Share this post

Vintage travel guides make up for one of the most insightful and hands-on looks at a city — the attractions, points of interest and culture and a distilled look of what really mattered. So when I discovered a 1924 Standard Guide to New York at one of the library sales nearby, I was beyond excited.

Published by Foster & Reynolds Company, this rare copy of the guide provides a unique glimpse at the city of that time. Through 124 pages, this pocket book features hand-illustrated maps, detailed photographs — from the tallest skyscrapers in the world to the small but growing subway system of that time as well as major hotel rates ($3 per night!) and some fabulous advertising pages.

The original edition was published by by Foster & Reynolds Company in 1901. This is a revised 1924 edition

The table of contents briefly elaborates on the points on interest — of course not as many as you would find today but including the staples such at the Met museum, Union Square a a (very) tiny article about Brooklyn

Some of the photographs like this one on the left were illustrated in full detail — in this case to demonstrate how skyscrapers are built. Note that at the time New York City was home to the tallest buildings in the world

A landscape page featuring a photograph of Battery Park from 1920s by Irving Underhill — one of the most famous commercial photographers of the time

Only one page of the guide is dedicated to Brooklyn. On the right — note the explanation of the various subway lines. New York subway opened in 1904 so only a few lines were available at the time — each had its own name and a private owner (so switching was quite a hassle)

One of the advertising spreads featuring local businesses and hotels. The building of Hotel Webster (located at 40 West 45 St.) is still there today occupied by another hotel. Note the Packard Renting ad in the bottom — at the time a luxury chauffeur service for well-off visitors to the city

New York Standard Guide
Paperback, 124 pages 
Size 8 x 5 inches
$38 at The Curious Desk

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter

Share this post

Designer & photographer based in New York City