Beginning in the 1920’s an aspiring Ohio writer named Percy Loomis Sperr began taking photographs of New York City. Sperr’s photos were intended to accompany the text of his various literary projects, but when the images sold better than his prose a new career was born.
“His New York,” wrote the New York Times, “is a city of horse-drawn milk wagons and brooding mansions, snack bar shacks and clamorous shipping docks, fleeting men in straw hats, strangely empty streets and demolition sites destined for skyscrapers like the Woolworth Building.” (NYT’s, March 14, 2000)
His body of work was massive—of the 54,000 old NYC photos maintained by the New York Public Library some 30,000 are credited to Sperr.
Until his death in 1964 Sperr saw himself as a storyteller. ”I am not much of a camera fan,” he wrote.
The images that follow were captured by Sperr in the Inwood section of northern Manhattan: