling photographs
1901 ATB takes a job in Buffalo, NY; JTB photographs groups of workers, students, families
1902 JTB hired as a staff photographer for the Buffalo Inquirer and   Courier
1904 JTB & ATB move to St. Louis to photograph the Louisiana Purchase Exposition
1905 Mar Travels to Texas to photograph President Roosevelt's Rough Rider's Reunion
1905 May JTB & ATB move to New York City and rent the old Stanley Studio at 159 Sixth Avenue, between 11th and 12th Streets
1905Dec Photographs series of artists for American Art News
1906 Included in "Exhibition of Photographs - The Work of Women Photographers" held at the Camera Club of Hartford, in Connecticut
1907 JTB & ATB marital relations become difficult; JTB travels extensively in the next several years
1907-1908 JTB & ATB rent a studio at 138 West 42nd Street
1908-1912 JTB & ATB rent a studio at 120 East 23rd Street
1910-1912 Photographs New York City slum children, mainly for the Community Service Society
1911 Contributes photograph illustrations to Kate Sanborn's Hunting Cigar Store Indians in a Taxi Cab
1911 Jun 8 Nanette Tarbox Beals is born; JTB works until her sixth month of pregnancy
1912 JTB & ATB incorporate their business and hire assistants
1912-1918 JTB & ATB rent a large studio at 71 West 23rd Street
1915 Contributes photographs to Louise Sheldon's Beautiful Gardens in America
1917 Mar Leaves Alfred and moves to Greenwich Village apartment with a female friend
1917 Apr Opens the Village Art Gallery in Sheridan Square and continues to work out of the 23rd Street studio
1917 Aug Relinquishes management of Village Art Gallery due to Nanette's ill health
1918-1920 Rents 292 Fifth Avenue, her first studio without ATB
1920 Uses her residence, 17 West 47th St., as a studio for a period of time
1920-1926 Rents 333 Fourth Avenue, a salon-studio
1921 Included in "Thirteenth Annual International Exhibition of Photography," organized by the Toronto Camera Club, Toronto, Canada
1922 Included in "Third National Salon of Pictorial Photography," organized by the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY
1924 ATB is granted an official divorce
1924 Contributes photographs to the updated edition of Beautiful Gardens in America
1926 Illustrates Edna Plimpton's Your Workshop, a children's book
1926 Rents a duplex apartment and studio at 13 East 57th Street
1927 Begins to photograph Greenwich Village gardens
1927 By the winter of 1927, rents 715 Lexington Avenue
1928 Publishes Songs of A Wanderer, a book of her own poetry, some illustrated with photographs
1928 Moves to Santa Barbara, CA in the late summer, accompanied by Nanette, where she sets up shop at 111 de la Guerra Studios
1929 Moves to Hollywood in the late summer, rents a studio at 6553 Sunset Boulevard; returns to New York around the end of the year
1930 Travels to Chicago, stays at the Hotel Allerton, later works out of 216 East Ontario Street
1934 Returns to New York City
1936-1942 Lives and works at 114 West 11th Street
1942 May 30 Dies in New York City

Jessie Richmond Tarbox Beals was born on December 23, 1870 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were Marie Antoinette Bassett and John Tarbox, an inventor and sewing machine manufacturer. At the age of 17, Beals received a teaching certificate and set out to begin her new career. Her first job was teaching seven pupils in a one-room schoolhouse for $7 a week, far from home in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, where her older brother lived. Beals won her first camera in 1888 after becoming the first reader to sell a year's subscription to Youth Companion magazine. Her enterprising spirit continued to serve her well with subsequent cameras.

The free camera used a 2.5 x 4 inch plate and did not have a manual focus, much like a glorified camera obscura. Beals used it to take photos of her pupils and friends. She soon invested $12 and bought a Kodak camera, with which she established a photo studio on the front lawn of her home. Local residents came to have their portraits taken, or to ask for pictures of their houses and other possessions. Beals was aided in her commercial endeavors by groups of Smith College students, who wanted pictures to be made of their parties and picnics. By the end of two summers she was making more money taking photographs than teaching school.

In 1893 Beals moved with her brother to Greenfield, a larger town where she participated in dances, outings, and lectures, experimented with new camera techniques, and met her future husband, Alfred Tennyson Beals, a machinist. They were married in 1897. Beals continued to teach school and cared for her elderly and ailing mother, who had come from Canada to live with her children. In 1899 one of Beals's photos was used (although unattributed) as an accompaniment to a news story in the Boston Post. Seeing the opportunity to make a living by selling photographs, Jessie and Alfred Beals became itinerant photographers, traveling to cities where large fairs or other gatherings were taking place. Jessie took the photos and managed publicity while Alfred oversaw the developing and printing. In September 1900, Jessie Tarbox Beals published photographs in Vermont's  Windham County Reformer and the  Phoenix. Her credit line in the Windham paper establishes her as the first published woman photojournalist.

