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Unidentified Artist

Harlem River
about 1875
albumen print
10 1/8 x 13 3/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

At first glance, the subject of this watery scene would seem to be the foreground where tidal flats and salt grass merge with their reflections in the river. Looking beyond to the horizon line, a different story is told. Buildings, a bell tower, side-wheel steamships and ferryboats impart a bustling scene of urban waterfront activity. The sign which reads “Vineyard Bathing Beach” indicates swimming in the Harlem River was still a refreshing pastime in 1875.