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Brooklyn Bridge

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On April 24, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a digital trove of 870,000 photographs, maps and videos that document more than 150 years of Big Apple history, starting in 1858. Among the highlights is a series of images showcasing the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened to the public 129 years ago on Thursday.

The evocative, black-and-white photographs are not only remarkable for the intimate and playful details they capture, including a shot of workers painting the Brooklyn Bridge in 1914—without harness!—but also because they were taken by an amateur photographer named Eugene de Salignac, who was a municipal worker from 1906-1934.

Eugene de Salignac

Under the bridge on the Brooklyn side, 1918.

“He was an extremely talented photographer who was tasked with documenting the building of the city,” says Eileen Flannelly, New York City’s deputy commissioner for the department of records. “Unfortunately, he didn’t get recognition for his images during his lifetime. He was just a civil service employee, really unknown. I don’t think people really understood then that he was showing us how our city was built.”

The push to unveil this digital archive has been in the works for nearly four years, and it’s likely to become a hallmark achievement for Mayor Bloomberg, who has made it a mission to support technological initiatives during his tenure. Other photographs from the archive give viewers an inside look at the city’s grisly crime scenes, old Times Square and various borough presidents’ offices. “I look at the crime scene and it’s like looking at an old gangster movies—they’re fascinating because they don’t look real,” Flannelly says. “Then I look at pictures from the ‘80s and see how much the city has changed. It’s fascinating because you don’t have to go too far back to see how far we’ve come.”

The New York City Municipal Archives Photo Gallery can be browsed online here.

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People observe a moment of silence during ceremonies at the World Trade Center site for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 in New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan which resulted in the deaths of 2,753 people when two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Security has been heightened in both New York City and Washington D.C. following a terrorist threat about a car bomb.

A P-51 Mustang airplane crashes into the edge of the grandstands at the Reno Air show on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 in Reno Nevada. The World War II-era fighter plane flown by a veteran Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward plunged Friday into the edge of the grandstands during the popular air race creating a horrific scene strewn with smoking debris.

 September 19, 2011

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People observe a moment of silence during ceremonies at the World Trade Center site for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 in New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan which resulted in the deaths of 2,753 people when two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Security has been heightened in both New York City and Washington D.C. following a terrorist threat about a car bomb. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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The Tribute in Light rises over the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan, Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in New York. A day earlier the city held a memorial at Ground Zero for the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the United States. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) #

 September 19, 2011

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In this Monday, Sept. 12, 2011 image taken from video, a group of people tilt a burning BMW up to free Brandon Wright, on his back on the ground, who was pinned underneath after he collided with the car while riding his motorcycle on U.S. 89 in Logan, Utah. Authorities said Wright was riding his motorcycle near the Utah State University campus in Logan when the 21-year-old collided with the BMW that was pulling out of a parking lot. Tire and skid marks on the highway indicate that Wright laid the bike down and slid along the road before colliding with the car, Assistant Police Chief Jeff Curtis said. (AP Photo/Chris Garff) #

 September 19, 2011

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A visitor poses in front of a beluga swimming inside an aquarium at the Laohutan Ocean Park in Dalian, in northeast China's Liaoning province, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) #

 September 19, 2011

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A woman at the National September 11 Memorial, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, mourns the loss of her son who died during during attacks at the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Carolyn Cole, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza in the attacks at the World Trade Center, pauses at his son's name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial before the 10th anniversary ceremony at the site, Sunday Sept. 11, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Justin Lane, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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A man walks among nearly 3,000 flags set up as part of a remembrance on 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) #

 September 19, 2011

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A rose is placed on an inscribed name along the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during the tenth anniversary ceremonies of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center site, September 11, 2011 in New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and one crash landed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Lane-Pool/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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The Tribute in Light shines above Lower Manhattan, marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks at the World Trade Center site, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) #

 September 19, 2011

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In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 photo, a P-51 Mustang airplane approaches the ground right before crashing during an air show in Reno, Nev. The vintage World War II-era fighter plane piloted by Jimmy Leeward plunged into the grandstands during the popular annual air show. (AP Photo/Garret Woodman) #

