A Virtual Tour of The Library of Congress’ Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

Where there's smoke there's fire

“Where there’s smoke there’s fire”, Russell Patterson, circa 192?. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-01589

First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I have been having serious battles with my computer all week (we’re at around 18 kernel panic shutdowns thus far), and today has been no exception. Let’s just all say a quick prayer and cross our fingers that this post is not going to have to tide you over for weeks and weeks. 😉 Saving my work has become a serious tic now, though; this seems to me both good and bad.

There have been repeated threats that I was going to talk about an amazing resource for history lovers, art fans, architecture buffs, and really just about any living human being—the Library Of Congress’ Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC)—with you, and today seems like a good day to do so.

How this massive online source of art, photographs, old books, sheet music, and more came to my attention I really can’t recall, but it was a most fortuitous day. The collections offered are fairly astounding in their breadth and depth, and if you ever need something worthwhile with which to devour your time, the PPOC is it.

Belle Isle Park, Grand Canal

Belle Isle Park, Grand Canal (Detroit, Michigan). Circa 1880-1899. Detroit Publishing Co., publisher. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-det-4a05260

According to the PPOC itself, over 1.2 million images have been digitized for the collection; some are thumbnail size due to rights concerns, but many are full-size and downloadable; most of my posts for the Gertrude Kasebier post were from the PPOC’s collections. It looks like most or all of the material in the catalog can actually be purchased, too, via the Library’s Duplication Services.

[The Kremlin, Moscow, with river in foreground]

The Kremlin, Moscow, with river in foreground, 1934. From the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection, courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-95748.

Despite having known about it for some time, and occasionally browsing when opportunity presents itself, I’ve hardly plumbed the depths (this post is going to be difficult to finish, because searching for things to include, I keep seeing things that threaten to distract).

Inokashira no ike benzaiten no yashiro

“Inokashira no ike benzaiten no yashiro”, snow scene of Benzaiten Shrine in Inokashira pond. Hiroshige Ando, published between 1838-1844. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-00490.

There are parcels and snippets of American and even world history in the PPOC, works ranging from political cartoons and caricatures to drawn and photographed architectural studies and the photograph collections of news organizations from sea to shining sea. Thus it is well worth exploring no matter your passions, because you are bound to find something of interest. But let’s take a virtual peek at what’s there!

The main catalog is easy to access: It is at http://www.loc.gov/pictures.

1408062148912screencapture

The screencap shows but an itty-bitty portion of the collections available. Ansel Adams’ photos of Americans of Japanese descent wrongly interned at Manzanar; multiple cartoon & drawing collections; prints and glass negatives from the War Between The States (I have Southern friends, now); posters from the Spanish-American War; the Arnold Genthe collection; Japanese art prints from before 1915 (this collection I

Daguerreotype of an unidentified woman, about 20 years of age, three-quarter length portrait, three-quarters to the left, seated in chair beside small table with tablecloth, wearing bonnet and black lace gloves; hands in lap, one elbow on table on which there is a folded fan. Circa 1844-1860. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-109878.

spent some time perusing, and it is beautiful); the famous Look Magazine collection; building surveys; negatives given to the LOC from the Wright Brothers‘ estate; a collection of prints dating from 1450 to the present including works by, oh, Mary Cassatt and Paul Revere; a collection of 700 daguerreotypes; and photographs and fabulous posters from the famed Ziegfeld shows (many of which are NSFW—they’re pretty risque for the era, though of course those familiar with Ziegfeld is aware of that.); and even photos from my own home state, Michigan, in the Detroit Publishing Company collection! And that just barely scratches the surface. There are old movie posters floating around in the PPOC, too.

It’s a ridiculous collection. You can see why I warned you about the potential for time lost from your life. And that does not even bring into account informative articles written by staffers about the various collections, or the blog posts.

Sure to be of interest to many are the FSA photographs taken during the Great Depression, between 1935 and 1944. Of course, many of these images are actually propaganda, but some of the photographers put to work by the government remain famous today (Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, for instance). We’ll start with one of the FSA images by Walker Evans.

1408061041951screencapture On a specific item’s page, you are given as much information as the PPOC has available, from title, creator, and date to how the Library of Congress came into possession of the work and what format it is in—this Walker Evans photograph, for instance, is a 35mm nitrate negative! As you can see, on this page, the untitled photo of a barn being used to advertise a circus coming to a town near Lynchburg, Virginia is only a thumbnail—but if you look closely, you’ll see options beneath the thumbnail, including those to view the image at a larger size and even download JPEG and TIFF files.

[Untitled photo, possibly related to: [Posters covering a building near Lynchburg to advertise a Downie Bros. circus]]

Untitled photo (possibly related to: Posters covering a building near Lynchburg to advertise a Downie Bros. circus). Walker Evans, 1936. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USF33-009202-M3.

How do you like that? (That dancing pony poster—wouldn’t that be grand, hanging in the entryway? Note the curling bits of a Morton’s Salt poster at the top of the wall, too.) I love photos like this one, of which the collection is full—looks at America’s and the world’s past, opportunities to see the way things were. Of course, photographers are selective about what they shoot, just as painters are selective about what they draw and how, but we’re still getting a good look at what was. So this is the sort of work in the collection that appeals to me most, I have to say.

