American View Books


American View Books in the Avery Classics Collection provide pictorial documentation of cities and towns throughout the United States. The collection is comprised of 4,800 items, broadly termed “books” published in a variety of formats, including printed books, photographic albums, and novelties. Together these items present an illustrated history of the American built environment from the mid-nineteenth century to the twentieth century, a history told through images of buildings, streetscapes, monuments, and park lands. Intended as souvenir books for tourists, view books were often produced by local organizations like Chambers of Commerce to create a visual keepsake of a town or to commemorate major events including world’s fairs and natural disasters. Because of this, many of the books have an ephemeral quality, with paperback bindings or accordion-style paper fold-outs. The view books feature all types of photomechanical processes, such as albumen prints, chromolithographs, photolithographs, photogravures, photographs, and engravings. Novelty formats include stereograph cards, collapsible peep shows, and decks of playing cards. Taken as a group, the view books contain hundreds of thousands of images as well as detailed texts describing the growth of local industries, the construction of major buildings, the development of transportation networks, and the characteristics of regional architectural styles.


Cataloging Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library


  • Carole Ann Fabian

Collection Size

4800 objects

Date Range

1830 - 1980

Geographic Scope

The collection includes view books from every American state. The pictorial documentation focuses on cities, towns, park lands, and historic events.