Despite its excitement value, an itinerant lifestyle could not provide much stability. In 1901, Alfred took a job in Buffalo, New York, hoping to settle down. Jessie continued to take photos, and sold them to whoever would buy them. Her persistence paid off; in the spring of 1902, Jessie was hired as a staff photographer for the Buffalo Inquirer and  Courier. She started using an 8 x 10 format camera, which was well-suited to the papers' printing needs, but larger and heavier (approx. 50 pounds) for Beals to carry on assignment. Nevertheless, Beals enjoyed her job and the running around (hustling, as she later put it) it required. She was a tireless employee, capturing many important local and larger news stories for the two papers, including the visit of British yachtsman Sir Thomas Lipton to nearby Niagara Falls. Often she managed to get an exclusive on events through persistence and pluck; her photos of the sensational Burdick murder trial were printed in the New York City papers. While trying to get the best shot, Beals did not ignore more artistic photographic issues, such as lighting, composition, and the right moment to snap action. This artistic sensibility is evident throughout her career.

In 1904, the Buffalo Inquirer and  Courier sent Beals to St. Louis to photograph the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Alfred went along, and became the darkroom technician once again, sharing a darkroom with New York photographer Mattie Hewitt. The speed with which he developed and printed photos became integral to Beals' success as a photographer at the Exposition. After an initially difficult time getting accredited, Beals persisted and was the first woman awarded credentials to photograph the Exposition for national publications such as  Leslie's Weekly,  New York Herald and  New York Tribune, in addition to the Buffalo papers and the local St. Louis papers. She photographed everything from the fair's officials to the groups of primitive people on display (such as Patagonians), the different exhibition buildings, and military parades. She created a detailed visual record of the ground-breaking international airshow in the fall of 1904, barely a year after the Wright Brothers' first flight. She would do anything, from standing on a 20-foot ladder to going up in a hot-air balloon, in order to achieve an interesting perspective. Beals was awarded a gold medal by the Exposition for her aerial photography. The Exposition's official publicity department also bought and used many of her photos. She explained her success in an article for a St. Louis magazine, "[I]f one is the possessor of health and strength, a good news instinct that will tell what picture the editor will want, a fair photographic outfit, and the ability to hustle, which is the most necessary qualification, one can be a news photographer." (quoted in Alland, 53.)

Her "ability to hustle" in St. Louis propelled Jessie Tarbox Beals forward in her career. She was granted permission to accompany President Theodore Roosevelt on the Rough Rider's Reunion in Texas in March 1905. In May of that year Beals decided to settle in New York City. It was her intention to try her hand at portrait photography, but the prevailing style in town was too formal for her taste. Instead, she continued to work for publications, often taking portraits of artists and writers. Beals' photos were published in and eventually commissioned by American Art News,  The Craftsman,  The American Magazine, and  The Designer. She and Alfred rented a studio at 159 Sixth Avenue, the first of many they would share. Beals befriended writer Harriet Livermore Rice, and took the celebrity portraits Rice sold to the papers. Beals, always interested in technical innovation, began to use flash photography to get indoor shots; the technique's rareness added novelty to her portraits.

Photography was sometimes lucrative but did not guarantee a steady income. During her career, Beals became adept at finding new ways to market her work, or finding new subjects to take on. Shortly after her arrival in New York, Beals began to travel to areas outside of the city to take photos of military trainees, rifle meets, and other events. Her "ability to hustle" and keen news instinct, honed earlier in Buffalo, paid off, as did the fact that she was a woman. Her close calls with danger at a 1906 auto race made news and helped sell her resulting pictures. Eventually the Beals family team had to hire darkroom assistants in order to keep up with all the print orders. Beals did not abandon her portraiture or more artistic photographs for pure news stories; she made a good bit of money by taking portraits of children in her studio, and by selling artistic and amusingly titled photos of cats.

In 1906 an assortment of Beals' work was featured in a show of "Women Photographers" at the Camera Club of Hartford. Her exhibited portraits (including those of Albert Herter and Mark Twain) were especially praised by the reviewers. In the next several years she continued to travel, both for work and to visit friends, and to gain recognition; she went to Boston and other parts of New England, as well as to Chicago, St. Louis, and Buffalo. During this time her marriage with Alfred became strained, made more difficult by her desire for a child and her heightened interest in Greenwich Village life (Alfred did not like bohemians as much as Jessie did). In 1911, at the age of 40, Beals gave birth to a daughter, Nanette Tarbox Beals, fathered by another man. Beals doted on her daughter, and photographed her often. At the same time, Beals devoted more of her time to taking photos of street children in downtown Manhattan. Many of these pictures were taken for the Community Service Society of New York, which used the photos in its campaigns to improve the impoverished and unhealthy conditions of the children's lives. Nanette Beals was often sick herself, and it was difficult for Beals to provide for her daughter's health and continue to work hard at her own career. For extra income, she contributed photos (though uncredited) to books such as Kate Sanborn's Hunting Cigar Store Indians in a Taxi Cab (1911).

