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Pictorial Americana

Selected Images from the Collections of the Library of Congress


Scope and Related Tools | Rights and Restrictions | Obtaining Copies

Scope of the List and Related Tools

Pictorial Americana cover Pictorial Americana, page 1

Cover and first page of the publication, Pictorial Americana (1955)

This illustrated list of images from the Library of Congress collections revives selections made for a 1955 publication, Pictorial Americana: A Select List of Photographic Negatives in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress (second edition), compiled by Milton Kaplan; edited by Charles C. LaHood, Jr. (Washington: Library of Congress, 1955). The list continues to serve the same function that it did more than fifty years ago, offering pictorial material on various phases of American life and history.

The list includes only the images selected in 1955. Many additional images on the themes included in this list are available in the Prints and Photographs Division collections. Some can be viewed by searching by subject or name in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog and by viewing other image lists available from the Prints and Photographs Division's Lists of Images on Popular Topics web page and collection descriptions accessed through the Collection Guides & Finding Aids page.

Pictorial Americana not only represents a mid-1950's selection of significant historical themes and the images that should represent them, but in many ways, it offers a nineteenth century perspective on earlier eras in American history and topics of the day. Milton Kaplan selected many images from the Prints and Photographs Division's historical print collections (also known as the Popular Graphic Arts collection) to illustrate particular historical events, such as the American Revolution. The prints, which include lithographs, engravings, and etchings made for popular consumption by publishers such as Currier & Ives and L. Prang & Co., often offer colorful and dramatic, if not strictly historically accurate, depictions. (See Historical Prints: Evaluation, Authenticity, Copyright, Dealers, and Bibliography for information resources relating to historical prints.) Other collections that Kaplan drew on include:

The Prints and Photographs Division is readying the Web version of Pictorial Americana in stages. We will be adding links to the sections listed in the full Table of Contents as the online material becomes available. We have made very few changes to the entries, other than to:

  • correct altered reproduction numbers
  • substitute, whenever they are available, digital images and reproduction numbers for color transparencies or digital copies from the original item instead of the images from black-and-white negatives that the 1955 publication originally supplied
  • spell out abbreviations used in the original publication
  • amplify titles when the text on the item appears, from the catalog record, to differ markedly from that given in the publication
  • eliminate duplicate entries.

In a couple of cases where Pictorial Americana "chapters" consisted of only a few images, the chapter was combined with another on a closely related topic.

Rights and Restrictions

The images are presented for educational and research purposes. The Library of Congress is unaware of any copyright or donor restrictions on the use of the images. However, patrons who plan to publish or otherwise distribute any of the images should be aware that determination regarding the appropriate use of an image ultimately rests with the patron. The Library generally does not own rights to material in its collections. Therefore, it does not charge permission fees for use of such material and cannot give or deny permission for use of the images. For further information, see "Copyright and Other Restrictions ... Assessing the Risk of Using a P&P Image."

Obtaining Copies

The small ("thumbnail") images in the list link to displays in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog that offer

  • a larger jpeg image
  • a link to a tiff image (usually, the highest resolution image available)
  • sometimes, alternate versions of the image
  • a link to bibliographic information that often describes the image more fully (catalog records for these early materials have not been completely converted, so some "bibliographic information" links lead only to a "Digital display record" used to make the digital image available).

Users may download the images. Since the images have been digitized at different times and from different media, image resolution (e.g., dots per inch) varies. Users will need to experiment with the downloaded images to determine whether the images are of appropriate quality for a given application.

If the digital versions of the image are not of high enough quality for the application in question, photographic copies may be purchased through the Library of Congress Duplication Services. In requesting copies, the reproduction number should be cited, as well as a caption. You can find the reproduction number in the Pictorial Americana entry (the reproduction number is for a black-and-white copy negative, unless otherwise specified). The reproduction number also appears in the linked record in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, where alternate versions may also be available.

Go to: Pictorial Americana Table of Contents

Prepared by: P&P staff. Last revised: Dec. 2010
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  March 16, 2012
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