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New York City in the 1930s Through the Lens of Samuel Gottscho

Photographer Samuel Herman Gottscho (1875–1971) captured American architectural, landscape, and nature scenes. He was born in Brooklyn in New York City. In 1896, he acquired his first camera and took his first photograph at Coney Island. Photographing part-time from 1896 to 1920, he specialized in houses and gardens, enjoying nature, rural life, and landscapes.

Gottscho began seeking out architects and landscape architects after attending several architectural photography exhibitions. Gottscho became a professional commercial photographer at age 50 after twenty-three years as a traveling lace and fabric salesman. His photographs appeared in American Architect and Architecture, Architectural Record during this period. The New York Times regularly featured his portraits and architectural photography. Many of his photographs of private homes in New York and Connecticut suburbs appeared in home decor magazines. Throughout the 1940s and 1960s, he contributed illustrated articles on wildflowers to the Times. He believed he created some of his best work when he was 70. His botanical work earned him the Distinguished Service Medal of the New York Botanical Garden in 1967. He died in Jamaica, Queens, and New York.

The Museum of the City of New York holds over 40,000 photographs by Samuel H. Gottscho, 1925-1940, which were on display in November 2005 as part of its exhibition “The Mythic City: Photographs of New York by Samuel H. Gottscho, 1925-1940.”. There are approximately 29,000 images in the Gottscho-Schleisner collection at the United States Library of Congress. Columbia University has an archive of his work held by the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.

#1 The opening day of the Empire State Building, New York City, 1931

The opening day of the Empire State Building, New York City, 1931

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#2 Looking down South Street in New York City, November 1933

Looking down South Street in New York City, November 1933

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#3 Midtown Manhattan skyline, night view from RCA Building, New York City, circa 1933

Midtown Manhattan skyline, night view from RCA Building, New York City, circa 1933

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#4 RCA Building, Rockefeller Center, New York City, Septembre 1933

RCA Building, Rockefeller Center, New York City, Septembre 1933

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#5 Rockefeller Center and the RCA Building from 515 Madison Avenue, New York City, December 5, 1933

Rockefeller Center and the RCA Building from 515 Madison Avenue, New York City, December 5, 1933

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#6 Below Manhattan Bridge, New York City, 1930

Below Manhattan Bridge, New York City, 1930

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#7 Midtown Manhattan view from McGraw-Hill Building, New York City, October 9, 1931

Midtown Manhattan view from McGraw-Hill Building, New York City, October 9, 1931

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#8 Midtown Manhattan, New York City, December 15, 1931

Midtown Manhattan, New York City, December 15, 1931

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#9 Midtown skyline from Central Park at 85th Street, New York City, April 16, 1931

Midtown skyline from Central Park at 85th Street, New York City, April 16, 1931

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#10 River House, 52nd St. and E. River, New York City. Shore line with clouds, December 1931

River House, 52nd St. and E. River, New York City. Shore line with clouds, December 1931

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#11 River House, 52nd St. and E. River, New York City. View of power house, December 1931

River House, 52nd St. and E. River, New York City. View of power house, December 1931

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#12 River House, 52nd Street and East River, looking south from 27th floor, New York, December 15, 1931

River House, 52nd Street and East River, looking south from 27th floor, New York, December 15, 1931

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#13 View from the parapet on the 27th floor of the River House at 52nd St. and E. River, New York City, December 1931

View from the parapet on the 27th floor of the River House at 52nd St. and E. River, New York City, December 1931

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#14 International Music Hall, Radio City, New York City. House with curtain down, from main orchestra, December 7, 1932

International Music Hall, Radio City, New York City. House with curtain down, from main orchestra, December 7, 1932

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#15 Lower Manhattan from foot of Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, April 4, 1932

Lower Manhattan from foot of Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, April 4, 1932

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#16 Times Square at dusk, looking south from 47th Street, New York City, January 6, 1932

Times Square at dusk, looking south from 47th Street, New York City, January 6, 1932

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#17 Times Square from above, New York City, February 16, 1932

Times Square from above, New York City, February 16, 1932

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#18 View from Empire State Building to Chrysler Building, and Queensboro Bridge, New York City, low viewpoint, January 1932

View from Empire State Building to Chrysler Building, and Queensboro Bridge, New York City, low viewpoint, January 1932

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#19 Central Park, New York City, 1933

Central Park, New York City, 1933

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#20 Financial district from Hotel Bossert, New York City, March 15, 1933

Financial district from Hotel Bossert, New York City, March 15, 1933

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#21 Fishing boat at Fulton Market Pier, New York City, April 11, 1933

Fishing boat at Fulton Market Pier, New York City, April 11, 1933

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#22 General view of New York Hospital and Queens from Madison Avenue, January 1933

General view of New York Hospital and Queens from Madison Avenue, January 1933

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#23 Looking north from the Empire State Building, New York City, September 11, 1933

Looking north from the Empire State Building, New York City, September 11, 1933

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#24 Night view of New York City from St. George Hotel to financial district, January 6, 1933

Night view of New York City from St. George Hotel to financial district, January 6, 1933

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#25 View from St. George Hotel, New York City, 1933

View from St. George Hotel, New York City, 1933

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#26 View of plaza buildings, over park lake, New York City, January 1933

View of plaza buildings, over park lake, New York City, January 1933

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#27 Brooklyn docks, view of Manhattan, New York City, 1934

Brooklyn docks, view of Manhattan, New York City, 1934

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#28 Midtown Manhattan, New York at night, circa 1934

Midtown Manhattan, New York at night, circa 1934

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#29 Steuben Glass, business at 718 5th Ave., New York City. Exterior, general view, September 1937

Steuben Glass, business at 718 5th Ave., New York City. Exterior, general view, September 1937

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#30 Rockefeller Center, from the south, New York, 1938

Rockefeller Center, from the south, New York, 1938

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#31 315 Seventh Avenue, New York City. (William Hohauser’s 1920s skyscraper), October 8, 1939

315 Seventh Avenue, New York City. (William Hohauser's 1920s skyscraper), October 8, 1939

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#32 Entrance to the Ford Motor Building at World’s Fair, New York City, May 12, 1939

Entrance to the Ford Motor Building at World's Fair, New York City, May 12, 1939

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#33 General view of barroom of Seagram’s Distillers Corp., Chrysler Building, New York City, August 1939

General view of barroom of Seagram's Distillers Corp., Chrysler Building, New York City, August 1939

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#34 House of Glass No. 4, New York World’s Fair, June 12, 1939

House of Glass No. 4, New York World's Fair, June 12, 1939

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#35 Midtown Manhattan and Empire State building at dusk, New York City, circa 1930s

Midtown Manhattan and Empire State building at dusk, New York City, circa 1930s

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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