Beals continued to work and live with her husband. In 1912, they moved to a larger studio and hired assistants in order to give each other more space to work separately. Alfred began taking photos himself once he was not needed to develop all of Beals' photos. The arrangement did not last long however. In March 1917, Beals left her husband, and moved in with a friend in Greenwich Village. She rented a small studio at 6 ½ Sheridan Square, which she named the Village Art Gallery, and where she displayed her photos, others' artwork, and served tea to friends and customers.

Beals lived and worked in Greenwich Village at the height of its turn-of-the-century bohemian incarnation. Many of the people she encountered, befriended, and photographed were leading literary and artistic figures of the time, or went on to become famous. She documented the haunts and studios of Greenwich Village, as well as local bohemian celebrities, such as bohemian restaurateur Grace Godwin, Tiny Tim, who sold candies he wrapped in pieces of paper, and Romany Marie, a self-made "Gypsy" from the Lower East Side. Beals turned many of her Village scenes into postcards, on which she wrote and printed rhymes about the places or people illustrated. A 1918 guidebook, The Little Book of Greenwich Village, described Beals as "The official photographer for Greenwich Village. Her post cards of New York and Boston on sale at the shops. But it is in the special field of home portraiture that Miss Bealls [sic] has won her highest recognition." (p. 27) As Greenwich Village became a destination for tourists interested in seeking out bohemian lifestyles, Beals' postcards capitalized on the area's popularity. Her photos of bohemians and their haunts can also be seen in Ralph I. Bartholomew's 1920 history and guidebook,  Greenwich Village.

In 1918 Beals rented a new studio at 292 Fifth Avenue, opposite Alfred Stieglitz's picture gallery. Not two years later she moved again, to 333 Fourth Avenue, to a larger studio but farther away from her Greenwich Village clientele. Beals continued to take portraits, news photos, and street scenes. Unlike other photographers, she was not interested in specialization, preferring to lend her hand to whatever interested her. Beals later claimed that this approach was actually less lucrative, and suggested that women interested in photography should specialize in one topic in order to make money. It was hard for Beals to support her daughter on her own income, and to take care of her while working. To ease the strain, Nanette was sent to boarding school, though it required Beals to work even harder to cover the expense.

Jessie Tarbox Beals turned 50 in 1920, and the decade began with career accolades worthy of a woman who had worked hard at her craft for the previous twenty years. Several of her photos were exhibited in 1921 and 1922 in shows in Toronto and Buffalo. Beals began to focus some of her energy on poetry, for which she had found a gift when making the Greenwich Village postcards. After a few of her poems were published, she joined the League of American Pen Women, an organization promoting women writers. In 1921, enthusiastic about belonging to such a prestigious organization, Beals offered to take the other members' portraits at no charge. This kind offer did not aid her declining financial situation, but added images to her growing print library. She was constantly re-printing photographs for new attempts at publication, sometimes mounting smaller prints onto cardstock to attract buyers. Women photographers were becoming more common each year, making Beals a less unique or automatic choice for commissions. Beals herself may have contributed to the competition with her talks at clubs and on the radio, which often dispensed advice to aspiring women photographers. While a popular figure on the lecture circuit, Beals found herself growing older and not able to "hustle" for pictures as she had done in her youth.

Nevertheless, in 1926 and 1927 Beals rented a luxury two-story apartment and studio on East 57th Street where she entertained in style. The number of portraits she was taking, and thus her income, continued to decline, perhaps due to increased competition. However, she continued to engage in a variety of projects to support herself, including taking photos to illustrate a popular children's book, Your Workshop by Edna Plimpton (1926). Eventually Beals decided to focus on garden photography, a field in which she had been active for several years, although had not taken seriously as its excitement value was less than that of news events and bohemian goings-on. In her later years, less excitement proved a good thing and provided steady work. She had contributed twenty-nine photos to  Beautiful Gardens in America, a 1915 book by Louise Sheldon, and several more to the enlarged 1924 edition. In 1927 Beals started photographing small gardens in Greenwich Village, then began to get requests from magazines and residents for photos of large estates on Long Island and in Westchester County. Her garden photos from this time period were published in  Town and Country,  Harper's Bazaar,  Ladies' Home Journal, and other magazines. Beals did not consider the focus on a more staid subject to be a tragedy; her notes for a lecture given in the late 1920s read, "My advice to you is 'Be different.' Do things in an original way -- arrange your groups artistically, not in a stereotypical manner -- take your houses from an interesting angleâ?¦." Even garden photography involved enough challenges to satisfy the indomitable Jessie Tarbox Beals.

