21 pictures of New York City in the early 1900s

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An eerily quiet Times Square.
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Library of Congress

New York City, like most older American cities, has changed drastically over the centuries.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is its residents’ desire to photograph it.

A vast trove of photos in The Library of Congress gives us the opportunity to look back at New York just before it was entering the 20th century.

These images give us an idea of what life was like in the early 1900s – how landmarks have changed or, remarkably, stayed the same.

Eric Goldschein wrote an earlier version of this story.


Federal Hall, which now stands as a museum and memorial, was originally home to the first Congress, US Supreme Court, and federal executive-branch offices.

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Library of Congress

Manhattan’s City Hall is the oldest such building in the US.

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Library of Congress

Times Square wasn’t yet bombarded with advertisements at the turn of the 20th century.

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Library of Congress

You can still buy flowers every week at the Union Square Greenmarket.

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Library of Congress

In late 1913, steers escaped from the New York Stock Co. yards and ran rampant through Central Park. Here, a captured steer lies dead.

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Library of Congress

A hot-dog festival took place in Greenwich Village.

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Library of Congress

Even into the 1930s, Prospect Park was known for the white-faced sheep roaming the grounds with their caretakers.

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Library of Congress

Today you’d see a lot more bathing suits in Coney Island.

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Library of Congress

Grand Army Plaza, at the northwest corner of Prospect Park, honors John F. Kennedy and Civil War generals.

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Library of Congress

The Harlem River is a narrow strait dividing Manhattan from the Bronx.

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Library of Congress

The Washington Bridge crosses the Harlem River between Manhattan and the Bronx. Below it to the left is Harlem River Drive.

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Library of Congress

Madison Square Park has been home to several temporary arches over the years. In 1899, the Dewey Arch was constructed in honor of Commodore George Dewey’s victory over the Spanish.

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Library of Congress

Source: Untapped Cities


Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge began in 1869 and was open to traffic by 1883.

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Library of Congress

Now a designated historic district, South Street Seaport is neighbor to Manhattan’s Financial District.

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Library of Congress

Here’s a somewhat dizzying image of the Statue of Liberty, taken from the torch.

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Library of Congress

Chinatown is still alive and well. Here’s Mott Street in Chinatown.

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Library of Congress

The Metropolitan Museum of Art had humble beginnings. Here’s what it looked like when it officially opened in April 1870.

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Library of Congress

These days, 11th Avenue has a lot more traffic, by foot and vehicle.

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Library of Congress

The College of the City of New York, in Harlem, was originally founded as the Free Academy of the City of New York in 1847. By 1866, it was renamed the College of the City of New York.

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Library of Congress

A man stands outside shops at 34th Street and 5th Avenue.

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Library of Congress

The City Hall subway station still has this incredible, long-lasting architecture.

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Library of Congress