In recent years I've developed an interest in New York City at the turn of the century. And so I started work on this box, which took me over a year to complete. I sealed and painted the box, then added images one, two, or a handful at a time, and then after they were all in, sealed them and the box again.
It's titled New York 1900: Memories I Never Had
. I like to think of it as a scrapbook, in box form, of things I've never experienced.
The painted wood looks rough and chipped in places, especially the compartment dividers. This was achieved by sanding the box only after
it was sealed/painted. In actuality, the box has been sanded (perhaps obsessively) all the way up to 1500 grit and is silky-smooth to the touch.
The images are either printed in black and white then antiqued with a paint wash, or printed in various sepia tones. I wanted a wide range of subjects: architecture and street scenes, fashion, art, sports, music, even food. All told, there are 50 images.
With the lid off.
If you don't want to read all the picture details, all you need to know is this: Nearly all the images fall within the narrow range of dating from 1890 to 1903. I stuck quite strictly to the "turn of the century" concept, meaning that I only selected things which existed by 1900. If you see a post-1900 image, you can assume that I used it only because I couldn't find an earlier photo, and that the appearance in those later photos is pretty much as it it would have appeared in 1900. The only exceptions are a 1902 Mucha drawing, a 1901 Outcault cartoon, and a 1903 Gibson sketch, which I included simply because I like them so much.
(I know that for some of the photos, like the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty, there wasn't much point in finding period photos because the changes are minimal, but for completeness' sake I did anyway.)
Vertical panels facing us, from left to right:
Front row: caption from Rand McNally NYC map (1897)
2nd: Catherine Klein rose painting (ca. 1890s); Charles Dana Gibson girl (ca. 1903); Helen Campbell's Darkness and Daylight
(1893); Dewey Arch (1899)
3rd: the El at Greely Square (1898); lace based on 1890 pattern (modern photo)
Back row: Burnett's Vanilla ad (1900); Manhattan panorama from Hudson River (1900); Fred Pansing's Sampson and Schley Leading the Fleet into New York Harbor, August 20, 1898
Front row: Alphonse Mucha's Documents Decoratifs
(1902); Brooklyn bank check (1899)
2nd: doorknob (1890s); Herald Square (1895)
3rd: bishop's crook lamppost (modern photo); Hester Street (1900); chatelaine from Benjamin Allen catalog (1899); NYC postmark (1896)
Back row: Fulton St. and Lower Broadway (1899); silver perfume bottle, 1900 (modern photo)
Front row: New York World
2nd: official program of cycle and automobile exhibition at Madison Square Garden (1900); Chinatown (1899); tin ceiling ad (1895); William K. Vanderbilt mansion, Fifth Ave. (ca. 1900-1906)
3rd: gramophone (1898); The Bowery (1901)
Back row: Brooklyn Bridge approach, Manhattan side (1899); "The Bowery" sheet music (1892); Heinz electric sign (ca. 1900)
Front row: Rand McNally NYC map (1897); Sheepshead Bay race (1890, I've misplaced the artist's name)
2nd: Madison Square Garden (1898); Statue of Liberty (late 1890s)
3rd: Sears pocketwatch ad (1897); corset ad (1900); Richard F. Outcault cartoon (ca. 1901-1902); Louis C. Tiffany's Parakeets and Gold Fish Bowl
Back row: Central Park (1899); bicycle built for two (1899)
Top: Brooklyn Bridge (1896); "Sidewalks of New York" sheet music (1894); Gibson's His Vacation Over
2nd: Waldorf=Astoria Palm Garden (1902); City Hall (1900)
3rd: Delmonico's (1903); engraving of a horse (late 1880s)
Bottom: Newspaper Row (1890s); Manhattan panorama from East River (1899); Newsboys' Lodging House (1899)
Some of the compartments contain little "surprises":
The lady has a rhinestone in her hat...
...the pocketwatch has a 3D face (an epoxy pebble; it doesn't really show in the photo)...
...the dome of the World
Building has a faint wash of gold...
...and the Parakeets
is the only full-color panel. Because the original is stained glass, I reproduced the effect by printing it in color on a transparency and overlaying it on a metallic pearl background. If you look close you can see the wood grain through the "glass."
I covered the bottom of the box in dark brown felt to protect the tabletop.
All of it, encapsulated under glass.