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On the Collections homepage, you can choose to view a selection of objects illustrating particular themes, aspects of the collection, highlights of a particular time period or curators' choices. You can name these groupings in order to indicate clearly the type of works or themes that the collection illustrates. The groupings are listed as a series of links under "Collections" in the main navigation bar to the left.

Many of the New-York Historical Society's founders and nineteenth-century members had deep roots in New York, a significant number of them descended from families who immigrated in the seventeenth century. These early members were also deeply committed to exploration, and, as such, they collected and donated to the Society many artifacts that help tell the story of the Age of Exploration, and its trajectory, which led to the Dutch founding and settling of New York.

Most of the objects illustrated here are rarely-seen, early treasures from the Society's collections, including its 1542 Ulpius globe, which documents Verrazano's North American discoveries, an exceptional early-eighteenth century hand-painted Indian wall hanging, seventeenth-century maps and renderings of New Amsterdam and New York, and the only known portrait of Peter Stuyvesant painted during his lifetime.
The Sketchbooks of Asher B. Durand in the New-York Historical Society

Asher B. Durand (1796–1886), a central artist of the Hudson River School, spent nearly twenty-four years as a successful commercial engraver. His talent as an engraver was based on his drawing skills, explaining his insistence on the importance of outline, the precise renderings in his sketchbooks and drawings, and his devotion to sketching with graphite outdoors. The artist’s empiricism and dedication to Nature is evident in the ten sketchbooks (two fragmentary from sketchbooks now disassembled), 310 drawings, and 79 paintings held by the Historical Society, where they are joined by an extensive trove of objects, documents, and prints that make it the largest single Durand collection extant. This rich repository is largely due to the generosity of his descendants: his son John; his daughter Lucy Maria Durand Woodman, an artist in her own right; and his granddaughter Nora Durand Woodman. The vast majority of his drawings are studies of trees rendered with solid realism and a poetic depth. Although Durand’s drawings, including those in the sketchbooks, were primarily for personal study, they played a central role in Durand’s aesthetic process.

For additional information on Durand’s sketchbooks, see Roberta J.M. Olson, “‘A Magnificent Obsession’: Durand’s Trees as Spiritual Sentinels of Nature,” in The American Landscapes of Asher B. Durand (1796–1886), ed. by Linda S. Ferber, exh. cat., Madrid: Fundación Juan March, 2010, pp. 148–191; Roberta J.M. Olson, “The Sketchbooks of Asher B. Durand in the New-York Historical Society,” Master Drawings, vol. 54, no. 4 (Winter 2016), pp. 433-476.
In 1863 Lucy Bakewell Audubon, the widow of John James Audubon, sold to The New-York Historical Society her husband’s preparatory watercolors for his seminal work The Birds of America (published serially in London between 1827 and 1838). The Society owns all 435 known preparatory watercolors for its 435 plates. In addition, the N-YHS holds a rare, double-elephant edition of The Birds of America, as well as the octavo edition and Audubon's Ornithological Biography, letters, ephemera, etc. In aggregate, these collections in the museum and library form the largest single repository of Auduboniana in the world.
The games that entertained Americans from the 1840s to the 1920s offer a fascinating window on the values, beliefs, and aspirations of a nation undergoing tremendous change. During this period the American home, no longer the heart of economic production, became the center of education, entertainment, and moral enlightenment. Middle-class families—with expanded leisure time as well as rising income levels—embraced leisure pursuits in the home and encouraged their children to play games that would develop skills and provide moral instruction. During the same period, advances in chromolithography made possible bold, richly colored games at affordable prices. New York City emerged as the leading center of American chromolithography and the hub of the nation’s vigorous board game industry. These games are among the more than 500 examples donated to the New-York Historical Society by Ellen Liman in 2000.
Bella C. Landauer (1874-1960) was an insatiable collector of objects made for business and advertising purposes. In 1926, she gave a large portion of her collection to the New-York Historical Society. These collections - more than 375,000 pieces of ephemera and 4,500 three-dimensional objects - are an essential resource for scholars of American history.
Highlights from the New-York Historical Society Museum, showcasing the different facets of the museum collection.
Furniture

The New-York Historical Society's furniture holdings number more than 500 objects, including seating furniture, tables, case furniture, cradles, clocks, and boxes ranging from a late 17th-century Dutch kast to a pair of 1960s Bertoia chairs. The earliest acquisition, a chair made for Marie Antoinette's private chambers at Versailles in 1779, was purchased by U.S. Minister to France, Gouverneur Morris.

Highlights of the collection include George Washington's inaugural armchair and Valley Forge camp bed, a rococo carved Philadelphia high chest, ten pieces of furniture used by the first United States Congress at Federal Hall, a lady's cabinet dressing table owned by the Livingston family, the Abeel family French press made by French émigré Charles-Honoré Lannuier, and the desk at which Clement Clarke Moore wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas."

