Panoramic Photographs, offers a detailed view of "Main Street" life in America, from small towns to large urban centers. Topics include industry, engineering feats, county fairs, and international expositions. Several hundred group portraits, as well as landscapes and natural wonders, are also included.
These online exhibits provide context and additional information about this collection.
- A Brief History of Panoramic Photography
- Shooting a Panoramic Photograph
- Selected Photographers and Examples of their Works
- Selected Panoramic Photographs
These historical era(s) are best represented in the collection although they may not be all-encompassing.
- Expansion and Reform, 1801-1861
- The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1850-1877
- Development of the Industrial United States, 1876-1915
- Emergence of Modern America, 1890-1930
- The Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945
- Postwar United States, 1945-early 1970s
- Contemporary United States, 1968-Present
Related Collections and Exhibits
- African American Perspectives, 1818-1907
- American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
- America's First Look into the Camera: Daguerreotypes, 1839-1862
- Gottscho-Schleisner Collection
- World's Transportation Commission
- Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865
- Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920
- Frank Lloyd Wright: Designs for an American Landscape, 1922-1932
- FSA/OWI Photographs, 1935-1945
- Great Earthquake and Fire: San Francisco, 1897-1916
- Jackie Robinson and Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s
- Last Days of a President: McKinley and the Pan-American Exposition, 1901
- Life of a City: New York, 1898-1906
- Map Collections, 1500-2004
- Panoramic Maps
- The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures, 1898-1901
- Detroit Publishing Company
- Voices from the Dust Bowl, 1940-1941
- Horydczak Collection
Recommended additional sources of information.
Specific guidance for searching this collection
Specific guidance for searching this collection
For help with general search strategies, see Finding Items in American Memory.
Panoramic Photographs, contains 4,000 panoramic photographs which offer a detailed view of "Main Street" life in America, from small towns to large cities. The collection can be used to explore the rise of industrial America, daily life and leisure activities at the turn of the century, and cultural attitudes toward the natural world, among other topics.
1) The collection contains photographs of cities and towns across the United States. These photographs show city skylines, architectural styles, and street life from the period.
Search on cityscapes, commercial streets, square, and town to find views of urban centers.
Students can use the collection to observe the development of different locales. Search on city or town names such as San Francisco, Baltimore, or Chicago to find photographs which show the change within these cities over time. Students can also use the Location Index to help them locate specific sites. Use the table below to investigate items which show change in three cities:
|San Francisco|| Panorama of the ruins, July 14, 1906
Three years after, San Francisco, April 1909
A Panorama of San Francisco, California, February, 1912
|Use Alcatraz Island as a reference point.|
|Chicago|| Crowd at Cubs Park, July 27, 1929
The Official Web Site of the Chicago Cubs: Wrigley Field History and Information
|Compare the buildings behind Wrigley Field. Notice that some additional bleachers have been built, and one building has had its conical roof removed.|
|Baltimore|| Baltimore Harbor After Fire, 1904
Baltimore Harbor, 1912
|Use the building with four smoke stacks as a reference point.|
2) The wide range of U.S. industry photos in the collection can enhance teaching units on the rise of industrial and modern America. Students can get an idea of industrial development at the turn of the century by looking at the images of work and work environments. Use the list below to see examples:
- Steel Mills, Gary, Ind., 1912
- Long Beach Oil Field, California, May 1923
- Leech Lake Lumber Co., Walker, Minn., 1915
- The Biwabik Mine, 1902
Search on specific types of labor such as mining, lumbering, oil, and steel to see other images of the work environment during the turn of the century.
3) Taking the Long View, 1851-1991, documents daily life by showing recreation and leisure activities of the time. Students can research what activities were new arrivals on the turn-of-the-century leisure scene. For example, students may investigate when the beauty pageant became an American institution, and how gender roles were changing during this period. Some examples of activities are listed in the list below:
- Ninth Annual Bathing Girl Revue, June 3,4,5, 1928, Galveston, Texas
- Army - Navy football game, Nov. 28, 1908
- "Cow Girls" at the Pendleton "Round Up", 1911
- Republican National Convention, 1920
- Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, California, July, 1960
Search on bathing beauty pageants, sporting events, rodeos, conventions, picnics, and banquets to find images of people involved in the events of daily life.
4) The style of panoramic photography recorded images as well as a sense of how Americans of the period perceived their surroundings. Grand vistas of landscapes were popular during the turn-of-the-century decades because of American pride and a sense of mastery of their world and its resources. Taking the Long View, 1851-1991, contains panoramic photographs of natural wonders, many of which became heavily visited tourist destinations. For example, students can compare a panoramic photo of Crater Lake taken in 1913 with the photos found on the Crater Lake National Park website. Using these images and the timeline from the Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920 in American Memory, students can begin to study the history of the U.S. conservation movement and the formation of a National Park System.
Search on national park, hotels, and specific sites such as Niagara Falls to find other images related to American attitudes concerning undeveloped land.
1) Chronological Thinking
Taking the Long View, 1851-1991, contains panoramas from all fifty states. Students can use the photographs to study the history of their state. Students might research and compare land development, industry, agriculture, and housing in their region one hundred years ago and today. Students can also use the collection to create a "then and now" museum of photographs from the collection and from current newspapers.
2) Historical Comprehension
Students can use the collection to imagine what life was like in turn-of-the-century America. Teachers can guide students in a discussion of what aspects of life they can learn about from the photos. How did people work? Where did people live? What did people do for fun? What was difficult about living a hundred years ago? What might have been easier? What were the effects of industrialization on the American landscape?
For example, have students look at Hester Street, a turn-of-the-century market in New York, as well as a City market of Los Angeles and The Horses Market in South Omaha, Nebraska. How do these markets compare with the places where we buy and sell goods today?
Search on employment, commercial streets, and specific types of industry such as lumber, petroleum, paper, and steel to find photographs related to work. Search on dwellings, markets, schools, games, and amusement for images which show daily life of the period.
3) Historical Research Capabilities
Students may use the collection to research local history. They can assemble a set of panoramic images to create an exhibit or report on their region in an earlier time period. Students might analyze parts of a single panorama and research related resources to explain the elements in a photograph.
Location Index to help locate a specific place to research.
4) Historical Issue Analysis and Decision Making
In the decades surrounding 1900, Americans were faced with choices about how to develop land and use resources. New technologies were available to exploit resources to an extent never seen before. It was also during this time that national parks were established. Students might consider the history of American attitudes toward developing and utilizing natural resources and use this history as a context for studying present day issues of conservation. Students might look at the Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920 Collection Connection to further explore these ideas.
Search on mountains, waterfalls, national parks, oil, mines, canals, dams, and railroad to see images showing different uses of the land.
Arts & Humanities
1) Expository Writing
Using photos from the collection to illustrate their writing, have students create and provide explanatory labels for an exhibit of what life was like at the turn of the century. Students might answer questions such as:
- How did people from that time period make a living?
- What did they do for fun?
- How did they dress?
- What modes of transportation did they use?
2) Creative Writing
Have students write short stories about people in the panoramic photographs. Students might create characters living in specific locales, and describe where they live and their daily activities. Or, students can write a journal or diary entry in the voice of someone who is describing a place or event found in a panoramic photo. Or, students can assume the role of a tour guide leading visitors around a particular city, and describe the sights, smells and sounds of that place.
3) Content Themes in the Study of Literature
The decades surrounding 1900 saw the increasing development of regional literature. Students studying regional writers of the era can use the panoramic photographs as a way to visualize the type of landscape the writers drew upon for creative inspiration. Students can select photos that illustrate a work of non-fiction or fiction.
For example, students might be asked to read John Muir's The Mountains of California, found in Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920. Students can then search on Yosemite and Sierra Nevada Mountains in Taking the Long View, 1851-1991, to find images to illustrate Muir's writing.