In 1928, Beals self-published a volume of her poetry, Songs of A Wanderer, illustrated with her own photographs. The photographs included in the book were all accompanied by poems inspired by the scenes or people pictured. Most of the print run was damaged in a printer's fire; only a few copies survived. That same year, her economic prospects in New York declining, Beals decided to move to California. There she imagined a more stable income and prosperous lifestyle photographing wealthy people and their gardens, as many people she knew from earlier years in Greenwich Village had moved to artist colonies in southern California, or were working in Hollywood. In preparation for her move, she sold all but her favorite glass plate negatives to a manufacturer of picture frames. Their emulsion was stripped off, the negatives lost forever, and the glass was used in the new frames. Around this time Beals finally stopped using glass plates and switched to film, years after most of her contemporaries. The new film negatives were more easily portable and thus more appropriate to her lifestyle. Beals took the teenage Nanette, who had been living apart from her mother for most of her childhood, and left for California, stopping in Chicago along the way to take portraits and to sell older prints to new customers.

In California, Beals lived and worked first in Santa Barbara, and then in Hollywood, which she found more engaging. Again, her photos of estates and gardens were popular with magazine publishers. Unfortunately, the stock market crash of 1929 cost Beals most of her business. She spent the next few years traveling with her daughter between New York and Chicago in search of steady work. In 1934 both mother and daughter settled in New York, where Nanette briefly held a job working as the assistant to photographer Mattie Hewitt. Beals continued to take her own pictures, and Nanette became her assistant, carrying the camera and equipment. They lived on 11th Street in Greenwich Village, around the corner from Beals' first studio in New York.

Beals's garden photography of this time period was regularly published and continued to win awards, including several from the New York Herald Tribune in 1936, but making a living through photography was difficult during the Depression. Despite the infirmity of old age and several serious illnesses, Beals continued to photograph until right before her death, though medical expenses and frequent hospitalizations demanded all of her savings. Jessie Tarbox Beals died on May 30, 1942, in a charity ward at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.


Alland, Alexander. Jessie Tarbox Beals: First Woman News Photographer. (New York: Camera/Graphic Press, Ltd., 1978)

Arens, Egmont.  The Little Book of Greenwich Village. (New York: Egmont Arens, 1918)

 Greenwich Village Spectator, Vol. 1 No. 1 (April 1917) to Vol. 2, No. 2 (May 1918)

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Scope and Content Note

The Jessie Tarbox Beals Photograph Collection spans the period from 1900-1940 and contains 418 black and white photographs, primarily of New York City and its inhabitants. Sizable portions of the collection show the city of Boston between 1902 and 1910 and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Mo. in 1904. In addition, the collection includes an inscribed copy of Beals's book of poetry Songs of a Wanderer and three other poems by her. The photographs in the collection are divided into three series: Portraits, Places, and Subjects. These include postcards, as well as larger prints, of bohemian Greenwich Village between 1905 and 1920. The collection also includes one vintage nitrate negative and one of Beals's self-designed business cards. Almost half the collection consists of portraits. A searchable, item-level database is available in the repository. In addition, photocopies of prints in Series I and parts of Series II are available for reference in the repository.

Series I. Portraits dates from 1900 to approximately 1940. Portrait photographs are filed alphabetically by sitter. Prints of any one sitter with three or more portraits (even if the same image) are filed together. The collection is rich in self-portraits and portraits taken of Beals by others. Beals is shown "on assignment," climbing a 20 foot ladder to get a higher angle at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and striding across city streets armed with her camera and tripod. She photographed herself in her studio, and posed often next to her camera.

Series II. Places spans the years from 1902 to 1940 and includes photos of places visited by Beals, as well as her home in New York City. Photos are arranged by state, and thereunder by city or subject. Early photos are of trips to Arkansas and Texas; few of these are captioned. Twenty-nine photos date from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. The majority of photos are of Boston, Massachusetts.

Series III. Subjects is comprised of garden and fashion photography. The 25 fashion photos seem to date from Beals' early years in New York, when she was selling photographs to many magazines. The photos are often noted with the name of a store (Gimbels, for example) on the verso. The same models often appear in several different outfits. The garden photos mainly date from after 1927, and are largely of Greenwich Village gardens. A few photos show rooftop gardens, one of which looks out on a river. More than three photos of the same garden are foldered together. One photo shows the tiny back patio of 75 Bedford Street, the "narrowest house in New York." Another shows the gardens of the Rhinelander houses, a group of row houses with wrought iron balconies on West 11th Street, where Beals herself lived from 1936 until her death in 1942.


Titles for the photos were taken from Beals' written inscriptions found on the versos of many of the prints. Titles in brackets were assigned at the time of processing. The prints in the collection were often made, or inscribed, long after the negative was taken; therefore, stamps of studio addresses on the backs of prints can not be used conclusively to date photos. However, some photos were dated within a general range based on these studio stamps. Other dates were determined based on research conducted on the dates of establishments (i.e. in the case of Greenwich Village tea rooms) or biographies of the subjects. In addition, collections of Beals' work at the Museum of the City of New York and the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library were consulted for some identification and dating.

Beals had a complex, and sometimes seemingly haphazard, system of numbering her prints. A partial list of these numbers is available in her papers at the Schlesinger Library. Where appropriate, these numbers have been taken into consideration in dating photographs in the collection. Any numbers written on the verso of the photos appear in the database.


