Portfolio 6: The American Landscape and CityscapeThe pictorial record of the cities, towns, and suburbs of the United States and the diverse landscape of the country constitutes a particular strength of the Library's comprehensive collections. Prints and photographs from the past two centuries convey both topographical and architectural realities as well as the human experience in urban and rural settings. Particularly rich in American city views, panoramic photographs, and commercial photographs of buildings and cities, the Library's holdings are a source of detailed information on the growth and evolution of the American city, the history of urban planning and land use in the United States, and the art of representing landscape.
William James Bennett. City of
Charleston, South Carolina, Looking Across Cooper's River. Engraving and aquatint
with watercolor, on paper, 1838.
Drawings and prints from the early nineteenth century
provide a rich and vivid record of the growth of the United
States and the emergence of the young republic. The rapidly
changing American landscape and fast-growing cities and
towns were recorded by successive generations of artists,
such as William Birch, John Rubens Smith, August Kollner,
Alfred Waud, and the British-trained watercolorist and
engraver William James Bennett. The works of these artists
now evoke discrete eras in American history from the Federal
period to Reconstruction.
(Transfer, U.S. Copyright
George Barnard. Landscape--Looking Down the Valley of
Running Water Creek from near Whiteside's. Albumen silver print
from two glass plate negatives, 1864.
The bridge, located between Nashville and Chattanooga, had
recently been constructed by the Union Army's Department of
Engineers. The railroad was essential to the support of the
occupying force. This panoramic photograph was made while
the photographer was employed by the quartermaster general.
(Orlando Poe Papers)
William Henry Jackson. Panorama of Marshall Pass and Mt.
Ovray. Albumen silver print, 1890.
Best known for his work with the U.S. Geological
the 1860s and 1870s, Jackson later produced views along
various railroad lines to promote tourism. This image was
made from four eighteen-by-twenty-two-inch glass negatives, carefully and almost seamlessly joined on one sheet of
photographic paper. The print is from an archive of over
20,000 prints and 30,000 glass negatives of Jackson's
Detroit Publishing Company.
(Gift of the Colorado Historical Society)
George Lawrence. Photograph of San Francisco in Ruins From
Lawrence Captive Airship. Gelatin silver print, 1906.
The photographic panorama, a medium friendly to the open
spaces and boom towns of the American West and ideally
suited to capturing the effects of disasters on the
cataclysmic scale of the San Francisco earthquake, had its
heyday at the end of the nineteenth century. Because they
were by definition large and fragile, odds did not favor the
survival of many of these panoramas. The Library's
collection of over four thousand
panoramic photographs is
the most comprehensive in existence. Taken before the
introduction of the airplane, Lawrence's panorama was
achieved by hooking a camera to a balloon, or "captive
airship," which then floated above the smoldering ruins of
the city. (Transfer, U.S. Copyright
W. Eugene Smith. Page from A City Experienced: Pittsburgh, Pa., a Photographic Interpretation. Gelatin silver contact prints in three albums, 1955-56. [Not currently available due to copyright restrictions.]
In a number of innovative photo essays produced for Life
magazine in the 1940s, such as "The Country Doctor," and
"The Spanish Village," W. Eugene Smith helped establish the
role of photographer as social commentator and author. His
uncommissioned three-volume study of Pittsburgh, produced
under a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation in the mid-
1950s, presents a portrait of an American industrial city in
a critical period in its history. The study includes about
750 proofs. (Transfer, U.S. Copyright
Alfred Stieglitz. Lower Manhattan. Platinum print, 1910. [Not currently available due to copyright restrictions]
The work of American modernists like Stieglitz projected a
heroic image of the American city, preaching the gospel of
urban civilization abroad. To a Europe straining under the
torrent of displaced farmworkers pouring into Berlin, Paris,
Vienna, and other cities from a depressed countryside,
American metropolises like New York and Chicago looked like
successful models for a new order.
(Gift of Georgia O'Keeffe)
Edward Ruscha. Standard [station].
Color silkscreen, 1966.
The pervasive impact of the automobile on the landscape has
not escaped American artists of the twentieth century. The
"disposable" artifacts of advertising and media, from soup
cans to comic strips to service stations, have interested
critics like Marshall MacLuhan and Robert Venturi and
artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Edward
Ruscha. Previously considered crass, trivial, or worse,
these phenomena are now read as clues to deeper truths about
American culture and society.
(Pennell Fund purchase)