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Spotlight on the Public Domain

Bed, Bath and Flying Machines: Highlights from SIBL's Public Domain Collection


This is one of a series of blog posts related to the NYPL Public Domain Release: discover the collections and find inspiration for using them in your own research, teaching, and creative practice. 

Front cover. Image ID: ps_sibl_cd23_404

The mission of the New York Public Library is to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities. We advance knowledge by providing free and open access to materials and information that reflect New York’s global perspective. We identify, acquire, and preserve these materials but we also intend to inspire interest, expand horizons, and enrich perspectives by building tools that allow us to connect with the world. One of these tools is our Digital Collections, which now includes some 188,000 public domain illustrations which can  be downloaded in high resolution copies and used for whatever you would like.

The Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) has collected materials in several fields. Some 2,000 public domain images from SIBL in the digital collections represent only some parts of this broad and diverse range of fields. Let’s have a look at some of them.

Detail from The 'Indoro' Embossed (1888)

At the beginning of the 20th century developers and the real estate industry attempted to entice potential middle and upper class tenants to New York City’s “principal high class apartment houses.” In order to achieve that they used albums which featured an apartment house briefly described, and illustrated with an exterior photograph and one or more floor plans. These albums were supplemented by trade catalogs for contemporary plumbing fixtures that may have been part of the modern and  luxury appointments in these apartments. Some of these trade catalogs included products by New York-based company J.L. Mott Iron Works:

The fashion industry has been covered by SIBL for a very long time. Our collection of textile business-related periodicals is almost certainly unsurpassed in scale and scope in one location. Among the special items featured here are manufacturers' catalogs containing real fabric swatches along with sketches showing how the new prints and weaves could be fashioned into seasonably stylish garments. In the past, with the help from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we carried out a large microfilming project to preserve more then 3,700 textile periodicals and monographs. Now you are welcome to view and download illustrations from the following publications:

The spring book of B. Kuppenheimer & Co.
Newest styles for men.

​In addition to providing swatches of fabrics, this publication also shows machinery used to manufacture textiles: The mordant dyestuffs of the farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co., Elberfeld, and their application to printing and dyeing [1902]

Washer and soaper for slubbing printing. Image ID: 1130335

Now, speaking about the use of machinery (before we get to flying objects) you may find these digitized collections to be of interest: 

Femme tourneuse. Sur tour a saigner les ebauches. Image ID: 1158843
Franklin. Image ID: 1160187

SIBL's collections would not be fairly represented without materials pertaining to the automobile industry. Our collection of manufacturers' catalogs and price lists covers the first three decades of the 20th century, and represents most American and many foreign makes. It is represented here by a 1909 catalog of The Franklin Automobile Company which was an American manufacturer of automobiles that operated from 1902 to 1934 in Syracuse, New York. The company sold about 150,000 luxury cars over the course of its existence. 

Type H Touring-car. Image ID: 1160188

Now, let's look at these flying machines that I promised at the beginning. The following illustrations are from a publication by Comte de La Vaulx, Paul Tissandier, and Charles Dollfus L'aéronautique des origines à 1922.  Enjoy the flight.

L'aéro-montgolfière d'Orlandi. Aquarelle. Image ID: 1693446
Estampe anglaise de 1843 représentant l'aèroplane d'Henson dans un vol supposé aux environs de Londres. Image ID: 1693472
Vol de Wilbur Wright accompli à Pau, en janvier 1909, avec son élève Paul Tissandier. Image ID: 1693507
Chasse à courre en dirigeable. Caricature d'Albert Guillaume, inspirée par les expériences de Santos-Dumont,1901, parue dans l'Assiette au Beurre. Image ID: 1693495
Le ballon dirigeable l'Aigle, construit en 1834 par le comte de Lennox. Image ID: 1693482



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