Museum of the City of New York Collection of Pamphlets, 18th – 21st Century (1706-2008)

Extent: 83 boxes
The Collection of Pamphlets contains printed materials related to a broad range of topics: museums and exhibitions, historical perspectives, corporations’ annual reports, infrastructure and New York City neighborhoods.  The publications range in date from the early 18th century to the late 20th century. A small number of the items have a national or international scope.

Administrative History
As an object type, pamphlets are defined as printed and bound works with a soft cover that address a particular subject.  The popularity of this communication form dates back to the 15th century when the advent of the printing press allowed for cheap production of multiples, increasing the ability of authors to communicate their ideas to a broad audience.

The Museum’s Collection of Pamphlets is an artificial collection assembled by Museum staff from the 1920s to the present. The collection was housed together in open-ended pamphlet boxes, and was loosely organized using the Dewey Decimal System.  The pamphlets come from numerous donors, including collectors, authors, and institutions.  Several items come from one of the Museum’s largest donors, J. Clarence Davies. Davies was a Bronx real estate magnate, civic leader, and avid collector. His major gift of New Yorkiana to the Museum in 1929 represented all five boroughs and nearly every format, including maps, prints, paintings, and ceramics.

Scope and Content
The Collection of Pamphlets contains publications dating from the 18th century – the earliest item is from 1706 – to the late 20th century, with the bulk published from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. New York City is the primary focus of the collection, and the pamphlets illustrate everything from important events, people, and infrastructure projects to city parks, museums, schools, and churches. Topics covered include: the 1863 draft riots, infrastructure projects proposed and supervised by Robert Moses, influential New Yorkers such as Robert Livingston, epidemic fevers that affected the city during the 19th century, the growth of Midtown Manhattan, the implementation of the subway system, and the history of city social and cultural institutions.  A small amount of the pamphlets in the collection have a national or international scope, particularly in the History series.

Many of the items are annual reports or ephemeral in nature, meant to provide information about a specific event, club or organization’s recent activities, or museum exhibition. Some are serial publications, such as “Little Old New York” published by the Thirty Fourth Street-Midtown Association. Publications by various departments of the City of New York are well represented, especially within the Infrastructure series. The majority of material was independently produced, and not widely distributed or retained.

The collection complements the Museum’s other holdings, which largely document the personal, social, and civic lives of New Yorkers, by serving as testament to the everyday activities and interests that shape a metropolis the size of New York City.

Series I: History
Sub-Series A: General
Sub-Series B: Military
Sub-Series C: New York City
Sub-Series D: Personal

Series II: Infrastructure
Sub-Series A: Bridges, Roads, and  Tunnels
Sub-Series B: Communication
Sub-Series C: Fire and Police
Sub-Series D: Health and Medicine
Sub-Series E: Parks and Cemeteries
Sub-Series F: Public Works and Services
Sub-Series G: Transportation
Sub-Series H: Water, Sewers, and Sanitation

Series III: New York City Neighborhoods and Landmarks

Series IV: Museums and Culture
Sub-Series A: Auction and Estate Catalogs
Sub-Series B: Fairs
Sub-Series C: Museums and Exhibits

Series V: Clubs, Societies and Philanthropies
Series VI: Education

Series VII: Commerce and Economy
Sub-Series A: Budgets and Taxation
Sub-Series B: Corporations and Financial Institutions
Sub-Series C: Retail and Manufacturing

Series VIII: Politics and Law
Sub-Series A: Law
Sub-Series B: Politics

Series IX: Religion

Click below to view the complete finding aid and container list:
Collection of Pamphlets finding aid
Collection of Pamphlets container list

You may also request the container list as an Excel file by emailing research@mcny.org.

Related Collections
Museum of the City of New York Collection on Clubs, Societies and Associations
Museum of the City of New York Collection on Civic Events
Museum of the City of New York Collection on Infrastructure

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