NYPL Digital Collections search portal (accessed August 28, 2018)
Most of the images in NYPL's collections have been digitized and are accessible online though our Digital Collections page. Keep in mind that many businesses are included in more general street scenes, and may not be specifically identified in the description of the image.
To explore business images in this collection, try the following:
Maps can be a useful tool for visualizing a business and placing it in the context of its neighborhood.
Fire Insurance maps, often referred to as "Sanborn maps" (after their primary publisher), are a particularly valuable resource. These maps were originally created to help insurers assess the fire risk posed by individual buildings. To serve this purpose, the maps provided very detailed information, depicting the size, shape, construction materials, house and block numbers, property boundaries and how individual buildings were used. For smaller cities, insurance maps may also identify the businesses at specific locations.
NYPL's Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division holds a large collection of insurance maps, for both New York City and other locations.
For smaller cities and towns, business directory maps may also be available. These may be included in county atlases, and list the names of local businesses (those included most likely paid for this advertising).
Many of the business directory maps in NYPL's collections have been digitized and are freely available through our Digital Collections portal (try a keyword search for [name of the town or county] and "business map").