Silver and Jewelry

The New-York Historical Society possesses one of the finest collections of early American silver in the nation, a trove of some 3,000 silver items. Many of these objects, which range from simple spoons to extravagant trophies, were family heirlooms donated by descendants of the original owners. Highlights include the magnificent salver (tray) made by the Swiss-born New York City silversmith Lewis Fueter in 1772 for presentation to British engineer Thomas Sowers, a 381-piece silver dinner service given to Commodore Matthew Perry for negotiating the opening of Japanese ports to United States trade, and the Tiffany & Co. controller handle used by Mayor George McClellan to operate the first New York City subway train on its maiden voyage in 1904.

Ceramics & Glass

The New-York Historical Society’s extensive holdings of ceramics and glass holdings reflect domestic use from the 18th century to the present day. New York stoneware is well-represented, including early examples by Manhattan potters such as Clarkson Crolius, Sr. and Thomas Commeraw. The collection also includes significant holdings of English creamware for the American market, transfer-printed Staffordshire with New York views, and Chinese export porcelain. More recent acquisitions include 20th century tablewares by designer Eva Zeisel. The glass collection includes a wide representation of blown, molded, and pressed glass wares made in the U.S. during the 19th century.

Tiffany Lamps

The New-York Historical Society houses one of the world’s largest collections of Tiffany lamps, acquired as a gift from collector Egon Neustadt in 1984. The 132 lamps include rare examples, such as the Cobweb, and iconic shade models including the Wisteria, Dragonfly, and Magnolia. The lamps are supplemented by working drawings, glass sheets, and tools used to create the famous leaded-glass shades.

Textiles

The New-York Historical Society houses approximately 2,000 textiles, ranging from intricate schoolgirl needlework and sumptuous woven coverlets to printed campaign kerchiefs and patriotic, painted banners. The distinguished collection of flags and banners, numbering some 400 objects, includes flags used in every major conflict with an American presence between the Revolutionary War and World War II. A large collection of printed textiles includes over 100 political kerchiefs documenting presidential campaigns from 1840 to 2008.
One of the Museum’s crown jewels is its drawing collection, numbering over 8,000 sheets. Collected since 1816, this distinctive trove is the country’s earliest public drawing collection. It is also one of the finest, whose strength resides in its unparalleled late 18th- and early 19th-century material to furnish a comprehensive survey of American art from its inception, dominated by European artists, up through the 1860s, by which time native-born artists had asserted an American identity. Stellar clusters after that time include around 640 drawings by James Carroll Beckwith, ten of which are the earliest portraits of John Singer Sargent known; six sheets by Sargent and watercolors by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Beginning with rare colonial objects collected for their historical interest, the collection documents major events in the history of the nation. It also records the cultural firmament, including the highly significant 217 16th-century watercolors of European birds by Pierre Eskrich and colleagues collected by their donor that antedate the publication of the first printed ornithological treatises.

While panoramic in scope, the New-York Historical Society's drawing collection encompasses large holdings by a single artist or group. Among the highlights are the 500 watercolors by John James Audubon, including all 435 preparatory for The Birds of America. These national treasures form the centerpiece of the Historical Society's Audubon holdings, the largest repository of Auduboniana in the world. Others are the 221 "outline" drawings of George Catlin recording Native American culture; an incredibly rich cluster of drawings by Hudson River School artists such as Thomas Cole, Jasper Cropsey, and John Frederick Kensett; and all the known watercolors by William Guy Wall for the seminal The Hudson River Portfolio (1820–1825), the namesake of the nation's first indigenous landscape school that set the itinerary for the American Grand Tour. It also numbers over 350 drawings and sketchbooks of Asher B. Durand.

Landscape, including cityscapes, is another significant category. The earliest is a 1650 view of New Amsterdam, after which a legion of draftsmen recorded New World topography. Following on their heels are followed by a cache of 194 works by William Rickarby Miller; 27 watercolors by George Harvey, 18 for his "Atmospheric Landscapes"; and 75 stunning works on paper by Thomas H. Hotchkiss. In addition, there are fascinating rare sketchbooks; a dozen panoramas, most spectacularly an eight-part one of Manhattan in 1842; 123 sheets by Baroness Hyde de Neuville; and watercolors by Nicolino Calyo, notably his large gouaches of the Great Fire of 1835 and his "Cries" of New York street vendors. Social realism in scenes by Robert Henri and Raphael Soyer, coupled with views by Oscar Bluemner, Richard Haas, Frederick Brosen, Eve Ashheim, and Béatrice Coron, bring this category into recent times.

