“GOOD BOOKS HIS BEST MONUMENT”
—inscription on Moses King’s gravestone
Moses King was a prolific publisher of photographic guidebooks in the 1890s. Among his earliest works were guides to Boston, where he lived, and the impressive two-volume set King’s Handbook of the United States (1891). After King moved to New York, he began assiduously chronicling New York’s rapid expansion by constantly updating his King’s Views of New York City with new information and photographs until his death in 1909. For six years after his death, King’s publishing company continued to feature New York subjects, including one dedicated to Brooklyn. The result is an awesome visual and descriptive documentation of buildings, businesses, institutions, and other structures from the turn of the twentieth century.
The first in his series of photographic guides to New York City was the 1892 King’s Handbook of New York City. An Outline History and Description of the American Metropolis. It was so successful and the city was changing so rapidly, that ten months later in 1893 he published an updated edition with approximately 300 new images.
King’s Photographic Views of New York City in 1895 followed with full-page illustrations of buildings and some text. The three aforementioned volumes were hefty standard-sized hardcover. Except for a few small pamphlets such as one on the new rapid transit in 1904 and some other exceptions, King concentrated on folio-sized photographic views of Manhattan with pictorial paper covers, which he published nearly every year. His company issued one on the new borough of Brooklyn and subjects such the New York Stock Exchange and its members, the Admiral Dewey reception, the Dedication of Grant’s Tomb on Riverside Drive and other special events.
The following excerpt from the introduction to King’s Views of New York City and Brooklyn 1896-1915, (see bibliography) expresses the breadth and value of Moses King’s body of work:
Add to the more than 1300 photographs thousands of captions giving the most explicit details of land costs, construction techniques and materials, building use, capsule histories of all kinds of commercial establishments, educational institutions, charitable and philanthropic organizations: add to this a series of long introductions that describe the history of the city and its latest achievements – the result is a guidebook as constantly varied as the city of a thousand faces it so accurately mirrors.
In 1908, Moses King published King’s Dream of New York, depicting his vision of the city in the future with levels of roadways and walkways to serve many pedestrians and automobiles.
A Selection of Moses King Publications About New York
The Dewey Reception in New York City. New York: Moses King, 1899.
Nine-hundred and eighty views and portraits.
King’s Colorgraphs of New York City. New York: Moses King, 1910.
Photos with captions.
King’s Handbook of New York City: An Outline History and Description of the American Metropolis. Boston, Mass.: Moses King, 1892.
King’s Views of Brooklyn. New York: Moses King, 1904. Folio.
300 photos including Sheepshead Bay Race-Track, Montauk Club, Brighton Beach Hotel, and Dreamland.
King’s Views of Grant’s Tomb, New York City. Dedication, 27 April, 1897. New York: Moses King, folio 1897.
King’s Views of New York. New York: Moses King, 1905. Pictorial wrappers. Folio. 400 plates.
King’s Views of the New York Stock Exchange 1897-1899. New York: Moses King, 1899. Folio.
History and description of “the magnitude and necessity of the institution.” Over 400 photo portraits of members of the Exchange, and 65 views of Exchange and vicinity.
King’s Handbook of New York City. An Outline History and Description of the American Metropolis. Second, Enlarged Edition with 1029 illustrations. Reprint: New York: Benjamin Blom, 1972.
In two volumes with new, thoughtful, lengthy introduction.
King’s Views of New York City and Brooklyn 1896-1915. New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1972.
Four editions of the view books are included as is the volume for Brooklyn. The introduction offers an extremely informative account of King’s New York publications.
New York’s Rapid Transit Tunnel and Underground Railway. New York: Moses King, 1900.
Notable New Yorkers of 1896-1899; A Companion Volume to King’s Handbook of New York City. New York: Moses King, 1899.
Not a woman in the group of 2332 portraits.
Photographic Views of New York. A Souvenir Companion to King’s Handbook of New York City. New York: Moses King, 1895.
The same format as the first two guidebooks of New York, with full-page photographs and descriptions.
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