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New-York Historical Society collection of albums

Call Number

PR 2


circa 1800-circa 1980 (bulk 1860-1920), inclusive


New-York Historical Society


20 Linear feet (circa 562 volumes)

Language of Materials

Text in the collection is in English.


The Album Collection (formerly referred to as the Album File) consists of published and unpublished volumes and scrapbooks acquired from various sources. Styles of albums vary from manufactured carte-de-visite albums to scrapbooks made by pasting images and clippings into accounting ledgers, and fine presentation albums with leather or velvet covers and ornate metal clasps. Albums were created to document families, places, or events, or to honor a person's career. Some volumes included in the file are published works documenting well know locations or persons. The materials comprising the albums are primarily photographic including tintypes, albumen prints, silver gelatin prints, platinum prints and cyanotypes, but also include clippings, engravings and etchings, drawings and other materials. Various photographers, printmakers, and artists are included in the collection.


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.

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.

Access Restrictions

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff.

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form: Album number and title, Album Collection (PR 2), Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, New-York Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Album Collection is made up of volumes from various sources. Some were transferred from Manuscript collections, others were donated directly to the Print Room, and some albums were purchased at auction or from dealers. Some provenance information is included in the finding aid, some is available on request from the reference librarian through reference to an internal database, and other provenance data is unknown.

Separated Material

"Building the George Washington Bridge," previously Album 218, is now part of PR 137, George Washington Bridge Construction Photograph Collection.

"Photographs of the War of the Rebellion," previously album #347, has been made its own collection and is now PR-088.

"Artistic houses: being a series of interior views of a number of the most beautiful and celebrated homes in the United States with a description of the art treasures contained therein," previously album #391, has been made its own collection and is now PR-087.

"Mr. Vanderbilt's house and collections / described by Edward Strahan [pseud.]," previously album #397, has been made its own collection and is now PR-169.

Related Material at the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections

Albums are also kept with other collections, and can be located through the index to the Zinkham Guide. In addition, many print and photograph albums published as books such as Alexander Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War, are in the Library collections. Both the Library and Manuscript Department have many collections that include scrapbooks with pictures and that at times overlap the content of the albums in this collection.


The collection is open for additional albums to be included over time.

Collection processed by

Janet Murray, with later additions by others

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:47:32 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: The finding aid is written in English.


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024