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Robert M. Lester Photograph Collection

Call Number

PR 215


1946-1956, inclusive



1.26 Linear feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials

English .


The Robert M. Lester Photograph Collection consists of color slides and black and white photographs depicting locations in and around New York City taken by philanthropy executive and educator Robert M. Lester between 1946 and 1956. Included are views of the United Nations Headquarters construction, the East River, the Hudson River, the snow-covered cityscape after the blizzard of December 1947, theater marquees and signs on Broadway, the construction of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace building, and Greenwich Village art exhibitions.

Biographical Note

Teacher, education scholar, and philanthropy executive Robert M. Lester was born in Center, Alabama, on November 7, 1889. He received degrees from Birmingham Southern College and Vanderbilt University. He became a teacher and later superintendent of schools in Mayfield, Kentucky, and then served in the Army during World War I. Lester taught and served as an administrator at Columbia University, and in 1934 was elected Secretary of the Carnegie Corporation and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in New York. Lester served on a variety of educational boards and foundations, and counted among his achievements an appointment as a trustee of American University in 1941. In 1954, he left the Carnegie Corporation to become executive director of the Southern Fellowships Fund of the Council of Southern Universities, Inc., a position he held until 1968.

Lester wrote and spoke frequently on issues relating to education, libraries, and philanthropic programs. He published several books and articles relating to his work with the Carnegie Corporation, the Southern Fellowship Fund, and other fundraising organizations, including the well-received Forty Years of Carnegie Giving: A Summary of the Benefactions of Andrew Carnegie and of the Work of the Philanthropic Trusts Which He Created (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1941).

Lester resided on East 52nd Street near First Avenue in Manhattan from the 1930s through the early 1950s. As an amateur photographer, he pointed his camera toward the radical changes in the face of the city just blocks from his home where the United Nations Headquarters complex was undergoing construction between 1947 and 1954.

Robert M. Lester died in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on February 21, 1969, after a brief illness.


The collection is arranged in two series based on format:

Missing Title

  1. Series I: Photographs
  2. Series II: Slides

Scope and Content Note

The Robert M. Lester Photograph Collection is comprised of black and white photographic prints, contact prints, and color slides depicting attractions in and around New York City taken by amateur photographer and education scholar Robert M. Lester between 1946 and 1956. The collection is organized into two series based on format: Photographs; and Slides.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to thirty 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
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 Robert M. Lester Photograph Collection, PR 215, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.


Gift of Robert M. Lester, April 18, 1961.

Related Materials

Robert M. Lester's papers are held by the Special Collections Library of Duke University. Papers relating to Dr. Lester's activities with the Carnegie Corporations can be found in the Carnegie Corporation of New York Records in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University.

Collection processed by

Jennifer Lewis and Margaret Evans

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:49:07 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from lester.xml


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