A Brooklyn chemist's 1800s photos capture New York in motion

28 PHOTOS
Photos of 1800s New Yorkers in motion
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Photos of 1800s New Yorkers in motion
Young Jamie Swan jumping off a short stone wall at Ft. Greene. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Crowds of men outside the NY Tribune bldg. (sign says The New York Extra) two days after elections. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Rear view of a group of men in uniform, wearing riding boots and walking down a city street. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Mr. Stokes, dressed in a suit w. a bowler and cane, jumping off a stone wall in a park in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1886: Nathan Abbott and a young girl walking through Copps Hill Cemetery. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Four young girls jumping off a waist-high wall as two women look on at Ft. Greene. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Three boys walking near an elephant from the Barnes Circus which is walking down the middle of Atlantic St. near Nevins. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Young Isabel Harter riding a tricycle while her sister Nellie rolls a hoop, w. other children and adults in bkgrd. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
J.M. Cornell (of 33 Monroe Place) jumping in the backyard at 314 Livingston St. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Zelma Levison jumping in the backyard of her home at 314 Livingston St. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Mildred Grimwood jumping in the backyard at 314 Livingston St. as brother Victor Grimwood and pal Zelma Levison look on. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Five men making their way around a track as they compete in a walking race. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Young Ethel Merritt jumping in the air at Coney Island. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Young Zelma Levison and her aunt, Jo Grimwood (dressed all in black, complete w. elaborate hat w. feathers and looking very much like Margaret Hamilton) throwing a ball back and forth on a lawn in Prospect park, Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
A group of young male bathers walking single file along the beach at shoreline, their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
An actor talking w. two wet girls on beach by the shoeline. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
H.B. Leckler's dog Mace posing atop a chair outdoors in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Young Edith Poey jumping off a wooden pole onto the sand at Coney Island. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Edgar J. Taylor caught in mid-air jumping off a barrel. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Maggie Ward standing on the end of a diving board at Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Teenager Miss Brown holding up a long cob of maize so that a squirrel in a tree can eat it. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
A woman swinging on a rope outside a bldg. touting ADMISSION 5 CENTS--5 SQUARE MILES OF FLAMES. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
A man at the beach in push-up position w. a barrel around his waist. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Dr. Ernest Palmer and wife joining hands to make a bar so that their dog can jump over it. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Acrobats perform balancing act on the backs of a pair of horses as crowds watch at Coney Island's Dreamland, Brooklyn, New York, August 26, 1904. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/Dahlstrom Collection/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
A woman making a face as she dogs paddles in the water at the beach. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Three fully-clothed women, Gertrude Hubbell, Ruth Peters and Mildred Grimwood, hiking their skirts at the shoreline of the beach in Averne, Queens. (Photo by Wallace G. Levison/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
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Wallace G. Levison was a chemist, inventor, and lecturer who founded the Departments of Mineralogy and Astronomy at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in the latter half of the 19th century.

He was also an avid photographer, using the new technology both as a scientific tool and a recreational activity.

As the dawn of the 20th century approached, newer, more sensitive film emulsions were developed that allowed pictures to be taken with faster and faster shutter speeds.

Levison’s photographs, snapped amid the hustling crowds of Manhattan and the frolicking bathers of Coney Island, display an obsession with motion and a delight with freezing actions that could previously only be recorded as a blur.

 

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