General File Photograph Collection, ca. 1860–1975
From whaling ships to oil refineries, steam engines to early television transmitters, this collection chronicles industrial development from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1980s. The holdings came from a variety of sources and include a range of photographic formats—from early cartes-de-visite to oversized silver-gelatin prints that document agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and transportation industries in the United States as well as Canada, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Significant photographs include late-nineteenth-century advertisements for automobiles, images depicting completion of the Montreal-Vancouver railroad in 1885, close-ups of early computing machinery, cyanotypes of European and U.S. bridges, images of workers in South African gold mines, a series of photos taken of supermarkets around the world circa early 1960s, and striking views of Tennessee Valley Authority dams in the 1970s. Works by renowned photographers include Lewis Hine’s scenes of construction crews atop the Empire State Building, Margaret Bourke-White’s portrait of masked chemical workers at the Sherwin Williams Factory, and Arthur Gerlach’s views of oil refineries.