New York City Historical Street Scene Photography

In this post we are going to take a look at a few photographs in our collection that consists of various aspects and perspectives relative to the streets of NYC. Below each photograph we will give a brief synopsis pertaining to various elements of the photographs. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below!

Elevated Railroad on 110th street NYC – 1896

Interesting photograph we have here. What we can see is an elevated railway about 8 stories in elevation. Based on the leafless tree in the foreground what I can assume is that this photograph was taken either during the fall, winter, or early spring. Underneath the elevated train we can see people walking along the roadway. To the bottom right of the photograph we see excavated land which might be the early stages of the construction of a new building. What I find most interesting about this photograph is the fact that the train on top of the elevated railway is a steam engine. Very rarely throughout history has there ever been Elevated Steam Engine trains, the exception for this is of course trains that traveled over rivers and valleys (bridges). Seeing a steam engine though on an elevated railway just seems abnormal.

Busy Broadway Street – 1897

Wow is Broadway in New York City busy or what in this photograph! Look at the amount of people on the sidewalks as well as the carts going down the street. In the foreground of the photograph we can see a trolly car with a few passengers upon it. In the middle of the photograph on the left side of the street we can see scaffolding with what appears to be 4 men on the very top of it. I’ve zoomed into the photograph and it’s quite grainy, but I can make out that 1 man is on his hands and knees (repairing something?), while 3 other people watch over him. Behind the men on the corresponding building there is a large sign that reads “To Lease”. I’m guessing that these men are working on the build (remodeling) for which to hopefully get it lease out for someone who would like to start a business. On the far right side of the photograph in the foreground we see a lamp post (oil lamp post) that extends to about 2-3 stories high. Ultimately though if we look at the photograph as a whole we get the idea of how busy Broadway was and the amount of commerce that was going on.

Union Square in NYC – 1893

This photograph displays Union Square in New York City in 1893. In the photograph we see many horse carriages as well as many NYC patrons walking on foot paths throughout the square. The trees along the footpaths have no leaves and are bare, telling us that this photograph was probably taken around the winter months. On the left and the bottom of the photograph we see trolly railways that extend and fork off at Union Square. At the bottom of the photograph we also see a small monument.

Immigrant and a Pretzel Vendor in NYC – 1896

I like this photograph a lot because you get to know the population and the individual street life of people in New York City in 1896. What we see here is an immigrant on the left and a female pretzel vendor on the right. The man on the left is holding a pipe in his hand. The woman pretzel vendor on the right looks like she is holding a handful of pretzels in his left hand and possibly some potatoes in her right hand. To the right of the woman there seems to be many different baskets of food. The baskets in the backgrounds seem to consist mostly of pretzels or some other type of pastry food.

Postman at a Letterbox in NYC – 1896

In this photograph we obviously can see a United States Postman retrieving mail from a letterbox. The New York City postman uniform is quite interesting if you taken notice at his hat. His hat in a sense almost resembles that of a policemen or military helmet. It looks like he wears a suit-like uniform with leather shoes.  His leather mail-bag is HUGE, I’m guessing he travels down numerous streets throughout various parts of New York City.  From looking at the background architecture of the buildings in this photograph, I have ascertained that this is 5th avenue. The organization of the streets, the overwhelming lack of businesses, the lack of densely populated crowds absolutely says that this is 5th avenue.


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