As you can see by the caption, the PPOC is not entirely sure what that particular Walker photograph is from, but they’ve made an educated guess based upon the rest of the Walker Evans work from the FSA collection.

[Detroit, Mich., Lyceum Theatre, Thompson drop curtain]

Detroit, Mich., Lyceum Theatre, Thompson drop curtain, between 1900-1910. Detroit Publishing Co., publisher. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-det-4a20591.

The collection is very easy to navigate. You can search by artist, subject, whatever you like (though there’s even a helpful page of search tips). Piece of cake. So…let’s see what there is to see in the collection!

One of the newly digitized collections, about which the PPOC is justifiably excited, is the work of Frances Benjamin Johnston, “a dedicated advocate of the garden beautiful movement in the early 1900s.” My kind of woman! Of course, what gets my attention? The PPOC’s inclusion of a shattered lantern slide, one posted to demonstrate the fragility of the items and the LOC’s reticence to let them out and about:

["Brookside," William Hall Walker house, Brookside Road, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Boat landing]

“Brookside,” William Hall Walker house, Brookside Road, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Boat landing. Frances Benjamin Johnston, c. 1916. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-16780.

Still a beautiful image, isn’t it? Perhaps I’ll do a full post on Johnston and her work, as she’s certainly someone after my own heart in her subject matter and style.

Moonlight on Lake Michigan

Moonlight on Lake Michigan, between 1890-1901. Detroit Publishing Co., publisher. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-det-4a07862.

Okay, okay, enough from my beautiful home state of Michigan. But…but…it’s gorgeous!

Seoul - street scene toward East Gate

Seoul – street scene toward East Gate. William Henry Jackson, hand-coloured lantern slide. 1895. Photo courtesy Library of Congress, LC-W7- 952.

Not only a wonderful scene, but all of those curious faces peering into the lens!

The PPOC has the largest known collection of WPA artworks, with over 900.

"The Mikado"

1936-1941. Courtesy Library of Congress WPA Posters Collection, LC-USZC2-5535.

Fort Marion National Monument, St. Augustine, Florida

Fort Marion National Monument, St. Augustine, Florida. WPA poster c. 1938. Courtesy Library of Congress WPA Poster Collection, LC-DIG-ppmsca-13396.

I will confess to finding myself wondering why in the world the federal government was using dollars taken from starving Depression taxpayers to teach sand-castling (I suppose underwater basket-weaving was right down the hall), present operas, promote travel in a nation that was rationing fuel, and so forth, but even so note that much of the work produced by the WPA have become iconic and certainly influenced artwork afterwards.

John is not really dull - he may only need his eyes examined

I sympathize with John—I needed glasses for a little while before anyone realized it! 1936 or 1937 WPA poster. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZC2-5332.

[Interior of People's Drug Store, No. 9, 31st and M Streets, Washington, D.C., with products in display cases and on shelves]

Interior of People’s Drug Store, No. 9, 31st and M Streets, Washington, D.C., with products in display cases and on shelves. Ca. 1909-1932. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-129887.

I’ll bet someone could figure out a nearer date on these items by taking a sharp look at the packaging!

The habeas corpus, or The wild geese flying away with Fox to America

The habeas corpus, or The wild geese flying away with Fox to America. Pubd. by J. Barrow, No. 84 Dorset Street, Salisbury Court Fleet Street, 1782 August 27. Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-5259.

[Junior normal class of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, seated on steps outside of building]

Junior normal class of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, seated on steps outside of building. Published between 1890-1906. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-112357.

What a lovely group of young ladies, all so stylishly dressed. I do wonder what they were studying. The one in the front row with her book seems to have heavy things on her mind—chemistry? Physics?

[Unidentified boy, seated on park bench, probably in Washington, D.C., holding book]

Unidentified boy, seated on park bench, probably in Washington, D.C., holding book. Circa 1920. National Photo Company Collection. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-111126.

Another bookworm. His shy expression is so endearing!

[Barn and other buildings behind fence in Georgia]

Barn and other buildings behind fence in Georgia, part of the W.E.B. Du Bois collection. 1899 or 1900. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-124822.

A perfectly tidy farm in Georgia.

Lt. Porter tries spherical case, and shell

Lt. Porter tries spherical case, and shell. March, 1864. Alfred R. Waud, artist. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-20944.

This is part of J.P. Morgan’s personal collection of Civil War drawings, which he donated to the Library in 1919. The eyewitness drawing was originally published in Harper’s Weekly as part of an article about General Custer’s movement across the Rapidan. If you ask me, it is a well-done drawing, especially considering the conditions it was done in. It’s part of the larger Civil War Collection; a little more about the J.P. Morgan collection can be read here.

Freighting in the Black Hills

Freighting in the Black Hills, John C.H. Grabill between 1887-1892. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-02502.

I’d say this woman is one to be respected whether she’s bearing a whip or no! The photo is one of 188 from a collection full of images from the frontier days as live din Wyoming and South Dakota. This is an era that fascinates many, myself included.