Portraits, some portraying historical figures like Thomas Jefferson comprise another copious category. Noteworthy are pastels by James Sharples and Francis Cotes, John Vanderlyn's likeness of Robert Fulton, Native American portraits by Saint-Mémin and Albert Bierstadt, likenesses by folk artists, 88 watercolors by Enit Kaufman (a Who's Who), and many self-portraits of artists. Among the over 359 silhouettes, 24 are by the acknowledged master of the medium Auguste Edouart.

Around 4,000 works by illustrators feature landscapes and portraits or illustrate literary or journalistic works, as in the cases of Felix Octavius Darley, Charles Dana Gibson, William Glackens, and Chesley Bonestell. Exceptions include around 130 documentary Civil War sketches by eyewitness "sketch" artists before the widespread use of photography. So rich is the collection that it defies categorization. Unusual sheets range from watercolors by David Cusick, one of the first Native American artists, to frakturs, to works by graffiti artists, among them Tracy 168 known for his “Wild Style.”
The avant-garde sculptor Elie Nadelman (1882-1946) is widely recognized for his elegant and spare modernist sculpture. Less well-known is Nadelman's role as a pioneer in collecting folk art in this country and his impressive material legacy acquired by the Historical Society in 1937. Nadelman's acquisitions spanned a variety of media, including furniture, sculpture, paintings, ceramics, glass, iron, pewter, drawings and watercolors, and household tools. The N-YHS holds more than 1,600 objects collected by Nadelman, more than any other single repository.
Historical Relics and Souvenirs

The New-York Historical Society’s collection of more than 300 relics includes eyewitness artifacts linked to key moments in American history, such as fragments of the gilded statue of King George III torn from its pedestal on Bowling Green by a jubilant crowd after a public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 9, 1776; a draft wheel used during the Civil War in the draft lottery held on July 13, 1863, an event that touched off the worst urban riots in American history; and the wooden barrel used by Governor DeWitt Clinton in the ceremonial marrying of the waters of Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean that celebrated completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. In addition to unique relics, the collection includes hundreds of souvenirs recalling public events, from the inauguration of George Washington at Federal Hall in 1789 to the most recent presidential campaign.

Toys & Games

Approximately 3,000 toys and games, primarily from the 19th century, document the leisure pursuits of American families. Toys in wood, tin and cast iron; lithographed board games; and dolls and doll furniture offer a miniature window into family life. Notable toys include a Noah’s ark with several hundred wooden animals; the tin steamboat Excelsior, made by George W. Brown around 1870; and charming carved and painted toys gathered by sculptor and folk art collector Elie Nadelman. The Liman Collection includes more than 500 examples of lithographed board and table games from the late nineteenth century, including many fine examples produced by the New York City firm McLoughlin Brothers.

Tools for Home and Trade

The collection includes thousands of objects used in the home, on the farm or in workshops and offices, from the Dutch colonial era to the 20th century. Included are items related to food preparation and household maintenance, as well as tools used in manufacturing, trades and professions. Notable in the collection are a chest of woodworking tools used by the New York cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe and tools used by glassworkers at Tiffany Studios.

Maritime, Military, Fire & Police

New-York Historical has deep collections related to naval history. Maritime holdings include ship models, such as the builder's half-model for the ironclad USS Monitor, and the George W. Murdock collection of Hudson River steamboat artifacts. The military collection spans the French and Indian War to World War II, with its most significant holdings in Civil War uniforms and accoutrements. Fire and Police holdings include helmets, leather buckets, lanterns, presentation shields, trumpets and fire-fighting vehicles, as well as 20th-century objects such as bullet-proof vests and police radios.

Transportation

New-York Historical owns 14 carriages, notable among them the ca. 1770 Beekman family coach, the 1898 road coach Pioneer, and vehicles produced at Brewster & Co. in Manhattan. In 2001, New-York Historical acquired “Betsy,” one of the last Checker cabs to ferry passengers around New York City.


9/11 Collections

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, New-York Historical led the way in compiling, cataloguing and exhibiting historical evidence. Staff members gathered artifacts at the site and worked closely with city, federal, and non-profit agencies to collect materials. New-York Historical has thousands of objects from many sources, including the Fresh Kills Landfill, New York City’s Police and Fire Departments, the 24-hour relief centers at St. Paul’s Chapel and Nino Vendome’s Canal Street restaurant, and local schools and hospitals. Also, countless individuals contributed meaningful artifacts, images and stories. New-York Historical’s archive holds architectural relics, eyewitness objects, shrine and memorial materials, support and sympathy materials and children’s creations. It also includes intact objects related to the World Trade Center prior to the attacks, including a table setting and chairs from Windows on the World restaurant.
The New-York Historical Society houses an outstanding collection of over 2,500 American paintings—primarily portraits, genre scenes, and landscapes—dating from the colonial period through the 20th century, as well as a select number of European works.