The collection is organized into four series:

SerIes I. Portraits

Series II. Places

Series III. Subjects

Series IV. Songs of a Wanderer and Other Poetry

Within series, photographs are filed alphabetically by subject when possible.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Allen, Viola, 1867-1948 -- Portraits.
  • Anderson, Judith, 1897-1992 -- Portraits.
  • Auslander, Joseph, 1897-1965 -- Portraits.
  • Beals, Jessie Tarbox
  • Beckwith, J. Carroll (James Carroll), 1852-1917 -- Portraits.
  • Bitter, Karl Theodore Francis, 1867-1915 -- Portraits.
  • Borglum, Gutzon, 1867-1941 -- Portraits.
  • Borglum, Solon Hannibal, 1868-1922 -- Portraits.
  • Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933 -- Portraits.
  • Dell, Floyd, 1887-1969 -- Portraits.
  • Fisher, Harrison, 1875-1934 -- Portraits.
  • Fokine, Michel, 1880-1942 -- Portraits.
  • French, Daniel Chester, 1850-1931 -- Portraits.
  • Geddes, Norman Bel, 1893-1958 -- Portraits.
  • Hartmann, Sadakichi, 1867-1944 -- Portraits.
  • Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964 -- Portraits.
  • Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920 -- Portraits.
  • Hurst, Fannie, 1889-1968 -- Portraits.
  • Keyes, Frances Parkinson, 1885-1970 -- Portraits.
  • MacDowell, Marian, 1857-1956 -- Portraits.
  • Maule, Frances, 1879-1966 -- Portraits.
  • O'Neill, Rose Cecil, 1874-1944 -- Portraits.
  • Post, Emily, 1873-1960 -- Portraits.
  • Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967 -- Portraits.
  • Sarg, Tony, 1882-1942 -- Portraits.
  • Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930 -- Portraits.
  • Tarbell, Ida M. (Ida Minerva), 1857-1944 -- Portraits.
  • Tarkington, Booth, 1869-1946 -- Portraits.
  • Teasdale, Sara, 1884-1933 -- Portraits.
  • Twain, Mark, 1835-1910 -- Portraits.
  • Urner, Mabel Herbert, 1881-1957 -- Portraits.
  • Vonnoh, Bessie Potter, 1872-1955 -- Portraits.
  • Weir, Julian Alden, 1852-1919 -- Portraits.
  • Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith, 1856-1923 -- Portraits.
  • Wilcox, Ella Wheeler, 1850-1919 -- Portraits.
  • Wiles, Irving Ramsay, 1861-1948 -- Portraits.

Document Type

  • Fashion photographs
  • Photographic postcards
  • Photographic prints.
  • Portraits
  • Postcards.
  • Self-portraits

Subject Organizations

  • Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904 : Saint Louis, Mo.) -- Pictorial works.
  • Massachusetts State House (Boston, Mass.) -- Pictorial works.
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston -- Pictorial works.
  • Old South Church (Boston, Mass.) -- Pictorial works.
  • Woolworth Building (New York, N.Y.) -- Pictorial works.

Subject Topics

  • Actors -- Portraits
  • Actresses -- Portraits
  • Architecture, Domestic -- United States -- Pictorial works
  • Artists -- Portraits
  • Authors -- Portraits
  • Gardens -- United States -- Pictorial works
  • Hudson-Fulton Celebration, 1909 -- Pictorial works
  • Robert Gould Shaw Memorial (Boston, Mass.) -- Pictorial works
  • Street photography

Subject Places

  • Arkansas -- Pictorial works
  • Boston (Mass.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
  • Greenwich Village (New York, N.Y.) -- Pictorial works.
  • Greenwich Village (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs
  • Nantucket (Mass.) -- Pictorial works
  • Saint Louis (Mo.) -- Pictorial works
  • San Antonio (Tex.) -- Pictorial works

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Administrative Information

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: Jessie Tarbox Beals Photographs, PR 4, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Material at the The New-York Historical Society

A copy of Beals's portrait of Mabel Urner Harper is in the Lathrop C. and Mabel H. Urner Harper Collection (PR 121).

A photograph of Rose O'Neill taken by Beals can be found in the Rose O'Neill collection (PR 369).

A photograph of an olive grove taken by Beals can be found in the Horticultural Society of New York records (MS 3033).

Other Greenwich Village scenes at the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections can be found in the Geographic File (PR 020), and the Postcard File (PR 054).

The major collection of Beals's photographs, as well as her papers, is held at the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Garden photos from that collection are held at the Frances Loeb Library at Harvard University. The Rare Books and Manuscript Library at Columbia University holds the Community Service Society Papers, which include many Beals photos of New York City street children. Forty-five items, primarily Greenwich Village postcards and other scenes of New York City, are at the Museum of the City of New York.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital copies are available in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Digital Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The photos of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration were a gift of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission on 5 May 1911. One hundred photos were purchased from Alexander Alland in 1953 (Schell Fund, Wilbur Fund). One postcard was purchased in 1993, and five in 2000; all were originally from Alland's collection. The remaining photos were gifts. Songs of a Wanderer and the loose sheets of poetry were a gift of Michael P. Johnson in March 2012.

