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Photographs of General Motors Cars and Trucks, 1902-1938

More than 750 images from public relations materials, principally black and white photographs and accompanying press releases, for the automotive and truck lines of General Motors, during the years 1902-1938.

Collection Contents

Oldsmobile Away to Fast Start. Digital ID: 482333 Oldsmobile Away to Fast Start. Digital ID: 482333

Collection History

Over the years, General Motors Corporation donated photographs and related materials as a public service to contemporary and future researchers, and to create an ongoing record of the company's output. The Library, in turn, mounted these photographs and texts in albums. General Motors was one of several transportation corporations that donated public relations materials to the Library department that is now the Science, Industry and Business Library. The General Motors holding is particularly comprehensive.


While automobile catalogs and photographs of early automobiles are a particular highlight of the collection, all aspects of transportation appear in the Science, Industry and Business Library. Starting with 17th century works illustrating naval architecture and carriage design, and continuing through spacecraft images, detailed descriptions of the means of movement of people and materials are available. Early French imprints provide colorful illustrations of ballooning expeditions and aviation journals illustrate the most current advances in air and space travel. William Barclay Parsons who was the chief engineer of the New York City Subway system and a member of the Board of the Library from 1911-1932 left his valuable book collection to the New York Public Library, which included a wealth of rare titles dealing with all aspects of transportation with an emphasis on railways and canals.

Unlike academic libraries, NYPL collects a wide variety of industry newsletters and journals that document the day-to-day business activities of companies in the transportation sector. Histories of individual companies constitute a large and useful part of the collection. In addition, obscure offshoots of transportation such as the buggy whip industry are also included as are experimental design illustrations for bicycles, airplanes, ships, submarines and a host of other devices.

Related Resources

Automobile Quarterly Magazine, editor. General Motors, the First 75 Years. (c1983)

General Motors Corporation. "GM History." (c2004) <>

Kuhn, Arthur J. GM Passes Ford, 1918-1938: Designing the General Motors Performance-control System. (c1986)

Library Division(s)

NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 800,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the vast collections of The New York Public Library, including drawings, illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.