 September 19, 2011

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A P-51 Mustang airplane crashes into the edge of the grandstands at the Reno Air show on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 in Reno Nevada. The World War II-era fighter plane flown by a veteran Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward plunged Friday into the edge of the grandstands during the popular air race creating a horrific scene strewn with smoking debris. (AP Photo/Ward Howes) #

 September 19, 2011

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A single engine T-28 from the six-plane Trojan Horsemen Demonstration Flight Team crashes and explodes during a performance at the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Open House and Air Show, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011 at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W.Va. (AP Photo/Journal Newspaper, Ron Agnir) #

 September 19, 2011

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A firefighter places an American flag on a memorial display while preparing for 9/11 ceremonies at FDNY Ladder 20 Engine 13 on September 9, 2011 in New York City. Ladder 20 lost seven firefighters on September 11, 2001. New York City and the nation are preparing for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan, which resulted in the deaths of 2,753 people at the World Trade Center(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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Las Vegas firefighter Capt. Eric Littmann walks in a parade commemorating the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in Las Vegas. ( AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) #

 September 19, 2011

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A general view shows a crowded beer tent during the opening day of the Oktoberfest 2011 beer festival at Theresienwiese on September 17, 2011 in Munich, Germany. The world's biggest beer festival starts September 17 and runs until October 3, 2011. (Photo by Alexandra Beier/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, watches as referee Joe Cortez gives Victor Ortiz Floyd a ten count after he was knocked down by Mayweather during their WBC welterweight title fight Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) #

 September 19, 2011

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The street circuit of the Formula One night race is illuminated during a light testing seen from Swissotel The Stamford at dusk on Monday, Sept. 19, 2011 in Singapore which will be the host city for the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix from Sept. 23-25. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) #

 September 19, 2011

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Palestinian children gather near the beach in Deir Al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) #

 September 19, 2011

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2nd Lt. Andrew Ferrara, 23, of Torrance, Calif., with the U.S. Army's Bravo Company of the 25th Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion 27th Infantry Regiment, based in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, turns from the rotor wash of a landing Blackhawk helicopter during a mission for a key leader engagement at the Shigal district center Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/David Goldman) #

 September 19, 2011

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Air Force One, with President Barack Obama aboard, arrives at Raleigh Durham International Airport in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, where President Obama will speak about the American Jobs Act. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds) #

 September 19, 2011

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Firefighters try to put out a wildfire at a national reserve in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Sept. 9, 2011. Drought, high temperatures and low humidity have caused wildfires at several places around Brasilia, according to officials. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) #

 September 19, 2011

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Joseph Mwangi, 34, sits in a state of shock after discovering the charred remains of two of his children, one aged 6 the other of unknown age, at the scene of a fuel explosion in Nairobi, Kenya, Monday, Sept. 12, 2011. A leaking gasoline pipeline in Kenya's capital exploded on Monday, turning part of a slum into an inferno in which scores of people were killed and more than 100 hurt. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) #

 September 19, 2011

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Survivors use flotsam Saturday, Sept 10, 2011, after an overcrowded ship sank in deep sea between mainland Tanzania and Pemba Island at about 1 a.m. Saturday with about 600 people onboard. The numbers involved are unclear as the ferry, M.V. Spice Islanders, is thought to have been heavily overloaded and some potential passengers refused to board when it was leaving the mainland port of Dar es Salaam, said survivor Abdullah Saied. About 230 people have been rescued and 40 bodies recovered but about 370 people are still reported missing, said Mohamed Aboud, minister for the Vice President's Office. (AP Photo/Capt Neil van Ejik Whirlwind Aviation) #

 September 19, 2011

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A German soldier lifts weights at his combat outpost in Char Darah, outisde Kunduz, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #

 September 19, 2011

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A man sets himself on fire outside a branch of Piraeus bank in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Friday Sept. 16, 2011. It was a third attempted self-immolation by the former small business owner, who says he was ruined after taking a series of bank loans. The 56-year-old was hospitalized with non life-threatening chest burns. (AP Photo/Nontas Stlianidis) #

 September 19, 2011

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A girl runs across a flooded road as water recedes in Puri district, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) from the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneshwar, Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. Aerial food drops were suspended after five days Friday as flood waters began to recede in the Mahanadi delta in Orissa state. At least 26 people died and 12 others went missing during the devastating floods which affected people in 19 districts of the state, official sources said. (AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout) #

