Intimate Sketches of New York

Drawing of a massive townhouse standing on the corner of a busy intersection in mid-century Manhattan.


Vernon Howe Bailey (1874–1953) was one of the most successful — and prolific — illustrators of his time. After studying at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia and abroad at academies in London and Paris, Bailey joined the art staff of The Philadelphia Times in 1892. Two years later, he relocated to Boston and became one of the leading illustrators of The Boston Herald, providing dramatic sketches of fires, crimes, and court trials that brought the articles and editorials to life. Bailey also contributed to several periodicals throughout his busy career, including Scribner's, The Century, and Harper's. During the First World War, he worked as a contract artist for the U.S. Navy, documenting ships, submarines, mine depots, and naval stations, among other subjects. After the war, he made several trips to Spain and recorded his impressions in hundreds of drawings and watercolors. The 67 views of Spanish towns and villages that he completed during his 1925 trip to the country were published in a popular book that appeared the following year, Little Known Towns of Spain. Bailey also traveled to Italy to produce a series of interior and exterior views of the Vatican. Perhaps his most well-known series, however, comprises the 381 "intimate sketches" of buildings and street scenes in New York City, which was published in The Sun in the years 1934 and 1935. Many of the architectural gems featured in the series have since been destroyed, such as the Louis Comfort Tiffany house at 72nd Street and Madison Avenue (illustrated above), which was demolished only one year after Bailey recorded it. This series, which is preserved in its entirety in the Photoarchive, thus provides an exceptional record of the city in the 1930s, when it was experiencing a period of unprecedented growth and change.

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