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Container List

Series I. Portraits

Scope and Contents note

Series I. Portraits dates from 1900 to approximately 1940. The collection is rich in self-portraits and portraits taken of Beals by others. Beals is shown "on assignment," climbing a 20 foot ladder to get a higher angle at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and striding across city streets armed with her camera and tripod. She photographed herself in her studio, and posed often next to her camera. One photo shows her with naturalist John Burroughs.

Most portraits seem to have been taken in New York City, often at Beals' many studios. A few portraits, such as those of Booth Tarkington, Ernest Thompson Seton and Grace Seton-Thompson, William Faversham, Joseph Lincoln, and William Dean Howells, show the sitter in his or her country home. Portraits of artists include Jonas Lie, Boardman Robinson, May Wilson Preston, Rose O'Neill Wilson, Irving Wiles, James Carroll Beckwith, and Ernest Thompson Seton. Sculptors include Gutzon and Solon Borglum, Karl Bitter, Paul Trubetzkoi, Bessie Potter Vonnoh, and Daniel Chester French. Cartoonists Fontaine Fox, Homer Davenport, and John McCutcheon are also shown. Portraits also include Norman Bel Geddes, set and costume designer, and puppeteer Tony Sarg.

Writers pictured include Fannie Hurst, Llewelyn Powys and Alyse Gregory, Kate Douglas Wiggin, Emily Post, Grace Duffie Boylan, William Allen White, Ida Tarbell, and Albert Payson Terhune. Critic Sadakichi Hartman and poet and biographer Carl Sandburg are pictured. Portraits include poets Margaret Widdemer, Joseph Auslander and Sara Teasdale. Actors and actresses of both stage and screen are pictured, such as Judith Anderson, Leonore Ulrich, William Faversham, and Albert Herter. Playwrights Zoe Aiken and Rachel Crothers are also included.

Greenwich Village inhabitants and celebrities include Edith Unger, proprietress of the Mad Hatter Tea Room, writer Floyd Dell, restaurateur Alice Foote MacDougall, and actor Jerry Norris. More Greenwich Village bohemians can be found in Series II, in the Greenwich Village photos.

Many portraits in the collection show people not involved in the arts. Pioneering women doctors Mary Walker and Josephine Baker are shown, as are politicians W. H. Woodin and William McAdoo. Presidents William Taft, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover are pictured. Seemingly 'everyday people' like Capt. Billy Bowen, a sea captain, and Jane Deeter Rippin, director of a Girl Scout camp, are also pictured. Auctioneer John Mitchell is shown in full swing at a Conneticut auction. Chauncey Messenger, a beekeeper, was photographed peering out from his beehouse.

Portraits are arranged alphabetically by sitter. Sitters with three or more portraits (even if the same image) were issued their own folder.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 "A-B" general, including:
Akins, Zoe
Allen, Viola
Anderson, Judith
Andrews, Kenneth
Auslander, Joseph
Baker, Sara Josephine
Beals, Alfred Tennyson (See: Box 1, folder 2)
Beckwith, James Carroll
Blasco Ibanez, Vicente
Borglum, Gutzon
Borglum, Solon Hannibal
Bowen, Billy
Brainerd, Nanette Beals
Brandstrom, Elsa
Burroughs, John (See: Box 1, folder 2)

Box: 1 Folder : 2 Beals, Jessie Tarbox

General note

See also: Box 4, folder 36

1904-[1920], undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Bitter, Karl Theodore Francis
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Boylan, Grace Duffie and Malcolm Stuart
Box: 1 Folder : 5 "C-E" general, including:
Chamberlin, Frank Tolles
Cone, Sylvanus
Coolidge, Calvin
Coolidge, Grace Goodhue and Frances Parkinson Keyes
Cooper, Colin Campbell
Crothers, Rachel
Davenport, Homer
Dawson, Coningsby
Dean, Walter Lofthouse (See: Box 3, Folder 22)
Dell, Floyd
Doro, Marie
Dunbar, Charles
Edson, Myra Durr

Box: 1 Folder : 6 "F-G" general, including:
Farnham, Sally James
Farquhan, Sam
Faversham, William
Fenn, Harry
Finley, John Huston
Fisher, Harrison
Fokine, Michel
Fokina, Vera Petrovna
Fox, Fontaine
French, Daniel Chester
Gelber, Walter
Girard, Madame
Gregory, Alyse (See: Box 2, Folder 15)

Box: 1 Folder : 7 Geddes, Norman Bel
Box: 1 Folder : 8 "H-K" general, including:
Hartmann, Sadakichi
Haviland, Anne
Herter, Albert
Holder, Mary
Hoover, Herbert
Hoover, Lou Henry
Horne, Mrs. Greenwich
Hurst, Fannie
James, Helen Field
Keene, Doris
Kelly, Alice McKay
Keyes, Frances Parkinson (See: Box 1, Folder 5)
King, Helen
Kronold, Hans