Deadwood, Dakota. A part of the city from Forest Hill

Deadwood, Dakota. A part of the city from Forest Hill. John C.H. Grabill, c. 1888. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-78513.

Just imagine walking down those streets in 1888! I do have 1892 for you:

The Columbian Parade. Oct. 20th, 1892. Forming of parade on lake front. 100,000 people in sight. Section No. 1

The Columbian Parade. Oct. 20th, 1892. Forming of parade on lake front. 100,000 people in sight. Section No. 1. John C.H. Grabill. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-02571.

Isn’t that just marvellous? The Grabill collection, like so many, is chock-full of fascinating things—including one of America’s most famous horses (at the time, at least—I doubt many have any idea who Comanche is anymore).

"Comanche," the only survivor of the Custer Massacre, 1876. History of the horse and regimental orders of the [7]th Cavalry as to the care of "Comanche" as long as he shall live

” “Comanche,” the only survivor of the Custer Massacre, 1876. History of the horse and regimental orders of the [7]th Cavalry as to the care of “Comanche” as long as he shall live” John C.H. Grabill, 1887. Courtesy Library of Congress, LOT 3076-4, no. 350.

 Incredible, really. Of course, it is unlikely that Comanche was truly the only survivor—no doubt the Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes took quite a few living horses captive. Captain Myles Keogh’s gallant little Comanche, who had been wounded in previous battles and always recovered, somehow escaped this. After the Battle of the Little Big Horn, it was ordered that Comanche (who had become honourary Second Commanding Officer of the 7th Cavalry) never be ridden again; he died November 7, 1891 at the estimated age of twenty-nine. I didn’t expect to ‘see’ Comanche here!

"Hot Springs, S.D." Interior of largest plunge bath in U.S. on F.E. and M.V. R'y

“Hot Springs, S.D.” Interior of largest plunge bath in U.S. John C.H. Grabill. 1891. Photo courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-02577.

Lovely, don’t you think?

The Last Deadwood Coach. Last trip of the famous Deadwood Coach

The Last Deadwood Coach. Last trip of the famous Deadwood Coach. John C.H. Grabill, 1890. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-02602.

I mentioned the Japanese art, which is so beautiful, and which I’m dearly enamoured of. It was difficult to pick just a few examples to share (there’s a collection of newer Japanese works as well).

Hizen gotō kujiraryō no zu

“Hizen gotō kujiraryō no zu” Hiroshige Utagawa, 1859. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-01790.

One of the things I really like about the Japanese works is that they are images of everyday life, much like some forms of photography. Though they may look exotic to Western eyes, to the Japanese and their neighbors, many of these prints are of very mundane activities!

[Woman, full-length portrait, standing, facing left, holding fan in right hand, wearing kimono with check design]

Woman, full-length portrait, standing, facing left, holding fan in right hand, wearing kimono with check design. Hokusai Katsushika, between 1830-1850. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs, LC-DIG-jpd-02787.

Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

[Teahouse at Koishikawa the morning after a snowfall]

Teahouse at Koishikawa the morning after a snowfall, Hokusai Katsushika. Between 1890-1940. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-02457.

Kame

Kame (turtles). Hiroshige Ando. Between 1848-1858. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-00843.

Ishiyama no aki no tsuki

“Ishiyama no aki no tsuki” (Autumn moon over Ishiyama), Sawa Sekkyo. Between 1804-1818. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-00815.

[Fūkeiga]

[Fūkeiga], Hiroshige Ando. Between 1900-1940 (from an earlier print). Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-01806.

Say, look at that—the rule of thirds! It really is universal. That said, to my mind, the Japanese have really perfected the art of pleasing the eye.

[Fūkeiga]

[Fūkeiga], Hiroshige Ando, between 1900-1940, from an earlier print. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-01804.

Hatō zu

“Hatō zu”, Konen Uehara. Between 1900-1920. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-01826.

The varying styles between artist are fascinating to see as well. I could easily go on and on posting the Japanese work, but won’t. You may find it all here.

Mande Adams

Mande Adams, between 1918-1928. National Photo Gallery Collection. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-npcc-33534.

Ben-Hur Klaw & Erlanger's stupendous production.

“Ben-Hur”, Klaw & Erlanger’s stupendous production. Strobridge & Co., Lith. c. 1901. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

["Surprise Valley Farm," Arthur Curtiss James property, Beacon Hill Road, Newport, Rhode Island. Farmer cottages]

“Surprise Valley Farm,” Arthur Curtiss James property, Beacon Hill Road, Newport, Rhode Island. Farmer cottages. Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1917. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-125714.

Isn’t that darling?!

Well, that was hardly an exhaustive look, and mostly “this is what caught Jen’s eye today”. I do hope you enjoyed it and will find the PPOC of use yourself when it comes to inspiration and research, as there is much to be gleaned from it.

 

Copyright Note: All of the images here are noted “No known restrictions”, and are being used in accordance with the Fair Use clause of the Copyright Act, as my only intention is to share the works as examples. If, however, you own the rights to any of these images and would like them removed, please do not hesitate to ask and I’ll do so right away.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s