Yesterday, I took my 3 year old son with me for lunch at the Frye Museum café. I noticed in the lunchroom a poster for the current exhibition, Eloquent Vistas, a collection of 19th photography from George Eastman House that detailed great American landscapes.
I am a keen admirer of photography and decided I had to see the exhibit. Jonah, of course, loved the photographs of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and the train trestles over the Appamatox. But I was struck by William Henry Jackson‘s “Peekskill Bay, Hudson River,” an 1882 portrait (see below image) of Peekskill’s harbor and the Hudson River beyond. Why? My family roots go back to 1900 in Peekskill and I’m always interested to learn anything new about the town. I’d previously never heard of William Henry Jackson or of this picture, so I was naturally excited.
I went home and searched forlornly online for that image or any other historic photos of Peekskill or that portion of the Hudson River. The Eastman site didn’t seem to have the picture on-line. Nor did any other site. But finally I discoverd the Detroit Company Collection of the LIbrary of Congress. Eureka–I’d found it!
Peekskill Bay (credit: Gene Panczenko)
I was awestruck at the treasury of American cultural and social memory represented by the Library’s American Memory website. It is meant to be a comprehensive online digital repository of the American past. Unlike, many such online repositories, I found it to be rich in artifacts and a treasure trove of our heritage. The photographic images below are all from the Photos and Prints section of the site. All the Jackson images in this post can be viewed at the “William Henry Jackson, Hudson River” search result page of the American Memory site.
In my online search for the Jackson Peekskill photograph, I managed to locate a remarkable Hudson Valley photographer, Gene Panczenko, who took a 2002 photo (see right) from virtually the same location as Jackson. It’s interesting to compare what a historical photograph and a contemporary one of the same site look like.