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Guide to the Thomas Holman Collection of
Flatiron Building Photographs and Ephemera
circa 1902-2004 (bulk, 1903-1909)
 PR 372

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


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Joseph Ditta

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on November 05, 2018
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical / Biographical Note

Manhattan's iconic Flatiron Building, designed by architect Daniel H. Burnham and completed in 1902 on the triangular gore formed by the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street, was originally called the Fuller Building for its original owner, the George A. Fuller Company architectural firm. Its popular, and now official, name, comes from its similarity to the shape of a cast-iron clothes iron. To some early sightseers it even resembled a ship, its prow aiming north up Fifth Avenue. The building's shape, combined with its height, causes gusty downdrafts near its "cowcatcher" at 23rd Street. This gave rise, it is believed, to the phrase "23 Skidoo," said by police officers to chase away men who lingered on the corner in hope of catching a glimpse of forbidden female stocking bared by the wind. Images of the Flatiron Building have appeared on countless advertisements, postcards, souvenirs, sheet music covers, paintings, and photographs. Even the surrounding neighborhood, the Flatiron District, bears its name. The building was designated a New York City landmark in 1966. For more, see Alice Sparberg Alexiou's 2010 book, The Flatiron: The New York Landmark and the Incomparable City That Arose With It, available at the New-York Historical Society's Patricia D. Klingenstein Library (call no. F128.8.F55 A44 2010).

Native New Yorker Thomas Seth Holman (1953–2015), assembler of the present collection, was an author, art historian, and private art advisor who held degrees from Macalester College and the University of Chicago and also studied at Oxford and the University of Vienna. Holman filled curatorial and directorial positions at the Albany Museum of Art, the Forum Gallery, the Hudson River Museum, the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, and the Norton Museum of Art. His main, personal, collecting focus was on souvenirs of the Grand Tour of the 18th and 19th centuries, when wealthy young Englishmen traveled the European continent in pursuit of the knowledge of languages, history, art, and architecture.