 September 19, 2011

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Soyuz TMA-21 space capsule lands with Expedition 28 Commander Andrei Borisenko, and Flight Engineers Ron Garan, and Alexander Samokutyayev in a remote area outside of the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. NASA Astronaut Garan, Russian Cosmonauts Borisenko and Samokutyaev are returning from more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 27 and 28 crews. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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NASA Astronaut Ron Garan, left, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyayev, center, and Andrei Borisenko, right, are seen inside Russian Soyuz TMA-21 space capsule after its landing about 150 kilometers (94 miles) southeast of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. NASA Astronaut Garan, Russian Cosmonauts Borisenko and Samokutyayev are returning from more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 27 and 28 crews. (AP Photo/Sergei Remezov, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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Nepalese women remove bricks of the damaged house to make way for pedestrians after an earthquake of magnitude 6.9 shook northeastern India on Sunday night, in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. Rescue workers used shovels and their bare hands to pull bodies from the debris of collapsed buildings Monday, as the death toll from an earthquake that hit northeast India, Nepal and Tibet rises. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha) #

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Seanna Sharpe made her way down Monday from the Williamsburg Bridge after staging a performance from a tower on the bridge using a sheet. Ms. Sharpe and another artist were arrested on charges of reckless endangerment. (Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal )


Firefighters worked to put out a fire Monday in the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Synagogue on 85th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


As part of the Garden of Dreams Foundation’s summer camp, Radio City Rockettes members led a dance class Monday inside Radio City Music Hall for 40 children from low-income families. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


A rooster stood outside a shed in the backyard vegetable garden of Marshall Green’s three-story Staten Island home, which is currently for sale. (Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal)


Milagros Franco, 35, commutes across the Brooklyn Bridge nearly every day on her motorized wheelchair, since the bus line that took her from her Manhattan home to her Brooklyn office was canceled due to lack of funding. (Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal)


Acrobats from the Streb Extreme Action Company troupe performed ‘Human Fountain’ at the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan. Friday. (Philip Montgomery for The Wall Street Journal)


Preston, a Vizsla, got some cold-water relief Tuesday from the 90-degree heat at an Upper West Side dog run. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


The cheddar-and-mozzarella grilled cheese with tomato soup, at The Queens Kickshaw located at 40-17 Broadway in Astoria, Queens. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)


Actor Zach Braff sat in an audience seat at West 43rd Street’s Second Stage Theatre where his play ‘All New People’ is being produced. (Julie Platner for The Wall Street Journal)


Sculptor Joan Benefiel posed Thursday near her project, ‘Figurations: Fashion District Pilings Project.’ The project was unveiled to the public Friday. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)


A flier was posted of abducted Brooklyn 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, whose accused murderer was arrested early Wednesday morning. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


Construction worker Eric Dumalag stood near the south end of the newly constructed 9/11 Museum at Ground Zero as construction continues at the former site of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. (Philip Montgomery for The Wall Street Journal)


Chef Michael Abruzese worked in the kitchen of Polpettina, 102 Fisher Ave. in Easchester, N.Y. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)


City Parks Foundation’s PuppetMobile’s ‘Bessie’s Big Shot’ entertained a crowd in Manhattan’s Morningside Park. The PuppetMobile performs free puppet shows in neighborhood parks all summer long. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


Harry Potter fans waited outside the Lincoln Center on Monday for the U.S. premiere of the final installment of the blockbuster film series. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)


The Met Opera set up for their Wednesday performance at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn’s Dumbo. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)


Pork meatballs served over broccoli rabe at Polpettina in Easchester. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)


Clockwise from left, Vasantha Suresh, Suresh Lakshman, Ashwin Suresh, and Aditi Shrivastava enjoyed some shade Wednesday at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo, Brooklyn. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)


Riders took off Sunday during the Tour de Queens, a 20-mile bike ride through the borough, which started at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The community ride was sponsored by Transportation Alternatives. (Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal )


Lisbeth Vargas, 4, cooled off Wednesday with a drink of water from an open hydrant in the South Bronx’s Hub. The Hub, formed by the intersection of Third, Melrose and Willis avenues and East 149th Street in the South Bronx, is one of the busiest intersections in the borough. (Jesse Neider for The Wall Street Journal)

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