Library of Congress Prints and Photographs: An Illustrated Guide
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Portfolio 6: The American Landscape and Cityscape

The pictorial record of the cities, towns, and suburbs of the United States and the diverse landscape of the country constitutes a particular strength of the Library's comprehensive collections. Prints and photographs from the past two centuries convey both topographical and architectural realities as well as the human experience in urban and rural settings. Particularly rich in American city views, panoramic photographs, and commercial photographs of buildings and cities, the Library's holdings are a source of detailed information on the growth and evolution of the American city, the history of urban planning and land use in the United States, and the art of representing landscape.


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William James Bennett's "City of Charleston, South Carolina, Looking Across Cooper's
River (Engraving and aquatint with watercolor, on paper, 1838)" William James Bennett. City of Charleston, South Carolina, Looking Across Cooper's River. Engraving and aquatint with watercolor, on paper, 1838.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3924 (color transparency); LC-USZC2-1874 (color slide); LC-USZ62-3778 (b&w film copy neg.)

Drawings and prints from the early nineteenth century provide a rich and vivid record of the growth of the United States and the emergence of the young republic. The rapidly changing American landscape and fast-growing cities and towns were recorded by successive generations of artists, such as William Birch, John Rubens Smith, August Kollner, Alfred Waud, and the British-trained watercolorist and engraver William James Bennett. The works of these artists now evoke discrete eras in American history from the Federal period to Reconstruction. (Transfer, U.S. Copyright Office)


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George Barnard's "Landscape--Looking Down the Valley of
Running Water Creek from near Whiteside's (Albumen silver print
from two glass plate negatives,  1864)" George Barnard. Landscape--Looking Down the Valley of Running Water Creek from near Whiteside's. Albumen silver print from two glass plate negatives, 1864.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3925 (color transparency)

The bridge, located between Nashville and Chattanooga, had recently been constructed by the Union Army's Department of Engineers. The railroad was essential to the support of the occupying force. This panoramic photograph was made while the photographer was employed by the quartermaster general. (Orlando Poe Papers)


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William Henry Jackson's "Panorama of Marshall Pass and Mt. Ovray (Albumen silver print,
1890)" William Henry Jackson. Panorama of Marshall Pass and Mt. Ovray. Albumen silver print, 1890.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3926 (color transparency)

Best known for his work with the U.S. Geological Survey in the 1860s and 1870s, Jackson later produced views along various railroad lines to promote tourism. This image was made from four eighteen-by-twenty-two-inch glass negatives, carefully and almost seamlessly joined on one sheet of photographic paper. The print is from an archive of over 20,000 prints and 30,000 glass negatives of Jackson's Detroit Publishing Company. (Gift of the Colorado Historical Society)


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George Lawrence's "Photograph of San Francisco in Ruins From Lawrence Captive Airship
(Gelatin silver print, 1906)" George Lawrence. Photograph of San Francisco in Ruins From Lawrence Captive Airship. Gelatin silver print, 1906.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3870 (color transparency); LC-USZ62-16440 (b&w film copy neg.)

The photographic panorama, a medium friendly to the open spaces and boom towns of the American West and ideally suited to capturing the effects of disasters on the cataclysmic scale of the San Francisco earthquake, had its heyday at the end of the nineteenth century. Because they were by definition large and fragile, odds did not favor the survival of many of these panoramas. The Library's collection of over four thousand panoramic photographs is the most comprehensive in existence. Taken before the introduction of the airplane, Lawrence's panorama was achieved by hooking a camera to a balloon, or "captive airship," which then floated above the smoldering ruins of the city. (Transfer, U.S. Copyright Office)


W. Eugene Smith. Page from A City Experienced: Pittsburgh, Pa., a Photographic Interpretation. Gelatin silver contact prints in three albums, 1955-56. [Not currently available due to copyright restrictions.]

In a number of innovative photo essays produced for Life magazine in the 1940s, such as "The Country Doctor," and "The Spanish Village," W. Eugene Smith helped establish the role of photographer as social commentator and author. His uncommissioned three-volume study of Pittsburgh, produced under a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation in the mid- 1950s, presents a portrait of an American industrial city in a critical period in its history. The study includes about 750 proofs. (Transfer, U.S. Copyright Office)


Alfred Stieglitz. Lower Manhattan. Platinum print, 1910. [Not currently available due to copyright restrictions]

The work of American modernists like Stieglitz projected a heroic image of the American city, preaching the gospel of urban civilization abroad. To a Europe straining under the torrent of displaced farmworkers pouring into Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and other cities from a depressed countryside, American metropolises like New York and Chicago looked like successful models for a new order. (Gift of Georgia O'Keeffe)


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Edward Ruscha's "Standard [station] (Color silkscreen, 1966)" Edward Ruscha. Standard [station]. Color silkscreen, 1966.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3929 (color transparency)

The pervasive impact of the automobile on the landscape has not escaped American artists of the twentieth century. The "disposable" artifacts of advertising and media, from soup cans to comic strips to service stations, have interested critics like Marshall MacLuhan and Robert Venturi and artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Edward Ruscha. Previously considered crass, trivial, or worse, these phenomena are now read as clues to deeper truths about American culture and society. (Pennell Fund purchase)

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