New York State Department of Transportation Graphic Arts Unit Transportation and State Facilities Related Photographs and Photo Logs

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

These photographs, slides, and logs document the state transportation system, its structures, and state facilities created by the Department of Public Works (1923-1967) and its successor agency, the Department of Transportation. Images depict bridge and highway construction, canals repair and maintenance, and construction of state facilities. Some show employees and officials or landscapes and historic sites. Album pictures depict bridges, waterways, grade crossings, accidents, highways, hospitals, prisons, and schools. Some images document construction progress on the South Mall Project.
131.75 cubic feet (circa 302,380 items)
Inclusive Dates:
circa 1920-1980
Series Number:


Arranged by type of material (logs, slides, photographs) and therein by size of photograph, negative number, or rough chronological order.

17672-92A: Numerical by negative number.

17672-93: Arranged roughly by county.

17672-95: Arranged by type of subject (portraits, groups, displays).

17672-04: Arranged numerically by Public Service Commission or Transit Commission case number or alphabetical by name of municipality.

17672-05A: Arranged generally numerical by location number.

17672-13: Geographical.

Scope and Content Note

The series consists of negatives, prints, slides, and logs of photography documenting the state transportation system, its related structures, and various state facilities. The series is primarily black and white and color negatives and color slides created by the Department of Public Works (1923-1967) and its successor agency, the Department of Transportation.

17672-92: Photographs depict various continuing functions of the two departments, including bridge and highway construction, canal repair and maintenance, and construction of state facilities and buildings. A small number show department employees and officials, and one group carries the designation "X-series," the meaning of which is unknown. A card index at the end of the accretion apparently relates to the collection of negatives. A few images may offer views of landscapes or historic sites (e.g., the Catskill Mountains and the Rip Van Winkle Bridge) secondary to the subject being documented.

Nine volumes (dating from 1928 to 1976) log pictures on state projects including bridges, canals and waterways, grade crossings, accidents, claim cases, public service cases, highways, institutions, public buildings (hospitals, prisons, schools), construction (pre-construction, progress, completion), and Long Island parkways. Information in the logs includes some or all of the following: file number; description/name of the job; location; order number; photographer; and date, number and size of negatives and prints.

17672-92A: This accretion consists of negatives separated from an earlier accessioned portion of the series. The negatives were removed for use in A Great Day for Elmira: An Illustrated History of Twentieth-Century Grade Crossing Elimination Projects in Elmira and Elsewhere in New York, by Geof Stein (New York State Museum Memoir 28) (Albany: New York State Museum; Elmira: Chemung County Historical Society, 2009). The accretion also contains photo prints made from the negatives.

17672-92B: This accretion contains approximately 500 black and white negatives (both 4" x 5” and 8" x 10”) of construction and maintenance of the Barge Canal, as well as about 40 negatives of the construction of Hudson River State Hospital.

17672-93: This accretion contains photographic negatives and prints produced by the Department of Transportation. The majority of the items relate to construction of roads, highways (including the New York State Thruway), and bridges in central New York, particularly in Onondaga and Cayuga counties. A smaller number relate to construction of state buildings. Of particular importance are the images of roads and buildings that were altered or demolished due to construction. Included in the materials are color and b/w negatives, prints and slides; the majority measure either 4" x 5" or 8" x 10". Some of the prints are organized into albums, arranged by state highway route number. These route numbers can be located on two general state highway maps that are included with these records.

17672-93A: This accretion contains about 100 black and white 4" x 5" negatives of construction and maintenance of the Barge Canal.

17672-95: This accretion consists of about 1,000 black and white photographs of transportation staff, work activities, and events, and publicity photographs of public officials (including many governors). There are often multiple copies of each print, the majority of which measure 8" x 10". Some of the prints bear an identifying number or other brief label on the verso, but the bulk are unidentified and unattributed. Some dates may be derived from information captured in the photographs.

Included are photos of: Governor Averell Harriman with Albany Mayor Erastus Corning; construction of the traffic circle at Latham, New York; visits of Governors Nelson Rockefeller and Thomas Dewey at various sites (including the New York State Thruway); models, exhibits, and displays of department construction projects; department staff in group settings at award presentations and social functions; formal portraits of individual staff members (largely unidentified); and office workrooms, machinery, and staff at work (specifically in the Department of Public Works press room).

