An Online Gallery of Over 900,000 Wonderful Photos of Historic New York City

Grand Central

What is any major Amer­i­can city if not an indus­tri­al gallery bustling with peo­ple and machines? Some­times the images are bleak, as with the pho­to essays that often cir­cu­late of Detroit’s beau­ti­ful ruin; some­times they are defi­ant­ly hope­ful, as with those of the ris­ing of New Orleans; and some­times they are almost unfath­omably mon­u­men­tal, as with the images here of New York City, cir­ca the 20th century—or a great good bit of it, any­way.

Queensboro Bridge

You can sur­vey almost a hun­dred years of New York’s indomitable grandeur by perus­ing over 900,000 images from the New York City Munic­i­pal Archives Online Gallery.

Pho­tos like the aston­ish­ing tableaux in a sun­light-flood­ed Grand Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal at the top (tak­en some­time between 1935 and 41) and like the breath­tak­ing scale on dis­play in the 1910 expo­sure of the Queens­boro Bridge, above.


The online gallery fea­tures large-for­mat pho­tos of the human, like the sea of bathers above; of the human-made, like the vault­ed, cav­ernous City Hall sub­way sta­tion below; and of the meld­ing of the two, like the painters pos­ing on the cables of the Brook­lyn Bridge, fur­ther down.

City Hall Station

These images come from a selec­tion of pho­tos culled from the var­i­ous gal­leries by The Atlantic. For more, see the NYC Munic­i­pal Archives site, which you can search by key­word or oth­er cri­te­ria. “Vis­i­tors,” writes the site, “are encour­aged to return fre­quent­ly as new con­tent will be added on a reg­u­lar basis. Patrons may order repro­duc­tions in the form of prints or dig­i­tal files.”

Brooklyn Bridge

Many of the images have water­marks on them to pre­vent ille­gal use. Nonethe­less the gallery is a jaw-drop­ping col­lec­tion of pho­tos you can eas­i­ly get lost in for hours, as well as an impor­tant resource for his­to­ri­ans and schol­ars of 20th cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can urban­ism. See The Atlantic’s selec­tion of images for even more daz­zling pho­tos. Or bet­ter yet, start rum­mag­ing through the New York City Munic­i­pal Archives Online Gallery right here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

New York Pub­lic Library Puts 20,000 Hi-Res Maps Online & Makes Them Free to Down­load and Use

Great New Archive Lets You Hear the Sounds of New York City Dur­ing the Roar­ing 20s

Vin­tage Video: A New York City Sub­way Train Trav­els From 14th St. to 42nd Street (1905)

Design­er Mas­si­mo Vignel­li Revis­its and Defends His Icon­ic 1972 New York City Sub­way Map

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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