The Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy maintains a rich and varied collection of visual materials and ephemera some of which are not cataloged or indexed. Nearly every important topic in United States and New York City history is represented in this collection, which includes photographs, postcards, scrapbooks, pamphlets and clippings.
Beginning in 2005, a vast selection of Milstein Division visual materials became available through the New York Public Library Digital Gallery. The Digital Gallery is the New York Public Library's image database, developed to provide free and open online access to thousands of images from the original and rare holdings of The Library. The Milstein Division has it's own digital contents page. Highlights included in the NYPL Digital Gallery are:
More than 54,000 New York City archival photographs (and their captioned versos) from the 1870s‐1970s arranged by borough and street; the majority are exterior building views and neighborhood scenes from the 1910s‐1940s. From this page you can search or browse borough or topic. The Photographic Views of New York City, 1870s - 1970s collection guide has more details.
Part of the larger Streetscape and Townscape of Metropolitan New York City, 1860-1942. Physical change in the city's appearance fascinated photographer Percy Loomis Sperr (1931-1942) who had a long professional relationship with NYPL. Thousands of his prints also appear in "Photographic Views of New York City, 1870s-1970s," the premiere photographic collection in the Milstein Division. This smaller collection of views depicts the boroughs of Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, capturing New York City during the Great Depression until just after American entry into World War II. See the collection guide for more details.
301 images from 1908. Part of the larger "Classic 6:" New York City Apartment Building Living, 1880s-1910s collection of digital images depicting elevation views and floor plans for middle and upper class apartment buildings from New York City's pre-World War I residential building boom. See the collection guide for more details.
In 1907, alarmed at the approach of factories, the leading merchants and residents formed the Fifth Avenue Association. The "Save New York Committee" became a bulwark against the wrong kind of development. Perhaps inspired by this contemporary movement, photographer Burton Welles used a wide-angled view camera in 1911 to document this most important street from Washington Square, north to East 93rd Street, creating a panoramic photographic walk along Fifth Avenue that Includes the then newly opened New York Public Library at 42nd Street. The Streetscape and Townscape of Metropolitan New York City, 1860-1942 collection guide has more details.
Political Campaign Ephemera
IRGN n.c. (not cataloged) The Milstein Division collects political campaign materials, including broadsides, pamphlets, and candidate position papers, dating from the tail-end of the 19th century through to the present day. This collection also includes clippings, mail-outs, posters and other assorted ephemera, and covers local and national campaigns.
This focused, comprehensive collection of postcards came to the Library in 2001 as a gift from Catherine Robinson, a collector who spent her childhood in Staten Island, and who later assembled and organized the postcards as a hobby. Robinson subdivided the collection into broad topical categories, an arrangement retained here for browsing this digital presentation. The Staten Island Postcards collection guide has more details.
Over 1300 photographic views of the United States from the Milstein Division's photographic collections.
Other Visual Collections and Ephemera
While the Digital Gallery contains a large portion of the collection, many visual and ephemera materials are not available online. Here is a synopsis of some of the most important of these unique collections available to view on request in the Milstein Division reading room.
This microfilmed collection of thousands of photos mostly dates from circa 1940's and 1950's, and includes images of buildings at many addresses in the city (mainly but not exclusively Manhattan and the Bronx).
Eugene L. Armbruster Collection Of Long Island Photographs
The 5,800 photos in this collection were taken during the 1920's. They show a largely rural, pre‐ suburban Long Island. A finding aid is available on request at the Milstein Division reference desk.
New York City Clippings Files
Articles from a wide variety of New York City newspapers and magazines. Most are of fairly recent vintage (1950's to the present), but some date from the early 20th century or even the late 19th century. Topics range from Advertising to Zoos, with many files for New York City streets and neighborhoods. Popular subjects include Parks, Transportation and Buildings.
New York City Landmarks Preservation Reports
We have many (but not all) Landmarks Preservation Commission Reports for buildings and districts, which have achieved landmark status. Some include images and diagrams.
Real Estate Brochure Collection
Images and information for hundreds of large New York City (principally Manhattan) office and apartment buildings in the form of original real estate prospectuses and pamphlets.
New York City Scrapbooks
This collection of images (many pre‐photography) includes numerous locations and subjects. Must use microfilm surrogate; originals for reproduction only.
United States Postcard Collection
A collection of many thousands of postcards, old and new. The New York City portion consists of a huge variety of subjects, including many vintage New York City restaurant postcards.
Local History Ephemera
n.c. (not cataloged) A collection of pamphlets, brochures, etc. for many U.S. localities.
New York City Illustrations File Card Index
Indexes thousands of New York City photos and othe images appearing in books in the Milstein Division collection until the late 1990s.
U.S. History Illustrations Card Index
Indexes images, portraits and events in U.S. History, which are reproduced in books in the Milstein Division collection until the late 1990s.