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Old New York photos

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Flatiron building 1902
The New York City of years past lives on in old photos
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Peek into the past with old photos of New York City

Have you ever looked at old New York photos?  A shot of Broadway in the glory days of the 1940's, an image of a Model T on Fifth Avenue from the early years of auto travel, or a picture of Greenwich Village flower children from the Summer of Love offers us a look into time long past in one of the dynamic cities on earth.

Consider these treasures...

When lunch break turns into history

There's a photo of eleven construction workers on a crossbeam high above New York City.  In the background, you can see the growing New York skyline of 1932. In that single image, a time and place most of us never experienced are captured forever. And eleven construction workers are forever immortalized -- men who probably had no idea they would be remembered by anyone some 78 years after that summer day.

The birth of flight, recorded by an unknown photographer...

Boarding a plane at JFK is no big deal for most of us, despite the security headaches. And seeing a plane flying overhead hardly warrants a glance.  But image a time when the idea of people flying was barely believable.

That's what is captured in a photo of one of the Wright planes in the sky over the Hudson in 1909. Like so many old New York photos, it's more than just a picture of a thing; more than just an image of an airplane.  It's a snapshot of a threshold in time.

Watching a landmark grow

One of the most recognizable buildings in New York City is the Flatiron Building. Constructed on a triangle of land where 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue and Broadway meet, there are few alive today who remember its construction at the turn of the 20th century.

But a series of old New York photos give us a glimpse into the events of 1901 and 1902, as we see the building through three stages of construction, and watch New York's first skyscraper make history.  Without these old photos, these moments in New York history would be lost forever.

The people in their places

Old New York photos can also show us the faces of the people who built, worked, designed and lived in New York City in times past. A photo of women voting in New York City in 1920, an image of men waiting on breadlines during the Great Depression, or an amazing 1878 shot of the men behind the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge all open a window to the past that mere words can never duplicate.

The birth of a dream

For so many Americans, New York was where their family first arrived from the ports of Europe and Asia. Browsing the photos of the new arrival's faces will show every emotion a human can know -- sadness at leaving home and family so far away, joy in finally arriving, fear of the new and unknown...

In these times when immigration is often under fire, these old photographs of new arrivals can remind us of the mosaic of our own family's arrival in the country, and perhaps even temper our fear of those who have just joined our nation.

More that just pictures

Old photos of New York are more than just pictures of a city.  They are a chronicle of much of what makes American unique,  They are the fragments of time that added up to the city -- and the country -- we know today.

Look at them.  Read the messages in the faces, see the flow of history in the street scenes and celebrations captured on film. Whether it's old New York photos or old images from a small town somewhere in the midwest, the stories these photos tell are priceless -- and timeless.

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