Frank M. Ingalls photograph collection
Language of Materials
The Frank M. Ingalls Collection includes photographs taken around lower Manhattan and Queens. The majority of the views are of skyscraper and building construction and street scenes.
The Frank M. Ingalls Collection is digitized and available in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Digital Library.
Frank Munroe Ingalls, a self-taught photographer active in New York City from 1901-1935, was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, on June 12, 1862, to Lyman Ingalls and Mary Ellen Fairbanks Ingalls. He worked in Nashua as a clerk and then a printer at George Bagley & Co., a stationery store and printing shop. He married Bertha Frazier in 1882, and their daughter Clara (known as Claire) was born in 1883. During the mid-1890s, Ingalls worked as a draftsman in the Engineer's Office of the City of Nashua; about this time, he became interested in photography. In 1899, he took over ownership of the former Powers photography studio at 63 Main Street in Nashua.
Ingalls moved his family to New York City in 1901, and set about documenting the cultural landscape of his new home almost immediately. In a series of illustrated articles published between 1906 and 1911 in the American Annual of Photography, Ingalls wrote, "…the skyline of lower Manhattan is a very interesting subject, as it is constantly changing from year to year." He also noted that he always carried a small camera with him, even when it rained, to be sure he never missed an unexpected opportunity. A member of the Camera Club of the 23rd St. YMCA, he published designs for a camera club's rooms based on his own club experience; his articles offered advice on the best equipment and sites for photographing New York City. The 1920 census shows that Ingalls lived in Queens with his daughter; it lists his occupation as "lantern slide creator."
In 1935, Ingalls returned to Nashua and set up a photography studio in his home on Concord Street. He became active at the Nashua Historical Society, preserving old photographs and maps of Nashua. He continued to document Nashua through his photography. Ingalls moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in late 1942, and the next year donated his collection of approximately 850 images of New York City to the New-York Historical Society. Some time after, Ingalls moved to Florida, where he lived with his daughter. He died in Clermont, Florida, in February 1956; he is buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Nashua, NH.
The collection is divided into series based on format: Prints and Negatives.
Scope and Content Note
The Frank M. Ingalls Photograph Collection spans the period from ca. 1901-1930 and is comprised of 802 images of New York City and its immediate environs. The collection is divided into series based on format: Prints and Negatives. Modern prints made from vintage negatives are filed at the end of the collection.
The photographs document an era in which the cityscape was rapidly being transformed by an upswing in the cycle of demolition and construction that has characterized so much of the history of New York City. The changing skyline of Manhattan, including panoramic views of the city and skyscrapers under construction, are common subjects. The construction of the Singer Building and the Metropolitan Life Building are particularly well documented. Other well-represented structures include bridges, statues, and monuments. Also present in great numbers are images of different types of ships and boats in the waters around Manhattan, such as steamships, yachts, tugboats, ferryboats, and excursion boats.
Various facets of Manhattan life are depicted in Ingalls' street scenes: a push cart market; snow removers; horse carts; newsboys; a pretzel vendor; a stilt-walker advertising various establishments; parades; flag-draped buildings; automobiles; and fireworks displays. In particular, Ingalls seemed to be interested in the juxtaposition of horse-drawn vehicles with mechanical vehicles. Many sets of views are the same basic view, one showing a horse-drawn bus, for example, and the next with an automotive bus. Scenes of Central Park and Coney Island are also prominent. The collection holds a few portraits, including two self-portraits of the photographer. A few night views show lights at Coney Island, and also the new Times Building in Times Square.
Within each series, images are arranged numerically according to Ingalls' own numbering system. Each image is captioned and some are dated; however, the majority of images are undated. Approximate dates have been assigned where possible by using activities documented in the image. A complete listing of image numbers, dates, and captions, which were transcribed from Ingalls' original negative enclosures, appears after the box listing. When there are multiple images of a given subject taken at the same time, they are denoted by consecutive letters following a number. The unnumbered images all seem to date from Ingalls' 1945 donation of material. They include views of boats and ships, the interior of the B. Altman Department Store at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, and a set of views of Queens towns.
A negative exists for most of the 802 images; there is also an existing original print for the majority of the negatives. The collection includes: 250 glass plate negatives in 5 x 7-inch or smaller format; 517 film negatives, ranging in size from 2 x 3 inches to 3 x 7 inches (including 181 stereograph negatives); and 570 prints, ranging in size from 2 x 3 inches to 5 x 7 inches. There are 228 negatives that do not have original prints; these are indicated in the image list with an asterisk next to their numbers. 229 prints do not have corresponding negatives.
Series I. Prints consists of 570 prints, arranged numerically by Ingalls' image numbers. A list of numbers and titles follows the box listing. Unnumbered prints, mainly unidentified views of Queens, are filed after the numbered photographs.
Series II. Negatives consists of 767 negatives, both film and glass. They are arranged in two subseries by medium, then filed numerically by Ingalls' image numbers. The majority of the film negatives are cellulose nitrate, and have been physically removed from the rest of the collection. If you need to consult these negatives, please contact a staff member for assistance.
The collection is open to qualified researchers. Portions of the collection that have been photocopied or microfilmed will be brought to the researcher in that format; microfilm can be made available through Interlibrary Loan.
Access Restrictions Open to qualified researchers.
Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. See guidelines in Print Room 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 170 Central Park West New York, NY 10024 Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282 Fax: (212) 579-8794
This collection should be cited as: Frank M. Ingalls Photograph Collection, PR 028, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.
Gift of Frank M. Ingalls, January 28, 1943, and May 10, 1945.
The majority of the film negatives are cellulose nitrate, and have been physically removed from the rest of the collection. If you need to consult these negatives, please contact a staff member for assistance.