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NYPL // Public Domain
NYPL // Public Domain

11 Highlights From the New York Public Library’s New Public Domain Collections

NYPL // Public Domain
NYPL // Public Domain

Today, the New York Public Library released more than 180,000 images in the library’s collection, making high-resolution scans available to the public for free. The digitized collections now available in high resolution include papers from James Madison and Walt Whitman, photographs from New Deal artist programs, city plans for Washington D.C., scans of The Green Book (a guidebook to African-American-friendly establishments published until the 1960s), and manuscripts of the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji

In addition to plenty of historic photographs and documents relating to New York City and the United States at large, the collection contains an exhaustive amount of broader historical resources, such as images of the Russian Imperial family and the German Reich. Here are 11 of the hidden treasures: 

1. HENRY DAVID THOREAU’S 1846 PENCILED MAP OF WALDEN POND: 

Henry David Thoreau via NYPL // Public Domain

Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau moved into the house he built near Walden Pond in 1945. This is one of his hand-drawn maps of the area.

2. DEPRESSION-ERA PHOTOS FROM ARTISTS LIKE WALKER EVANS AND DOROTHEA LANGE:

Image Credit: Dorothea Lange via NYPL // Public Domain

Dorothea Lange’s Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California, one of the images created for the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration, became an iconic image of the Great Depression. 

3. LEWIS HINE’S PHOTOGRAPHY OF TENEMENT LIVING IN THE EARLY 1900s: 

Living rooms of a tenement family near Hull House, Chicago, 1910.” Image Credit: Lewis Wickes Hine via NYPL // Public Domain

Hine photographed tenement conditions on the Lower East Side in New York and near Hull House in Chicago. The NYPL collection also contains his photographs from Ellis Island. 

4. STEREOSCOPIC IMAGES OF THE KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH:

“Women prospectors on their way to Klondyke [Klondike].” Image Credit: B.W. Kilburn via NYPL // Public Domain

Starting in 1896, thousands of people flocked to the Yukon to try to strike gold. Not all of them were the male prospectors we often imagine, as this 1898 image shows. 

5. MAPS OF THE EARLY UNITED STATES:

“Map of the Indian Territory, Northern Texas and New Mexico.”Image Credit: Sidney E. Morse via NYPL // Public Domain 

The digital collections include a large selection of historic atlases and maps dating back as far as the 1500s. This one shows Indian territories around the Rocky Mountains, as well as the boundaries of Texas and New Mexico, as they stood in 1842. 

6. AN ENDLESS ARRAY OF CIGARETTE CARDS:

Image Credit: NYPL // Public Domain

In the mid-19th century, tobacco companies included illustrated collector’s cards with their products that depicted everything from Aesop’s fables to contemporary starlets. The one above features Lynn Gilbert, a film star considered one of “Today’s Beauties” by the Abdulla & Co. tobacco company. 

7. NAZI PROPAGANDA PHOTOS FROM WWII: 

Besides the people's gas mask, there are also gas defenses created for German children.” Image Credit: Heinrich Hoffman via NYPL // Public Domain

Propaganda photos from the studio of Adolf Hitler’s personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, were collected in four separate albums, one published each year from 1939 through 1942. The library found an incomplete set of these images in their archives a few years ago, and sorted, translated, and captioned them. This photograph depicts how children can be protected from poisonous gases aside from traditional masks. 

8. PORTRAITS OF EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

Image Credit: NYPL // Public Domain

The library has several photos of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Here she is with her husband, Eugen Jan Boissevain, in the 1920s. 

9. CIVIL WAR PHOTOGRAPHS:

Rebel works in front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 2.” Image Credit: George N. Barnard via NYPL // Public Domain

This image of Civil War Atlanta comes from an 1866 book of the images of official military photographer George Barnard. He photographed General William Tecumseh Sherman’s campaigns in the South, including the infamous March to the Sea and destructive passage through the Carolinas. 

10. A FIRST DRAFT OF UNCLE TOM’S CABIN

Image Credit: Harriet Beecher Stowe via NYPL // Public Domain

The library holds part of a handwritten first draft of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel. This page is from the first chapter. 

