In 2015, Avery Classics completed a CLIR Hidden Collections grant project which supported cataloging of the unique and extensive collection of American Viewbooks in the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. A related online exhibit Viewbooks: Window into America features a selection of 50 viewbooks from Avery’s holdings and highlights our collection as an important source of documentation of the built environment in America in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
Avery’s American Viewbooks Collection provides pictorial documentation of cities and towns throughout the United States. The collection is comprised of more than 4,000 titles published in a variety of formats, including printed books, photographic albums, and novelties. Together, these items present an evolving illustrated history of the American-built environment from the mid-nineteenth century to the twentieth century.
The American Viewbook project makes these uniquely important visual documents discoverable through our online catalog (CLIO) and accessible to scholars and students for research and curricular use. The images in these books present an unmediated view of America’s developing urbanism over the course of a transformative span of time in our history. The view books provide points of departure for research on American culture with uncommon visual evidence of the changes in our national landscape from early settlement to large-scale industrialization.
“The viewbooks present a sweeping view of the changing American landscape. The images chart the growth of rural areas into towns and cities, the advance of the railroads across the country, and the rising popularity of county fairs and national expositions,” said Carole Ann Fabian, Director of the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. “The primary achievement of the viewbook is the documentation of architecture and urbanism in an expanding American landscape.”
Hundreds of thousands of images of buildings, streetscapes, monuments, and parklands from every state provide historical snapshots of the evolution of the nation. In addition, accompanying detailed texts describe the growth of local industries, the construction of major buildings, the development of transportation networks, and the characteristics of regional architectural styles. Many of the buildings pictured are shown from different points of view or before and after alterations.
To search for items in CLIO, enter the keyword: VIEWBOOKS
All images © Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.
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Views of Baltimore. 1886
AA735 B21 V67 S
Official souvenir, 31[st] National Encampment, G. A. R., Buffalo, N.Y. : August 23-28, '97. G[rand] A[rmy of the] R[epublic]. 1886
AA735 B86 G76
Dells of the Wisconsin River. [190-?]
AA735 W75 D383 S
Detroit, the Beautiful. 
AA735 D48 L345 S
Guthrie, the Capital of Oklahoma : the railroad center of the New State. 
AA735 G984 G984 S
Picturesque Honolulu, Hawaii : Sixteen Beauty Spots in Colors. 
AA735 H75 P589 S
Souvenir of Hot Springs, Arkansas: Photo-Gravures. 1905
AA735 H79 Al14 S
San Diego and Coronado : The Premier Watering Place of the Pacific Coast. [190?]
AA735 Sa545 Sa5454 S
14 Views of Savannah, G. 
AA735 Sa91 F828 S
Tacoma and vicinity. 1888
AA735 T11 T113 S
Illustrated Souvenir of Topeka, Kansas. [190-?]
AA735 T62 Sm51 S