George E. Stonebridge Photograph Collection
Language of Materials
Stonebridge's work preserves scenes of outdoor family activities and local events in the Bronx. A sample of subjects includes Bronx parks, Croton dam strike, Brooklyn Navy Yard, funeral of General Franz Sigel, Dewey Naval and Land Parade, Niagara Falls, Jerome Park, Van Cortlandt Park, May Walk 1898-1899, Cycle Parade 1897-1898, wrecks, fires, Sportsman's Show, Stevens airship, Fordham, portraits, Orchard Beach, City Island, clubs, houses, churches, gas works (where Stonebridge was employed), New York Zoological Park, state militia camps and activities, the Seventh Regiment and Riverside Park. There are also baseball teams in action, scenes from Garrison, N.Y., and grim views of the "General Slocum" steamboat disaster victims
Glass negatives and positives from the George E. Stonebridge Photograph Collection are digitized and available in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Digital Library.
George Ehler Stonebridge (d. 1941) was an amateur photographer who lived and worked in the Bronx, New York. He left little record of himself, but an invaluable one of his surroundings and interests.
Stonebridge lived at several locations in the Bronx with his wife Bella, and their three children Grace, George, and William. He worked at the Northern Gaslight Company, although the position he held is unknown. In addition to taking photographs, Stonebridge wrote poetry and prose about his love of the Bronx, his children, and in honor of military victories.
Some of Stonebridge's photographs appeared in local papers. In 1898, he was an authorized reporter and photographer for the North Side News; in 1905 he was an authorized reporter for the Bronx Borough Record and Times, and probably took photographs for that paper as well.
Stonebridge was fascinated with the subject of military preparedness. Training rituals and staged battles were one of his favorite photographic subjects. His 1898 poem, "Remember the Maine," celebrates the United States' victory in the Spanish-American War. He was especially proud of soldiers from the Bronx, and photographed historical tablets throughout the Borough commemorating previous military victories. Stonebridge also used his photographs to illustrate lectures. In 1907, he gave several lectures on "The Training of War," using colored lantern slides.
Negatives and positives were matched to numbered descriptions in Stonebridge's log. Any negatives or positives left unmatched were then assigned titles and numbers by N-YHS staff. These titles and numbers were added to a photocopy of Stonebridge's log. This final listing, along with a clean copy of the original log, is available in the Print Room Collection files. However, all information has been entered into a Microsoft Access database for easier reference. Many numbers remain unassigned.
All formats are filed in this numerical order. Indices of series titles and number of items in each series can be found as addenda to this finding aid. More detailed searching can be done in the item-level database.
The Microsoft Access database lists each view by Stonebridge's own (or N-YHS given, if necessary) number and title. The formats each view appears in are noted. Titles written in Stonebridge's log that have not been located in physical form are not entered into the database. Titles assigned by N-YHS staff are bracketed, and marked in the database as such.
- Series I: Glass Negatives
- Series II: Glass Positives
- Series III: Prints and manuscripts
Scope and Content Note
The bulk of this collection consists of glass plate negatives. The photographs document both everyday life and special events, such as parades, in the Bronx and throughout New York state, from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning decades of the twentieth century. Standard New York scenes of the time period are depicted, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Coney Island, and Riverside Park, but most views are in the Bronx.
Stonebridge's fascination with military matters shows in the breadth, and the number, of military subjects he shot. Photos show troops staging sham battles and engaging in practice maneuvers at camps. Special military events, many in connection with the Spanish American War, are also well represented. Stonebridge photographed the memorial arch erected in Madison Square in Manhattan to honor Commodore George Dewey, as well as the Land and Naval Parades held in 1899 to celebrate Dewey's victories in the Philippines. Stonebridge also photographed the funeral of Civil War General Franz Sigel, held on 24 August 1902, and the military ships docked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Stonebridge was interested in documenting disasters, such as train wrecks and fires. He managed to capture some of the sense of chaos and trauma that resulted from the fire on board the wooden excursion boat General Slocum on June 15, 1904. Over 1,000 people, mainly women and children, were burned to death or drowned. Stonebridge's photos show bodies being recovered from the water, families identifying bodies and clothing, and much of the rescue effort.
Many of Stonebridge's subjects were familiar Bronx views or projects. The building of the Bronx Zoological Garden and of the New York Botanical Garden are well documented. Pictures of the zoo construction show construction workers, inspectors, and the animals on display. Events or landscapes in Van Cortlandt, Crotona, Jerome, and Claremont parks are documented. Some of these parks were used for both military and civilian purposes. The construction of bridges over the Harlem River is shown in several series. Washington Bridge and High Bridge are well represented. Photographs of houses and streets in the Bronx neighborhoods of Fordham and Tremont show daily life and architectural details of the area. Stonebridge's employer, the Northern Gaslight Company, is also represented.
Like perhaps any photographer, Stonebridge took many photos of his family, especially when his three children were young. In addition, the family spent time in Garrison, New York, perhaps with extended family or at a vacation house in the country. Photos show the children engaged in play with farm animals and goofing around for the camera. In February 1905. Stonebridge built a snow house in his yard, and the children are shown playing on top of and inside the structure. Two contemporary newspaper reports about the snow house are filed with the mounted photographs.
Excursions and trips to the beach, both small and large scale, are shown in many of the series of photographs in this collection. The largest group pertains to Orchard Beach at City Island, where Stonebridge's family and many others stayed in tents, sailed, played games, and relaxed. The photographs from this locale date from 1907-1916, as the family returned year after year, often for Labor Day festivities. The Stonebridge family is also pictured at the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey. Larger, multiple family excursions to other Bronx beaches, such as Locust Grove, and Port Morris are shown. Stonebridge also photographed Niagara Falls, already quite a well-photographed tourist attraction.
Sport activities are also well represented. Stonebridge photographed bicyclists (he seems to have been an avid cycler himself), ice skaters, and children playing baseball. He also took pictures of races at a speedway, an airship exhibition, gardens and gardeners. Photographs also cover more mundane subjects such as portraits, street scenes, churches, club buildings, and houses.
In addition to photographic material, the collection includes a logbook of photographs kept by Stonebridge, and a number of his grammar school records and certificates of merit.
Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit www.nyhistory.org/library/visit.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: https://www.nyhistory.org/about/rights-reproductions
This collection should be cited as: George E. Stonebridge Photograph Collection, PR-066, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.
Location of Materials
Gift, January 1942.