The Phelps Stokes Collection of American historical prints and early views of American cities came to the Library in 1930 as a gift of Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (1867-1944). It includes more than 800 prints, drawings, and maps produced over a period of four centuries, from the earliest European discoveries of the West Indian islands through the 19th century. Comprising a visual narrative of the development of the Americas and especially the territory that became the United States, it offers a rich graphic resource for the study of American history, architecture, urban growth, costume, transportation, and much else. The documentation of the rise of New York City is particularly strong.
Biographical/historical: Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (1867-1944) was an American architect and housing reformer. John Mead Howells and Stokes worked as partners in the architectural firm Howells and Stokes. In addition to his architectural work, Stokes was an organizer of the Tenement House Committee of the Charity Organization Society, served on the New York State Tenement House Commission, helped write the New York tenement house law of 1901, and designed several model tenements. He had a renowned collection of prints of old New York and was responsible for The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909, a six-volume pictorial history published between 1915 and 1928. He served on the Board of Trustees of the New York Public Library from 1916 until 1938.