David Plowden photographs and papers
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of photographs and papers that document the work of David Plowden as photographer and author from 1943 through 2011. His photographs record scenes from main streets and churches in small towns to the barns and grain elevators of American farmlands to the industrial landscapes of cities like Chicago and New York. Plowden’s images depict steam railroads, their equipment, tracks, and operators; bridges, canals, and roadways throughout the United States and Canada; and such maritime vessels as tugboats, ferries, and commercial steamships which work the rivers, lakes, and harbors of North America. A group of photographs drawn from his book Lincoln and His America (New York: Viking Press, 1970) documents the contemporary appearance of sites related to Abraham Lincoln.
Photographs in the collection consist of nearly 5,500 black and white photographic prints, which include 2,300 exhibition prints (silver gelatin and ink jet) and over 3,000 additional silver prints suitable for reproduction or study by researchers.
The collection includes 45 color photographic prints and more than 2,700 color transparencies. The collection also includes a small number of digital image files created by Plowden from his photographic negatives and used by him to make some of the ink jet prints in the collection.
Papers in the collection include correspondence, research notes, and drafts related to his photographs and photographic books, as well as copies articles and clippings of works that reproduced his images.
The guide to the collection includes distinct entries for nearly every photographic print. The entries include Plowden’s titles for the image, the place and date the image was made, and Mr. Plowden’s image number, in parentheses. Some images with the same or similar visual content may have variant titles and occasionally variant place designations. Some discrete images may share the same image number which usually indicates that they were made as part of a single project. Photographic prints in the collection are predominantly black-and-white silver gelatin prints. Exceptions such as color or ink jet prints are noted.
Mr. Plowden designated his prints as “Exhibition,” “Reproducible,” and “Study.” Exhibition prints may be publicly exhibited and, with appropriate permission, reproduced. Reproducible prints, with appropriate permission, may be reproduced. Study prints may be examined but never reproduced. Reproducible and Study prints sometimes represent early prints of images that are also represented by Exhibition prints. In other cases, they may be the only print in the collection from a particular negative.
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
In 1995, when Yale received more than 4,000 silver-gelatin prints from David Plowden, Mr. Plowden designated the works as "Exhibition," "Reproducible," and "Study" prints. Exhibition prints may be publically exhibited and, with appropriate permission, reproduced. Reproducible prints, with appropriate permission, may be reproduced. Study prints may be examined but never reproduced. Reproducible and Study prints sometimes represent early prints of images that are also represented by Exhibition prints. In other cases, they may be the only print in the collection from a particular negative.
Mr. Plowden, his heirs and assigns retain all commercial rights in his photographs and writings. By agreement with Mr. Plowden, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library has the limited right to authorize scholars to reproduce up to ten of Mr. Plowden's images in a scholarly publication.
Box 177 (computer disk): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies of electronic files may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Conditions Governing Use
The David Plowden Photographs and Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. Mr. Plowden, his heirs and assigns retain all commercial rights in his photographs and writings. By agreement with Mr. Plowden, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library has the limited right to authorize scholars to reproduce up to ten of Mr. Plowden’s images in a scholarly publication.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchased from David Plowden on the Arthur Corbitt Hoskins Memorial Fund, the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, and the Frederick W. and Carrie S. Beinecke Fund for Western Americana, 1995-2019.
Gift of David Plowden, 2002, 2006, and 2018.
Organized into two series: I. Photographs, 1943-2011. II. Papers, circa 1957-2007.
111.73 Linear Feet (274 boxes)
This collection consists of photographs and papers that document the work of David Plowden as a photographer and author, 1943-2011. The photographic work in the collection records scenes from main streets and churches in small towns to barns and grain elevators in farmlands, as well as industrial cityscapes of cities like Chicago, Illinois, and New York City. The images also document railroads and their infrastructures, as well as bridges and canals throughout the United States and Canada, and maritime vessels, such as tugboats, steamboats, and ferries, which use the North American rivers, lakes, and harbors. A group of photographs also document sites related to Abraham Lincoln, which Plowden used in his work Lincoln and His America (New York: Viking Press, 1970).
David Plowden (born 1932, Yale 1955) is an American photographer noted for his exploration of the ways that agriculture and industry have reshaped the American landscape and built environments. Since 1952, when he began methodically photographing steam locomotives, Plowden has studied, documented, and commented on the transformation of urban and rural spaces through his individual photographs and more than twenty photographic books.
After graduating Yale College in 1955, Plowden worked briefly for the Great Northern Railway before beginning a career in photography. From 1957 to 1962, he studied under Minor White and Nathan Lyons, and served as an assistant to O. Winston Link and George Meluso. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1968 and a Smithsonian Institution Research Grant in 1970. Plowden has taught at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the School of Journalism at the University of Iowa, the University of Baltimore and Grand Valley State University in Michigan.
In 1995, Plowden and Yale University agreed that at the end of his career he would transfer his archive of notes, negatives, and prints to Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. His work is also represented in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the International Museum of Photography and Film at the George Eastman House, the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Albright Knox Art Gallery, and the Library of Congress.
Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.
Staff at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library logged descriptions for the majority of photographs in the David Plowden Photographs and Papers into a database maintained by the Curator of Western Americana shortly after their acquisition. These descriptions derive from the lists provided by Plowden, as well as from a detailed examination of each print and its verso. The database includes fields that capture the title for each print as well as the location of the exposure, transcription of inscriptions on the versos (comprised of the photographer's image number and printing notes), exposure date, print date, copyright date, print size, and types of print (exhibition prints, reproducible prints, and study prints). This database provided the basis for descriptions of digital surrogates of exhibition prints in the Beinecke Digital Collections, as well as this guide to the collection.
Unless bracketed, photograph description notes and image numbers were transcribed directly from the versos--this includes the "???" that occasionally appears in Plowden's numeric identifiers. Bracketed text has been supplied by the archivist(s) and likely uses information present for similar photographs in the collection to establish subjects, dates, locations, and so on.
Former call numbers: Uncat WA MS 221, Uncat WA MS 225, Uncat WA MS 247, Uncat MSS 46, Uncat MSS 148, Uncat MSS 320, Uncat MSS 379, Uncat MSS 510, Uncat MSS 726, Uncat MSS 793, Uncat MSS 950, Uncat MSS 1026, Uncat MSS 1068, Uncat MSS 1102, Uncat MSS 1192, Uncat MSS 1243, Uncat MSS 1243, Uncat MSS 1266), and Uncat MSS 1284.
- Barns -- Pictorial works
- Born digital
- Bridges -- Pictorial works
- Canada -- Pictorial works
- Canals -- Pictorial works
- Chicago (Ill.) -- Pictorial works
- Church Buildings -- Pictorial works
- City and town life -- Pictorial works
- Farms -- Pictorial works
- Ferries -- Pictorial works
- Gelatin silver prints
- Grain elevators -- Pictorial works
- Harbors -- Pictorial works
- Inkjet prints
- Lakes -- Pictorial works
- Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 (Pictorial works)
- New York (N.Y.) -- Pictorial works
- Photographic prints
- Plowden, David
- Railroads -- Pictorial works
- Rivers -- Pictorial works
- Steam locomotives -- Pictorial works
- Steamboats -- Pictorial works
- Tugboats -- Pictorial works
- United States -- Pictorial works
- Guide to the David Plowden Photographs and Papers
- by Matthew Daniel Mason and Jennifer V. Garcia
- 2014, updated 2021 and 2022
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
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