A Weekend Photographer

I discovered a digitized collection of over 2,000 photographic negatives by amateur photographer Robert L. Bracklow (1849-1919) at the New York Historical Society this past weekend and became lost in another world for several hours–hours which I probably could have used more productively, but I do not regret their “loss”. Bracklow’s photographs are primarily, though not entirely, of New York City and its vicinity in the 1890s and early twentieth century, and show a city in transition in which multi-story buildings were going up alongside wooden “garrets” and cows are still grazing by the side of the road. He captured all the monuments, and people visiting them on the weekends, like himself: his primary occupation was that of a stationer, and he went roving about on the weekends after he had closed his shop doors. Besides monuments, he loved churches, milestones, bridges, and people:  though Bracklow is often compared to Alfred Stieglitz, my own (parochial)  frame of reference is of course Salem’s Frank Cousins, who was clearly more transfixed by architecture than society. Not so Bracklow, who seems quite as determined to show the mix of people as of buildings in his time. Though Bracklow lived and shot primarily in New York, I found quite a few Massachusetts photographs in this digitized collection: lots of Great Barrington and Marblehead, several of Nantucket, Medford, and Salem. The New York Historical Society digital achive of his photographs is absolutely wonderful because you can zoom and see: a lone lady bicyclist pedaling over the Parker River Bridge in Newbury, Massachusetts, the parcels of a Marblehead housewife walking home from her shopping, crumbs on the shirt of a child at a tea party in Bensonhurst in 1898.







H:5 in. W:7 in.; Glass negatives; Negatives (photographic)






Photographs by Robert L. Bracklow from the collection of the New York Historical Society:  blowing up a balloon for the Harlem River boat race, 1900; Bruno’s Garret in Greenwich Village, entrance to Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn; a crowd greeting Kaiser Wilhelm’s yacht in New York, 1902; an afternoon tea party in Bensonhurst; milestones to New York and Boston; North Shore Massachusetts door; Leslie’s Retreat Monument in its original location on North Street in Salem, the Red Lion Inn (?), Stockbridge, Parker River Bridge, Newbury, Gregory and Darling Streets, Marblehead. All from the Robert L. Bracklow Collection at the New York Historical Society.

4 responses to “A Weekend Photographer

  • Marblehead Architecture Heritage

    Love your blog. Wish I had more time to follow it ! But it’s very interesting to know about this photo collection ! …(thank you John!)

    The last image appears to be Front Street, not Darling St. — despite the hand-written notation on the right side of the image. Note the sign for the “Ferry” (near Ferry Lane) and the distinctive conjoined houses on the right side of the street, identifying it as Front St.

    The unpainted house to their right (foreground) is no longer there, but nearly 800 others from before 1840 do still survive in M’hd. — including nearly 300 from the 519 that were counted in 1765, housing 935 families (!)
    In that same census, 509 houses were noted for Salem, with 923 families. Crowded urban towns (!) — apparently the 6th & 7th largest in British N.America at that time. (Mhd. 4,954 / Salem 4,252 — with 500-700 more people, including 150 more men, in Mhd. than Salem, according to that particular count…. Who knew?!).

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