Architecture in the USA – a tasty titbit for Christmas

Lesezeit: 4 Min.

Recently – while doing a spot of (digital) “spring cleaning” in our image database – I stumbled across this wonderful little gem: an extraordinary series of photos that literally made me crow with delight!

Popular albumen prints

It is a collection of 120 previously unindexed albumen prints, mounted on card and measuring 19.5 by 24.5 centimetres. Developed in 1850, albumen paper was one of the most popular types of copy paper until 1900. It produces highly detailed and more affordable photographs than the methods previously used, such as calotype, ambrotype and daguerreotype. Not even modern copy paper can achieve the same wealth of detail. A key component is egg white (albumen), which gives the pictures a special, warm, usually yellowish or brownish tinge. As the paper only consists of one layer, it is very thin, which is why it is usually mounted. By contrast, more recent types of paper, such as baryta, are made up of two layers.

Architecture in the USA

Back to our lucky find: the photos depict architecture – at first glance, from the Anglo-Saxon world; at second, the USA. We see inner-city houses, scenes with people and carriages, but no cars, interiors or lone houses out in the country. We have even managed to identify the first picture! Washington D.C. with Capitol Hill. Therefore, it seems safe to say that the entire series comes from the USA. Perhaps the majority even from Washington D. C.?

Zero labelling!

None of the originals is labelled; no place indications, no trace of a photographer. We estimate that the photographs were taken in the 1880s. Some of them have already faded somewhat. The zoom function is bound to help here.

You can find the photographs in the category Do you know more? USA architecture or with the image code string Ans_05423 on E-Pics Bildarchiv Online

So now I invite you to join me in succumbing to the charm of these bygone worlds that have all but disappeared.

Here is the only photo we have managed to identify: Capitol Hill in Washington D. C.

Washington, D. C., Capitol Hill

(Ans_05423-01-001-FL, http://doi.org/10.3932/ethz-a-000097853)

Ohne Titel

 (Ans_05423-01-015-FL, http://doi.org/10.3932/ethz-a-000097867)

Long exposure times create blurred people and carriages.

Ohne Titel

The same photo: shopfront and the “traffic” outside (detail):

USA-Architektur-04-Detail

(Ans_05423-01-024-FL, http://doi.org/10.3932/ethz-a-000097876)

Even more carriages and wagons, people standing around, and lettering on the houses.

Ohne Titel

(Ans_05423-01-026-FL, http://doi.org/10.3932/ethz-a-000097878)

Yet more people. Clothing is always a good clue for dating pictures.

Ohne Titel

(Ans_05423-02-004-FL, http://doi.org/10.3932/ethz-a-000097889)

Another very nice detail: the man in the window.

Ohne Titel

(Ans_05423-02-010-FL, http://doi.org/10.3932/ethz-a-000097895)

Now for the houses:

Ohne Titel

(Ans_05423-03-035-FL, http://doi.org/10.3932/ethz-a-000097948)

Ohne Titel

(Ans_05423-03-003-FL, http://doi.org/10.3932/ethz-a-000097916)

A man and two children posing in front of the house. Here, too, everything still looks new.

Ohne Titel

(Ans_05423-03-039-FL, http://doi.org/10.3932/ethz-a-000099800)

How can you get involved?

Is this the first time you’ve visited this blog? Would you like to share your knowledge with us, but don’t know how? Then read the first few points in the rubric Participate. Or click on the DOI link in the caption if you would like to add information on a particular photograph from the blog entry directly on E-Pics. You can save us a lot of hard graft if you word your emails as follows: Joe Bloggs: Fraumünster Church in Zurich.

Complete image information

Unknown: No title, approx. 1880-1890. Collection of 120 images (all digitised) (Ans_05423-01-025-FL, http://doi.org/10.3932/ethz-a-000097877)

DOI Link: https://doi.org/10.35016/ethz-cs-1806-en

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2 Comments

    • Nicole Graf
      Friday December 15th, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you very much for your comment. It has already been identified, as you say, as: Albany (NY), John G. Myers Company Dry Goods, Department Store, 39-41 North Pearl Street.

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