Is this the oldest photograph of New York?

It just might be, according to New York: An Illustrated History, by Ric Burns and James Sanders. Taken at Broadway between Franklin and Leonard Streets, it’s believed to date to May 1850.

Looks like workers have torn up the street. On the far left, at 360 Broadway, is a building advertising carriages, and a block down Broadway is an ad for “Moffat” on the side of a taller structure. 

Who was Moffat? John Moffat was a doctor whose “Moffat’s Life Pills and Phoenix Bitters” made him quite wealthy in the mid-19th century. He and his family lived on Union Square, but he also owned the building that bore his name, at 337 Broadway.

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17 Responses to “Is this the oldest photograph of New York?”

  1. Bogart Paz Says:

    oldest photo of New York is 1840s Daguerreotype, This daguerreotype, showing a country home along “a continuation of Broadway,” was likely taken in New York City, in October 1848 or earlier. It sold for $62,500 at a Sotheby’s auction.
    see it at

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks–now I remember that auction from last spring. Maybe the book predates the discovery of the daguerreotype.

  3. Brendon Says:

    Is there a single structure in this photo that is in some way still existent today?

    • Thomas Sinclair Says:

      My Irish great grandfather and his brothers lived on Broadway at the corner of Leonard Street during this time period. I’m always interested in old photos of the area.

      They later moved to 52 Leonard Street, where my grandfather was born.

      I live in Northern Virginia now but return often to NYC for genealogical research.

  4. CorlearsHook Says:

    The second building on the left (358 Broadway?) is still there fore sure, the one next to it may be the same building but has a new facade…

  5. Thepunkguy » misinformation listed alphabetically Says:

    […] b. the oldest photograph of NYC right HERE.? […]

  6. Broadway in 1850 | drm Says:

    […] Broadway in 1850 via […]

  7. Tom Says:

    Hi, Looking for photos of the Moffat Building at 337-339 Broadway. Either the whole building or partial in the time frame of 1860 to 1920.

  8. WHAMMO! Says:

    Are you sure that isn’t the second avenue subway being worked on? 🙂

  9. John Vreeland Says:

    I spent all morning trying to figure this out after seeing the photo on a twitter feed. 358 Broadway is the same building but had all its ornaments removed for safety reasons at one point–no one would have put up such an un-ornamented building. Otherwise the windows match. The building just beyond it is new(er) as the window positions and floor levels do not appear to match. I have not seen any other matches. Most of the buildings see here today went up in the last quarter of the 19th century.

  10. Brian Says:

    Is the date, May 1850 – confirmed for this photo? I clearly see electric lines on the right hand side. I believe limited electricity didn’t start in lower Manhattan until the early 1880’s. Unless those are some other kind of cable.

  11. mpav (@mpav) Says:

    My g-g grandparents and children, including my g-grandfather lived at 33 Leonard corner of Varick in the 1860s. I had lunch at the Square Diner which is at that address today. Quite a thrill for me. Always love old photos of that area.

  12. Kevin C. Says:

    The Oneida Community (utopians in central New York, makers of animal traps, silk thread, spoons, etc.) kept a business office in the Moffat Building for several years.

  13. Alex Sinclair Says:

    337 Broadway was the address of a company known as the Edinburgh Stereoscopic Company. This operated in the late 1850’s selling photographic stereo views of Scotland and also some American views. Nothing much is known about this company so if anyone can fill in any details about it this would be very helpful.

  14. Ko Rijters Says:

    This is not construction work for the subway, this is the cleaning up after the big flood that wiped out the old residents of the city. The ornaments from the buildings where taken away as we, the new residents, aren’t allowed to discover that there was a free energy grid in town.

  15. EricJM Says:

    Definitely not the oldest photo. There have been Daguerreotypes listed from 1938-1940 in NYC. Also, I am confused by addresses in this picture. Besides agreeing with others about Edinburgh Stereoscopic Company address as 337. It more likely 335 as is printed on Moffett’s advertising. Regardless, how is the corner building in photo 360, while Moffett is 335 or 337? Aren’t odd and even address on opposite side of streets?

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