Visualizing Nineteenth-Century New York focuses on how a new visual order emerged in nineteenth-century New York. The city took center stage as a site of visual production and as the nation's central sight. While many marveled at the metropolis’s phenomenal growth, the city's perceptual confusion also caught the attention of visitors and residents alike. This collaborative exhibit of the Bard Graduate Center and the New York Public Library attempts to make sense of that experience.

New strategies were needed to make sense of the new visual urban order. Entrepreneurs were critical to that project as they circulated maps, city views, stereoviews, guidebooks, and other illustrated forms as part of New York’s burgeoning publishing industry, the nation’s largest. New technologies of vision facilitated that culture of visuality; lithography and half-tones greatly expedited the diffusion of those materials. Harper’s Weekly woodcuts along with other illustrated newspapers promoted a common visual understanding of the doings of the city’s denizens by mid-century. City reformers and landscape architects looked to new spaces such as Central Park and the Crystal Palace to civilize the citizenry, while patricians organized new institutions such as the 7th Regiment and its armories as models of class order as well as a means of keeping order. Despite these efforts, the city’s people often had their own sense of urban order, as groups such as itinerant food vendors crossed all those societal boundaries with their signs and carts. Indeed, the city was a cacophony of competing signs and signage that required some considerable amount of experience to fathom.

We have designed Visualizing Nineteenth-Century New York to be a digitally rich but easily readable and navigable experience. Clicking on an image will put the web page in the background and display a larger version of that image with more information about the object. Once enlarged, some images can be further explored through zooming technology that allows you to view that image in high resolution with magnified details as you move around the image. Other embedded links contain contemporary sources such as diaries or periodicals. When possible, each caption will link to the relevant image's Digital Gallery page at the NYPL or Library of Congress, complete with bibliographic information.


Bohemians of Trade and Bedouins of Traffic
Food Vendors
New York by the Book: Strangers in the City
The 7th Regiment's New York
7th Regiment
Maps and Views
Maps and Views
Central Park
Central Park