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Photograph albums collection

PC009 (RS31556)


The photograph album collection is a complex mix of snapshot albums, professional work, and amateur photographs of high quality, photogravure prints bound as albums, some view books, and even albums of clippings. The collection consists of approximately 270 albums that contain an estimated 20,000 or more images and that date from the 1860s (cartes-de-visite portrait albums) to the 1930s (aerial views of Boston in an album compiled by an employee of the Boston Edison Company with 50 years of service). Highlights of the collection include eight albums of photographs by Henry G. Peabody taken in his capacity as a view photographer for the Detroit Publishing Company, one of the country's leading postcard manufacturers and known for their employment of major photographers. Among these are many views of Boston's streets and major public buildings; Concord, Lexington, Salem, and other historic towns and sites; Worcester, Amherst, Northampton, South Hadley, Williamstown; Burlington, Vermont and the environs of Lake Champlain; town and coastal scenes from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Passamaquody, Maine; and a rare edition of "Representative American Yachts: A Collection of One Hundred Views" published in 1893. There are several albums that were prepared to document street congestion prior to the building of the Boston subway in 1897 and 1898 as well as views of its construction. These are an important source of documentation for many Boston and Cambridge streets, buildings, and construction technologies. Historic landmarks in Boston and its vicinity are thoroughly covered by several albums compiled by Wilfred A. French in the 1880s. Historic New England properties are illustrated by the 1884 album of exterior and interior views of the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts by A. H. Folsom; four albums of images by Elise Tyson Vaughan, owner of the Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine, showing its gardens and surrounding landscape at the turn of the twentieth century; two albums of interior views of Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, taken by T. E. Marr and Son in the early 1930s; the Dole-Little House, in Newbury, Massachusetts, shortly after its restoration; and Mary H. Northend's photographs of the interiors of Indian Hill, which was destroyed by fire.

The works of many architects are represented in the albums. For example, there are photographs of Trinity Church by Henry Hobson Richardson; two-volume portfolio is devoted to Edmund March Wheelwright's commissions as Boston's municipal architect in the early 1890s; everal albums document projects by the Boston firm of Arthur Little and Herbert W. C. Browne, including landscaping views; and others provide a comprehensive photographic account of residential, commercial, and public works by Boston architect Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, Jr.

The album collection is also rich in residential interiors. Of particular interest are a professionally photographed album from the 1890s illustrating the interiors of the J. A. Noyes House in Cambridge, designed by Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, Jr., with supplementary folios of architectural plans, wallpaper samples, invoices, and correspondence relating to the planning of the residence; an album of photographs and a typescript reminiscence of the Payson House, formerly the Cushing Estate, in Belmont, dating to the 1880s; an album of the John Reece House in Brookline's Longwood neighborhood, shortly after its construction in the early 1890s; an album of various homes, apartments, and summer residences of the Frank Manning family of Boston, Newton, Jamaica Plain, and Bar Harbor, Maine; and an album of the scenic wall murals of the Sullivan Dorr House in Providence, Rhode Island, photographed in 1877 against the background of room interiors.

Localities outside Boston include Litchfield, Connecticut in "Picturesque Litchfield County", a nine-part series of gravure illustrations similar to "Art Work o f Plymouth County, Mass." and "Art Work of Boston," all published around 1900 and lavishly illustrating residential streets, business blocks, hotels, and contemporary sights. A rare item is the album prepared by the Dover, New Hampshire, schools for the New Hampshire Educational Exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, depicting school children, local events, garrison houses, and public buildings. The communities of Lowell, Medford, Brimfield, and North Adams in Massachusetts are extensively covered by nineteenth-century views of industrial, commercial, and residential areas.

Portrait albums include several dozen 'pocket' albums of tintypes, more than 35 albums of cartes-de-visite, and cabinet-size albums portraying members of the Curtis, Appleton, Longfellow, Story, Endicott, Emerson, Noyes, Mann, and Eaton families, among others, including many works by Boston photographers of the 1860s and early 1870s. Of special interest are the albums associated with the family of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., including one he personally compiled, and others belonging to close family members. Additional Olmsted family photographs are located in the personal photographic collection.


Collection Name
Photograph albums collection
Collection Code
Date Notes
Physical Description
approx. 270 photograph albums (approx. 20,000 items)
Finding Aid Info
A "descriptive checklist" of the collection is available in hard copy in the Library & Archives. The checklist describes the contents of each album and contains indexes by locality, photographer, architect, and subjects (including people).
Collection Type
Description Level
Custodial History
Please see individual items for custodial history information.
Reference Code

Historical/Biographical Note

This collection was compiled by Library & Archives staff members over the course of the history of Historic New England (previously known as the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities). The albums were aquired either individually or in small groups, and the collection was created out of materials that share a format (albums) rather than materials that shared a subject or a creator. Thus, each item has unique acquisition information and custodial history information.

Library & Archives Guide, Historic New England.


The items in this collection are arranged by album number. Album numbers were assigned by the order in which materials were acquired and added to the collection, with grouped materials receiving numbers in order or numbers with additional subdivisions, such as 169a, 169b, etc.

Record details

Descriptive Terms
National Historic Landmarks
aerial views
churches (buildings)
commercial buildings
construction (assembling)
exterior views
historic buildings
historic houses
historic sites
home (concept)
interior views
public buildings
religious buildings
studio portraits
Material Type
albumen prints
cartes-de-visite (card photographs)
clippings (information artifacts)
cyanotypes (photographic prints)
photograph albums
photogravures (prints)
tintypes (prints)
Architectural photography
Marine photography
This collection is available for research.
Language Note
This collection is primarily in English.
Preferred Citation
Item identification. Photographic albums collection (PC009). Historic New England Library & Archives.
Processing Information
The albums in this collection were described by Library & Archives staff members as each album was acquired and added to the collection. Those descriptions and some information about the collection as a whole were made available by Library & Archives volunteer Susan Johnson in 2013. Additional collection information was added, and existing information updated, by Library & Archives staff member Abigail Cramer in November, 2013.
Rules and Conventions
This finding aid is DACS-compliant.

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