Box: 2 Folder : 9 Howells, William Dean
Box: 2 Folder : 10 "L-M" general, including:
Lane, Winifred
Letson, Ely [?]
Lincoln, Joseph Crosby
Lipton, Thomas Johnstone, Sir
Logan, Josephine Hancock
MacDougall, Alice Foote (See also: Box 4, Folder 38)
MacDowell, Marian
Mann, Mme
Martin, Jane
Maule, Frances
McAdoo, William Gibbs
McCutcheon, John Tinney
Messenger, Chauncey
Moore, Mary
Morgan, Pauline

Box: 2 Folder : 11 Lie, Jonas
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Mitchell, John W.
Box: 2 Folder : 13 "N-R" general, including:
Netcher, Charles, Mrs.
Norris, Jean
Norris, Jerry
O'Neill, Rose Cecil
Oyen, Henry
Peters, Rollo
Post, Emily
Potter, Grace
Powell, Charlotte
Preston, May Wilson
Raoul, William Greene
Rehber, Helen
Rippin, Jane Deeter
Rives, Amelie
Roberts, Charles George
Robinson, Boardman

Box: 2 Folder : 14 Pomeroy, Bill
Box: 2 Folder : 15 Powys, Llewelyn
Box: 2 Folder : 16 "S-T" general, including:
Sanborn, Kate
Sandburg, Carl
Sennett, Charley
Seton, Ernest Thompson
Seton-Thompson, Grace Gallatin
Seton, Anya
Simpson, Jerry
Starr, Frances
Stevens, Alice
Swanson, Valette [?]
Tarbell, Ida Minerva
Tarkington, Booth
Teasdale, Sara
Terhune, Albert Payson
Tolerton, H. H.
Trubetskoi, Pavel Petrovich, kniaz'
Truex, Ernest
Twain, Mark

Box: 2 Folder : 17 Sarg, Tony
Box: 2 Folder : 18 Taft, William H.
Box: 3 Folder : 19 "U-Wh" general, including:
Unger, Edith
Vinton, Frederick Porter
Volpi, Countess
Vonnoh, Bessie Potter
Wade, Alzirc Hewitt, Mrs.
Walker, Mary Edwards
Watson, Dudley Crafts
Weir, Julian Alden
Wenzell, Albert Beck
White, William Allen

Box: 3 Folder : 20 Ulrich, Leonore
Box: 3 Folder : 21 Urner, Mabel Herbert
Box: 3 Folder : 22 "Wi-Z" general, including:
Widdemer, Margaret (See also: Box 6, Folder 53)
Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith (See: Box 6, Folder 53)
Wilcox, Ella Wheeler
Wiles, Irving Ramsay
Willet, Frank
Wilmut, Millicent
Woodin, W. Hugh
Yates, Cullen and Walter Lofthouse Dean
Young, Mary
Young, Roland

Box: 6 Folder : 53 Wi-Z miscellaneous, including:
Widdemer, Margaret (See also: Box 3, Folder 22)
Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith. (Flat Box)

[1900], undated
Box: 3 Folder : 23 Unidentified

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Series II: Places

Scope and Contents note

Series II spans the years from 1902 to 1940 and includes photos of places visited by Beals, as well as her home in New York City. Photos are arranged by state, and thereunder by city or subject. Early photos are of trips to Arkansas and Texas; few of these are captioned. Twenty-nine photos date from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904.

The photographs of Boston appear to have been taken between 1902 and 1910. Most Boston views are of popular tourist sites, such as the Boston Common, the Shaw Memorial, the Massachusetts State House, and the Park Street Church. Many are taken in winter, specifically in or after snowstorms. A few photos were artistically mounted on larger paper, with Beals signature and studio location written at the lower right of the photo. Many of these are reprints dating from the early 1930s, when Beals was living in Chicago and trying to sell her older photographs to a new audience.

Although Beals took over 5,000 photographs of every aspect of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the group held in this collection focuses on the airshow competition in the fall of 1904. Three of the four prime competitors, Thomas Baldwin's "California Arrow," Francois' "Ville de St. Mande," and Thomas Benbow's "Montana Meteor," are shown. These early aircraft are seen in flight or tethered to the ground and surrounded by onlookers. One photo shows Beals herself seated on the pilot's platform of the "Ville de St. Mande." Pilots William Avery, Thomas Baldwin, and Roy Knabenshue are shown with their aircrafts, and the fair's Governor, Benjamin B. Odell, is shown in the transportation building.

The New York scenes are generally of lower Manhattan, including the Woolworth Building, City Hall and the Municipal Building, and the New York Stock Exchange. They also include a view of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, and a view of a suffrage rally in Union Square. Most New York photographs are of Greenwich Village and of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration held in the fall of 1909.

