New York State Engineer and Surveyor Photographic Negatives of State Canal Sites and Structures

Held by the New York State Archives

Overview of the Records


New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

1.5 cu. ft. (ca. 200 negatives)
Inclusive Dates:
[ca. 1893-1897]
Series Number:

Scope and Content Note

The series consists of film (nitrate) negatives of canal sites and structures which represent the first general use of photography by the state's canal departments. They were apparently prepared as part of a systematic documentation of structural problems with the canal, especially in the eastern division. The images are vital to the interpretation of the foundation materials and construction used for support of canal structures, especially at Schoharie Crossing. Also included are general views with excellent background details, and closeups of masonry and other structures.

Nearly all the negatives have handwritten titles on them, but no dates. This type of film was produced by Kodak for only about two years in the mid-1890s. The earliest documentation of the images is as illustrations in the annual report of the Surveyor General in 1894; some other images appear in subsequent reports. Some maps from the period which bear the initials of R.L. Adams, correspond to some of the negative images. This indicates that Adams, as surveyor general, or a member of his staff may have been the guiding force behind use of photography in this way, but the idea has not been substantiated.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

Restricted: Closed for use due to fragile physical condition.Pending conservation treatment.

Related Information

Related Materials

Series A0834 Printed Material, Correspondence, and Photographs from the Canal Investigation Commission, contains some faded prints made from these negatives.

Other finding aids

Numbers handwritten on the negatives and listed on the prepared item list correspond to an appendix in Noble Whitford's History of the Canal System of the State of New York (Albany: Brandow Printing, 1906).

Custodial History

The collection was brouoght to the New York State Museum by Cliff Mealy, photographer for the Bureau of Historic Sites at Peebles Island, on February 23, 1995. He received the collection from the Schenectady County Historical Society earlier in February 1995. They received the collection on October 28, 1994 from Louise Gifford, niece of Ester Richards, whose husband, Floyd W. Richards, held them at his home in Schenectady from the 1940s. They were apparently found there when Mr. Richards purchased the house. No connection to canals or canal workers has been established.

Access Terms

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