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View books were a popular medium for promoting the assets of New England cites and towns, particularly those wishing to attract tourism, or to draw attention to their up-to-date manufacturing, educational, and commercial activities. Those in Historic New England's collections are in two formats: bound volumes of photogravure plates, and those which mix text and mechanically reproduced (usually half-tone) photography. In general, the reproductive quality of the the photogravure work is fine, produced from the 1880s until the mid-1890s.
Of the view books in the collection, those by Charles Eddy are of particular interest, for their concentration on such unheralded Massachusetts towns as North Brookfield, Ware, and Barre. Eddy was a resident of that town.
Since most view books were frankly promotional in purpose, users should not expect to find images that picture 'old-time' New England. The emphasis is nearly always on new buildings which were a source of civic pride and a measure of civic progress. The charm of ancient Colonial structures did not begin to be stressed, in publications such as these, until the turn of the century and thereafter.
Source: View Books Collection finding aid.
hotels (public accommodations)
parks (recreation areas)
ca. 150 viewbooks
View books graphic collection, 1880s-1920s
New England (United States) [general region]
Ware (Hampshire County, Massachusetts)
North Brookfield (Worcester county, Massachusetts)
Barre (Worcester county, Massachusetts)
Eddy, Charles (Publisher)
View books were "commercially published groups of photographs of one place, event, or activity, sometimes spiral bound or accordion folded." They began appearing in the late 1880s and are similar to postcard series as an expression of civic pride in the well-groomed residential streets, newly constructed business blocks, hotels, parks, and local industries of many of New England's smaller cities and towns. Towards the turn of the century, more extensive coverage was given to historic landmarks and purely scenic views, as the consciousness of New England's past began to play a significant role in its development as a tourist region.
Sources: Guide to the Library and Archives, 18; View Books Collection finding aid; Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus, record ID 300026684.
The Ware Public Library holds a collection of Charles Eddy's work, together with some other records.
A checklist to more than 80 of the view books has been compiled, arranged by localities and cross-referenced by subjects and building types.