The photos of Greenwich Village generally show establishments frequented by bohemians. Often the proprietors of these shops are shown in their element. More formal portraits of some Greenwich Village bohemians can be found in Series I. Those pictured in this series include: Romayne Benjamin, Bobby Edwards, Tiny Tim (Timothy Felter), Grace Godwin, Ami Mali Hicks, Adele Kennedy, Elizabeth Koenig, Romany Marie (Marie Marchand), and Kitty Morton. Street scenes show small streets such as Christopher Street, MacDougal Alley, and Patchin Place, a small court off 11th Street where many bohemians lived during the teens.

The postcards of Greenwich Village are remarkable in that they show images which Beals intended for sale, and which did, in fact, sell to tourists, and undoubtedly to residents of the Village as well. Villagers grumbled about the increased commercialization of their neighborhood after the war, but they were as self-promotional as Beals. Several of these postcards have Beals' humorous verses about the people or places illustrated. The Village was a remarkably fluid place, and establishments often had several incarnations over the years. One example in these photographs is Beals' own Village Art Gallery, which went on to become the Crumperie, a tea room.

The photos of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration were sold to the Celebration Commission by Beals. Her numbers appear on the backs, but other numbers appear attached to the front, perhaps indicating that the photos had been removed from an album. The photos focus on the historical parade held in Manhattan, but also show the fleet being welcomed upriver at Newburgh with a "living flag" of people attired in red, white, and blue.

Images are arranged by state and thereunder by subject.


Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 24 General Views


Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 25 General Views
Box: 3 Folder : 26 Boston Common
Box: 3 Folder : 27 Chestnut Street
Box: 3 Folder : 28 Custom House
Box: 3 Folder : 29 Louisburg Square
Box: 3 Folder : 30 Museum of Fine Arts
Box: 4 Folder : 31 Old South Church
Box: 4 Folder : 32 Park Street Church
Box: 4 Folder : 33 Shaw Memorial
Box: 4 Folder : 34 State House
Box: 4 Folder : 35 Woman's City Club

Massachusetts--Nantucket--General view (Flat box), [1905-15]

Missouri--St. Louis

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 36 Louisiana Purchase Exposition

New York--New York

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 37 General views
Box: 4 Folder : 38 Greenwich Village--General views
Box: 4 Folder : 39 Greenwich Village--Grace Godwin's Garrett
Box: 4 Folder : 40 Greenwich Village--Parades and productions
Box: 5 Folder : 41 Greenwich Village--Postcards
[1905-20], undated
Box: 5 Folder : 42 Greenwich Village--Street scenes

General note

See also: Box 6, Folder 55

[1905-20], undated
Box: 6 Folder : 55 Greenwich Village--Street scene (Flat box)
Box: 5 Folder : 43 Hudson-Fulton Celebration

Texas--San Antonio

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 44 Farmhouse


Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 45 Unidentified

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Series III: Subjects

Scope and Contents note

Series III is comprised of garden and fashion photography. The 25 fashion photos seem to date from Beals' early years in New York, when she was selling photographs to many magazines. The photos are often noted with the name of a store (Gimbels, for example) on the verso. The same models often appear in several different outfits. The garden photos mainly date from after 1927, and are largely of Greenwich Village gardens. A few photos show rooftop gardens, one of which looks out on a river. More than three photos of the same garden are foldered together. One photo shows the tiny back patio of 75 Bedford Street, the "narrowest house in New York." Another shows the gardens of the Rhinelander houses, a group of row houses with wrought iron balconies on West 11th Street, where Beals herself lived from 1936 until her death in 1942.

Fashion Photography

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 46 General fashion photography
Box: 5 Folder : 47 "The right way to. . ." series

Garden Photography

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 48 General garden photography
[1905-40], undated
Box: 5 Folder : 49 Garden of Mrs. Regina Jais, New York City
Box: 5 Folder : 50 Garden of Mr. and Mrs. John Morgan, New York City
Box: 5 Folder : 51 Garden of George and Mary Stonehill, New York City
Box: 5 Folder : 52 Garden of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Wells, New York City
1936, undated

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Series IV. Songs of a Wanderer and Other Poetry , 1924, 1928, undated

Scope and Contents Note

The series includes a copy of Songs of a Wanderer, Jessie Tarbox Beals's collection of her poetry (1928). This copy includes an inscription by Beals on the opening pages and another to Mary Dear on the poem "Doreen," on page 50. The series also includes three standalone poems by Beals: "The Hell Ye Can't," "Nothing Matters Long" (inscribed for Mary) and an untitled poem in the shape of a Christmas tree (1924). The donor's great-aunt, Mary Johnson, originally of Kilkenny, Ireland, lived in Greenwich Village and is believed by him to be the Mary referenced in Beals's inscriptions.

Immediate Source of Acquisition Note

Gift of Michael P. Johnson, March 2012.

Processing Information Note

This accession was incorporated into the collection and finding aid in 2017 by archivist Larry Weimer.

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