17672-01: This accretion consists of 14" x 10" black and white photographs, with accompanying press releases, of highways. Highways depicted include Interstate Route 87 (the Adirondack Northway, including sections in Essex and Warren counties), Route 12 (the St. Lawrence Scenic Highway), and Route 17.

17672-04: This accretion consists of ca. 500 black and white photographs documenting construction of, improvement of, or elimination of, highway-railroad grade crossings. Captions and documentation provided on the versos of the photographs vary but generally include date and location. Most photographs include a dated stamp of the Assistant Chief Engineer of the Dept. of Public Works. Most photographs include Public Service Commission or Transit Construction Commission case number and municipality. (The Public Service Commission or its sub agency, the Transit Construction Commission, was responsible for reviewing the construction projects depicted in these photographs.) Some also include detailed information concerning the location of the camera, compass direction of view, time of day, other notes, and signature of photographer.

Also included in this accession is a small Public Service Commission case file card index of approximately 110 entries. Entries are organized by case number and refer to cases relating to railroad construction project. None of the entries relate to photographs in this accretion. For what purpose the index was created is unknown.

17672-05: This accretion consists of ca. 240 4" x 5" black and white photographs produced by the Dept. of Public Works. Photographs document construction progress on the South Mall Project (later the Empire State Plaza). Photographs date from October 1967 to August 1968. Photographs are captioned on verso with photo number, location of camera, line of sight, date, time, and photographer. Photos tend to be divided into groups taken about once a month from standard locations showing generally the same overall views of the plaza or individual buildings. About 40 duplicate prints are included.

17672-05A: This accretion consists of approximately 5,000 black and white negatives taken from ca. 1952-1980 (bulk 1952-1960). Most negatives are 4" x 5.25" inches. A few negatives of other dimensions, color negatives, black and white prints, and color prints are also included. Negatives are housed in envelopes that give some identifying information such as general location, claim number, or in many cases an obscure numerical designation. Some envelopes include a paper key or index giving the date taken, county, town, property owner, etc. The images were apparently taken to document claims or rights of way for lands being taken by the Dept. of Transportation for construction of the New York State Thruway. They typically depict empty fields, houses, barns, yards, or other landscape features. Often, there are multiple views of the same site taken from different perspectives. Many scenes of construction are included.

17672-13: This accretion consists of circa 1000 black-and-white photographic prints documenting activities on the Barge Canal in 1921-1922. Captions written on the prints in ink generally include the date and location. The images record specific locations, such as locks or dwellings; infrastructure, such as bridges and dams; machinery, such as cranes and derricks; movement of freight, such as steel, lumber, and autos; and activities such as unloading of goods. The prints have been attached to album pages with adhesive.

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Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions regarding access to or use of this material.

Related Information

Related Materials

Series B1909 New York State Canal Corporation Barge Canal photographs and film, contains related records.

Other finding aids

The following indexes and lists are available at the repository.

17672-92: Container list.

17672-92A, 17672-13: Item list.

17672-93: Container list roughly indicating geographical arrangement.

17672-04: Partial container list.

17672-92: Alphabetical card index is available.

17672-93: Highway numbers indexed by two maps.

17672-05A: Partial index giving date, county, town, and property owner.

Custodial History

17672-04: This accretion was found in The Fred Abele Transportation Collection of the Manuscripts and Special Collections of the New York State Library. Mr. Abele apparently acquired the photographs while he was employed by the State of New York as an engineer.

17672-05: This accretion was donated to the archives by a private citizen. Exact provenance is unknown.

17672-13: This accretion was transferred to the State Archives by Craig Williams of the New York State Museum. Exact provenance is unknown.

Acquistion Information

17672-92B: This accretion contains records that were originally in 17672-92, but were separated at time of transfer for business use. The records were transferred to the State Archives in 2014.

17672-93A: This accretion contains records that were originally in 17672-93, but were separated at time of transfer for business use. The records were transferred to the State Archives in 2014.

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