It includes the personal collection of the New York merchant and pioneering art patron Luman Reed, as well as the collection of Robert L. Stuart, another 19th-century New York philanthropist and art collector. In addition, New-York Historical's holdings from the collection of Thomas Jefferson Bryan include both American and European paintings.

The New-York Historical Society holds one of the nation's preeminent collections of Hudson River School landscapes, including Thomas Cole’s iconic five-painting series The Course of Empire and works by Asher B. Durand (over 400 pieces including works on paper), Frederic E. Church, Jasper F. Cropsey, Sanford R. Gifford, John F. Kensett and Albert Bierstadt.
The nearly 300 watercolor-on-ivory miniatures in the Peter Marié collection of the “Beauties of New York Society” depict leading New Yorkers at the turn of the twentieth century. The collection as a whole documents Victorian ideals of beauty, social hierarchies among elite New Yorkers, and the revival of the art of miniature painting, which had been threatened with extinction by the advent of photography.

New York bachelor Peter Marié (1825-1903) was a social leader with a reputation for hosting elegant dinners and intimate salons. A noted art collector, he was also a connoisseur of feminine beauty. In 1889, he set about collecting images of women whom he believed epitomized female beauty (although social status was clearly a necessary qualification). Marié’s endorsement was critical to the social success of some young women: Eleanor Roosevelt, whose mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, was among the chosen, remarked that such approval “stamped young girls and young matrons a success.” Marié commissioned French miniaturist Fernand Paillet (1850-1918) to paint his first miniatures, and later turned to local artists including Katherine Arthur Behenna (d. 1924) and Carl A. Weidner (1865-1906). Some of the portraits were painted from life, although many relied on photographs—a medium whose artistic validity was still hotly debated at the time.

Marié’s collection was well known during his lifetime. The miniatures were prominently displayed in his home at 6 E. 37th Street and in 1894 were included in a major exhibition at the National Academy of Design. The Sun illustrated 44 of the miniatures, noting that “no part of the portrait show at the Academy of Design has been looked upon with more genuine curiosity than Mr. Peter Marié’s collection of miniatures of Gotham’s most beautiful matrons and maidens.” After his death, the portraits continued to attract attention and generate controversy: the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director, Luigi Palma di Cesnola, turned down Marié’s bequest of the beauties collection, claiming that, because many were copied from photographs, they did not qualify as art. He also challenged Marie’s premise that his subjects represented the most beautiful women in the city. After Cesnola’s public rejection, the New-York Historical Society accepted the gift eagerly, recognizing the collection as an invaluable document of New York society at the turn of the century.
The New-York Historical Society holds an encyclopedic collection of over 800 works documenting the full range of representational sculpture in the United States from the colonial period to the present.
Robert R. Livingston (1746-1813) is remembered for an extraordinary political career that spanned the Revolutionary War years through to formation of the American Republic. Among his many contributions, Livingston was a member of the Second Continental Congress, co-author of the Declaration of Independence, and in 1789 he administered the oath of office to President George Washington. A regional and national luminary, Livingston served as Chancellor of the Supreme Court of New York (1777 to 1801) and the United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1781 to 1783). As the United States minister to France from 1801 to 1804, he was one of the key figures in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon Bonaparte.

Intellectually gifted, Livingston also was known for having a restless and inquisitive mind. He found engagement within the domestic and natural environs at Clermont, his family estate in the Hudson Valley, where his private interests included French furniture and silver, agriculture, and merino sheep raising, to name but a few. Livingston's many interests are reflected today in the rich assembly of his possessions now in the collections of the New-York Historical Society.
Photo: Colin Cooke
The New-York Historical Society's entire collection of 132 Tiffany lamps and three windows came as the gift of a single collector, Dr. Egon Neustadt, in 1984. Dr. Neustadt, an Austrian immigrant, New York City orthodontist, and successful real estate developer, began collecting Tiffany lamps in 1935, when he and his wife Hildegard purchased their first lamp in a Greenwich Village antique shop. Over the course of five decades, Dr. Neustadt amassed one of the most important and most comprehensive Tiffany collections in the world.

The Underground Railroad Collection is a sampling of objects and paintings from the New-York Historical Society Museum that tells the story of resistance to slavery, the movement of fugitives, and the experiences and achievements of the enslaved and the free African American community of the North. It includes artifacts from the abolitionist movement, portraits of notable antislavery people, narrative art such as figure groups by John Rogers, and commemorative items such as a silver pitcher commissioned to mark the end of slavery in New York in 1827. These holdings have been studied and interpreted with support from the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural Program.