The Way We Were: Museum of the City of New York

A look at some of the new material from the photographic archives of this impressive collection.

Bridgeman is delighted to have access to more than 22,000 prints taken by The Byron Company,  New York's famed commerical photography studio. Founded in 1892 by Joseph Byron, Byron Co. chronicled the changing cultural and physical environment of New York City from the turn of the century until WWII.  View all the Byron Company images currently available for download.

 

MNY381523 A group in costume at the home of Miss Morganthau, 1906 (silver gelatin print) by Byron Co./ Museum of the City of New York, USA
MNY381523 A group in costume at the home of Miss Morganthau, 1906 (silver gelatin print) by Byron Co./ Museum of the City of New York, USA

 

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

If you are curious about how the other half lived in early 20th century New York, check out wonderful portraits of the well-heeled at fancy dress balls. Or spy on a young May Robson at her dressing table as she prepares to go on stage. Other highlights include stage and screen actress, Edna Wallace Hopper, learning to box and Oscar Hammerstein smoking a cigar on set at the Manhattan Opera House. The theatre has always been a large part of life in New York as evidenced by many images of professional and amateur productions, set designs and startletts pictured on stage and off.

More images of the rich and famous at play.

And....the Not so Rich and Famous

While the Rockefellers and Carnegies were canoodling uptown, more than half of the population was trying to survive in the tiny tenement buildings downtown. Get an idea of what life was like for many through photographs of children waiting in line to bathe at the public bath houses or busy street scenes of peddlers hawking their wares. As the tenements were so overcrowded, New York parks were the 'front yards' for many children. Check out wonderful images of children's games and entertainment at a festival in Tompkins Square Park and frolicking at the playground.

 

MNY381185 View of a peddler on 7th Avenue, 1903 (silver gelatin print) by Byron Company/ Museum of the City of New York, USA
MNY381185 View of a peddler on 7th Avenue, 1903 (silver gelatin print) by Byron Company/ Museum of the City of New York, USA

 

 

MNY381619 Working on a layout at a light table at Unz & Co., by Byron Company
MNY381619 Working on a layout at a light table at Unz & Co., by Byron Company

 

Nine-to-Five

In order to afford those fancy parties, one had to earn a decent living, of course. The Byron Company chronicles workers from every walk of life and profession: piano makers, teachers from the New York Association for the Blind, industrial workers and even bone setters(!). Be a fly on the wall at the Edison Company's booth at a Madison Square Garden trade show, or reminisce about the days when designing a layout had to be done over a light table (left). You can also pretend you are a wealthy patron as you catch a glimpse of artists at work in their studios. An unusual site, there is even an image of girls hard at work on a rooftop vegetable garden.

More images of New York at work.

The Backdrop

As always, one of the most important characters in any story about New York is the city itself.  Take a walk through the seemingly wide open spaces as New York was a beginning to build the modern version of itself. Take a look at Pennsylvania Station when it was just a hole in the ground and the train tracks were being laid. Revel in the lack of crowds in Times Square while you check into the Hotel Knickerbocker. As much as things change, find comfort in the fact that some things stay the same.  The Plaza Hotel's Palm Court in present day looks very much like it did in this 1907 photograph.

View more images of interiors and architecture from the Byron Co. collection.

 

MNY381774 The Union Square Hotel at Union Square East and 15th, New York, 1905 (silver gelatin print) by Byron Company/ Museum of the City of New York, USA
MNY381774 The Union Square Hotel at Union Square East and 15th, New York, 1905 (silver gelatin print) by Byron Company/ Museum of the City of New York, USA

 


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