The phrase “Wonder City” in regards to New York was the brainchild of marketers, with its earliest known appearance on a 1914 souvenir booklet. These popular keepsakes, along with postcards and postcard books, helped spread images of the city and its nickname. Previous attempts at branding New York had been less successful, with phrases like the “American Cosmopolis,” “The First City of the World,” and “The Foremost City in the World” never gaining traction.
The city’s explosive growth beginning at the end of the 19th century ultimately led to the creation of more travel posters than were designed for any other world city: a host of images as varied as her ever-shifting identity, seen from the water, from the ground, and, eventually, from the air. This exhibition will track how New York City was represented to decades of new travelers, immigrants, and tourists.
It is a visual, graphic experience in how artists were able to capture the multitude and the magnitude of the thriving metropolis, selling the hustle and the bustle, the bright lights and the imposing structures, as well as managing to capture some moments of intimacy and slice-of-life imagery within the canyons and among the ziggurats.
Nicholas D. Lowry is a New York City born internationally recognized authority on vintage posters. He is President of Swann Auction Galleries where he oversees the vintage poster department, and is also known for his appearances on the PBS television series Antiques Roadshow for which he has been appraising vintage posters for almost 30 years. He is currently working on Bohemian Identity, a documentary on the history of Czech graphic design.