Photographs of wonder from the American Museum of Natural History

One hundred years ago, the American Museum of Natural History received a massive visitor, one so mighty that the doors of the museum’s delivery room “had to be removed and [the] partition openings enlarged” in order to accommodate it.

Was it a dinosaur? A meteorite? Perhaps the remains of a great whale?

No, the new visitor was a bush chrysanthemum,  with over 1,500 blooms, 17 feet in diameter, wider, the New York Times notes, than the largest meteorite on the property.

The massive plant, grown north of the city at Ardsley-on-Hudson, was the star of an impressive plant and flower show at the museum with thousands of chrysanthemums and a so-called ‘rose gorgeous’ which “changes color as it opens.

While looking for a picture of this notable flower, I stumbled into something equally as magical — the American Museum of Natural History digital library of images.  While I never found the flower, I did find some stunning and lovely images of visitors and students enjoying the museum in its early days.

What is it about old museum pictures that I find so interesting? Most of the exhibits would today be considered politically incorrect, and modern advances have improved our knowledge about many of the objects being pictures. But the faces filled with wonder and imagination could be taken from museum images today.

So enjoy these pictures and visit the archives to view more:

School children viewing Indian canoe exhibit, 1911:

 Julius Kirschner, courtesy AMNH
Julius Kirschner, courtesy AMNH

 

Students and teacher at a mammal display, October 1911

2007 METRO Project | ImageDigitizationSpecifications v1.0 | Epson Perfection V750 Pro
Julius Kirschner, courtesy AMNH

 

Young ladies in Forestry Hall, October 1911

Julius Kirschner, courtesy AMNH
Julius Kirschner, courtesy AMNH

 

Schoolgirls from Public School 94 drawing items on display in Southwest Indian Hall, May 1916

Julius Kershner, courtesy AMNH
Julius Kershner, courtesy AMNH

 

Blind children studying the hippopotamus, May 1914

Julius Kershner, courtesy AMNH
Julius Kershner, courtesy AMNH

 

Kids in Dinosaur Hall, July 1927

Courtesty Irving Dutcher, courtesy AMNH
Courtesty Irving Dutcher, courtesy AMNH

 

More students in Dinosaur Hall, this time in December 1929

Julius Kirschner, courtesy AMNH
Julius Kirschner, courtesy AMNH

 

 

Diving helmet made and submitted by Harry Hanson of Theodore Roosevelt High School, Children’s Fair, December 1930

Julius Kirshner, courtesy AMNH
Julius Kirshner, courtesy AMNH

 

How to do parks the right way! A boy views a display showing Children’s Attitude Toward Public Parks at the Children’s Fair, December 1931

Julius Kirshner, courtesy AMNH
Julius Kirshner, courtesy AMNH

 

Good advice for campers! Boys viewing display showing Edible Mushrooms at the Children’s Fair, December 1931

Julius Kirshner, courtesy AMNH
Julius Kirshner, courtesy AMNH

 

Students on guided tour of the Natural History of Man, December 1937

Photo by Charles Coles, courtesy AMNH
Photo by Charles Coles, courtesy AMNH

 

Children doing Native American dances in the Plains Indians Hall, July 1939

Photography by Thane L. Bierwert, Courtesy AMNH
Photography by Thane L. Bierwert, Courtesy AMNH

 

Kids have loved sharks for decades. Here’s a picture from the Sea Rovers display, Hall of Fishes, 1948

Thane Bierwert, courtesy AMNH
Thane Bierwert, courtesy AMNH

 

October 1957 — A group of children receiving instruction at the Natural Science Center

Morton Yourow, courtesy AMNH
Morton Yourow, courtesy AMNH

 

Children viewing bronze lions in Akeley African Hall, 1965

Photo New York Times, courtesy AMNH
Photo New York Times, courtesy AMNH

 

I never did find that historic chrysanthemum but the exhibition would have looked like this one from the Fall Exhibition of the Horticultural Society of New York, November 17-20, 1908.

32145.tif
Photo by Thomas Lunt, courtesy American Museum of Natural History
  • JJT

    Holy Smokes! In the photo where the kids are dancing in the Plains Indians Hall, the 2nd boy from left in the back appears to be my Dad! Crazy!

    For comparison, can see him a couple of years later in this photo I have on The Flickr:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnjt/5100717759/in/album-72157625107588842/

  • Joseph Roginski

    Thanks for posting these photos. I lived in the metropolitan area of NYC from 1951 to 1965. My first visit to the American Museum of Natural History was in 1954 at age 9 when I was staying with my aunt and uncle on 5th ave across from Central Park. From that year on, especially in the summer, I visited the museum and planetarium uncountable times, usually on my own or taking my siblings. We’d take the Fulton St Tube from Penn Station in Newark and then the subway up to the museum and spend hours and hours, always taking in the star show at the planetarium as well. There was a cafeteria at the subway station below the museum and they had the greatest spaghetti. The American Museum and Hayden Planetarium complex has always been my most favorite place in NY and holds a high place in my list of cherished memories. Thanks again!

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