Monday, July 9, 2012

Miniature photographs from 1930s New York City

Big weekend coming up! My wife and I will be traveling to New York City for one of the premieres of "I'm Fine, Thanks" -- a feature-length documentary for which she played a big behind-the-scenes role.

To maintain the Big Apple theme, here are four miniature photographs of New York City, circa the mid-1930s (more on that in a moment), that I came across. The photos are a mere 2¾ inches by 1⅞ inches. They have short descriptions stamped on the back, and I suspect they would have been sold to tourists in small packets.

The beauty of the computer age is that I can scan these small photos on my Canon PIXMA and magnify them so that we can see a previously unavailable level of detail regarding New York City of nearly eight decades ago. (You can click on any of these images for even greater magnification.)

First up is an aerial view of the Triboro Bridge (as it's spelled on the back)...

The bridge opened to traffic in 1936, thanks to the efforts of Robert Moses. So that helps us with the dating of these photos. It's not 100% clear whether the bridge is open here. But if it's not, it's pretty darn close.

Next up is the historic Woolworth Building...

And then an awesome shot of Times Square...

In magnifying this photo, these are some of the signs I was able to read:
There is also, on the right, a movie marquee with the names Gene Raymond and Ann Sothern. This is a wonderful help in dating this photograph. Raymond and Sothern starred in five films together between 1935 and 1937.1 So I think it's safe to say this photo was taken between 1935 and perhaps early 1938.

The final photo shows 42nd Street, with the Chrysler Building in the background...

Like these? I posted some more from the same set.

1. The five Raymond/Sothern films were "Hooray for Love" (1935), "Smartest Girl in Town" (1936), "Walking on Air" (1936), "She's Got Everything" (1937), and "There Goes My Girl" (1937). Many years later, both of them also appeared in 1964's "The Best Man," but those were supporting roles to stars Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson.


  1. Very cool! I plan to use these to launch a reading inquiry unit about the 1930s with my class. Thanks!

  2. My grandfather had bought a set of exactly these photographs (12 to 16) while staying in NYC in late 1937. I still have most of them.