Iconic and fundamentally New York, the Brooklyn Bridge has long been a subject of art and photography. Its massive limestone anchors and throng of steel cables loom above the banks of the East River, connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan with what stands as the world’s first steel-cable suspension bridge. Though today’s skyscrapers far surpass the bridge in height, it once towered over the city.
An 1876 panorama photograph by Joshua H. Beal (American, 1832-1902) provides a glimpse of the Brooklyn Bridge before its completion, when its two towers stood independently on each side of the river. From a vantage point at the top of the bridge’s Brooklyn tower, Beal captures a snapshot of the opposite bank in astonishing detail; docked ships, sprawling buildings, and, in the center, the colossal limestone tower that would soon form the other end of the bridge. Numerous landmarks are visible in the distance, including Trinity Church, the New York Tribune and Western Union buildings, at the time the city's tallest buildings.
The photograph, a single image made up of five albumen prints from separate exposures, is more than eight feet long, and one of only six prints known to exist. In its rarity, it captures New York during its early transformation from a dense fabric of low-rise buildings to the modern metropolis we see today.
This photograph will be included among more than 250 lots of other historic and contemporary photography in our upcoming Photography & Photo Books Sale, which will take place on Wednesday, September 11 at 1pm. The exhibition will be open for public view in our first floor gallery, from September 7 to 10.