11. 19TH CENTURY MEDICAL PHOTOS

Attitudes obtenues dans la catalepsie sous l'influence de diverses excitations.” Image Credit: Albert Londe via NYPL // Public Domain

This image from 1893, part of the library's collection of historic medical images, shows “attitudes obtained in catalepsy [a nervous condition] under the influence of various stimuli,” such as different chemicals like chloroform or camphor. 

Explore all the collections from the New York Public Library for yourself here. For archive lovers with an artistic inclination, NYPL Labs is launching a paid residency program for artists and designers interested in creating new works using the public domain collection and the NYPL's other digital materials. 

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geography
This 1940 Film on Road Maps Will Make You Appreciate Map Apps Like Never Before
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images

In the modern era, we take for granted having constantly updated, largely accurate maps of just about every road in the world at our fingertips. If you need to find your way through a city or across a country, Google Maps has your back. You no longer have to go out and buy a paper map.

But to appreciate just what a monstrous task making road maps and keeping them updated was in decades past, take a look at this vintage short film, "Caught Mapping," spotted at the Internet Archive by National Geographic.

The 1940 film, produced by the educational and promotional company Jam Handy Organization (which created films for corporations like Chevrolet), spotlights the difficult task of producing and revising maps to keep up with new road construction and repair.

The film is a major booster of the mapmaking industry, and those involved in it come off as near-miracle workers. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.

Once those maps were printed, they were "ready to give folks a good steer," as the film's narrator puts it, quietly determining the success of any road trip in the country.

"Presto! and right at their fingertips, modern motorists can have [information] on any road they wish to take." A modern marvel, really.

[h/t National Geographic]

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History
3 Fascinating Items in Abraham Lincoln's Newly Released Archives

The Abraham Lincoln collection in the Library of Congress just got a major boost. The 16th president’s full papers are now entirely available online in full color for the first time, giving you high-resolution access to his letters, campaign materials, speeches, and more.

Lincoln’s papers took a roundabout route to the Library of Congress. After his assassination, Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln sent the president’s papers to one of the former congressman’s associates in Illinois, Judge David Davis, who worked with Lincoln’s presidential secretaries to organize them. Robert Todd Lincoln gave them to the Library of Congress in 1919, and in 1923, deeded them to the archive, mandating that they be sealed until 21 years after his death. They were opened in 1947.

This isn’t the first time some of these documents have been available online—scanned images of them first appeared on the Library of Congress’s American Memory website in 2001—but this 20,000-document collection provides higher-resolution versions, with new additions and features. Previous papers were uploaded as image scans from microfilm, meaning they weren’t particularly high quality. Now, researchers have better access to the information with scans from the original documents that you can zoom in on and actually read.

There are searchable transcriptions for about 10,000 hand-written documents in the collection, including those written in Lincoln’s hand, along with annotations that provide contextual explanations. Here are three items in the collection not to miss:

1. THE EARLIEST VERSION OF THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

Lincoln read this early version of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet in July 1862, telling them he was going to propose freeing slaves held by Confederate rebels. Secretary of State William Seward convinced him that he should wait until there was a major Union victory to announce the proclamation.

2. A LETTER FROM MRS. LINCOLN

In the fall of 1862, Mary Todd Lincoln wrote her husband during her month-long trip to New York and Boston about her dressmaker and confidant, a former slave named Elizabeth Keckley, asking him for money to give to her to buy blankets for escaped slaves, then referred to as “contrabands.”

3. A DRAFT OF THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS

This may be the only copy of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address that was drafted before he delivered it. There are five known drafts of the speech, but three were written out for people who requested copies afterward. It’s unclear if one of the other copies was made before or after the speech, but this one was definitely drafted beforehand. It belonged to Nicolay Hay, Lincoln’s secretary, who also helped organize his papers after the president’s death. It differs a little from the speech we’re familiar with, so you should definitely read the transcript. (Click “show text” above the image on the Library of Congress page for the text and annotations.)

You can see all the documents here.

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