History

Photographs of London 100 years ago

City trading faces of 100 years ago look at a press photographer's camera taking a glass side negative.

Crowd on stock exchange floor, London between 1910 and 1920. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Haunting and evocative pictures of London life more than one hundred years ago have been preserved by the US Library of Congress.

They give a powerful perspective on the politics, drama and culture of London society from street flower sellers to Suffragette campaigners.

A crowd gathers in Whitehall just outside Downing Street in August 1914 after Britain declares war on Germany.

War Crowd in Downing St in 1914. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

They were taken on early press cameras using glass negatives by The George Grantham Bain agency- one of America’s earliest news picture agencies.

Images collected in London include coverage of strikes, political marches, royal and public celebrations.

The Library of Congress has made the collection available online.

This includes 39,744 glass negatives and a selection of about 1,600 photographic prints. The Library holds a total of 50,000 photographic prints in the collection.

Only a very small proportion relate to scenes of London news stories, but those that can be seen and downloaded are dramatic and fascinating.

A portion of the collection photographs are on Flickr, where Flickr community members can add comments, notes, and tags.

This gallery features photographs from 1912 of the agitation by the Women’s Political and Social Union- known as the Suffragettes who took direct action in their struggle for enfranchisement. Images include vandalized shops and suffragette delegates visiting from the United States.

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The collection includes a portfolio of photographs documenting the Great International Congress of the Salvation Army, London, June 13, 1914 and this gallery also features an image of the funeral cortege of the army’s founder General William Booth on August 29 of that year.

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This period of history was marked by increasing labour and industrial unrest. The Trade Union movement sponsored the development of the Labour Party as an alternative force in British politics. This gallery includes photographs of strikers outside the locked gates of the Port of London, police officers escorting and protecting horse-drawn vans and strikers marching over London Bridge.

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