Vintage: New York Street Scenes in the 1950s by Frank Oscar Larson

Vintage: New York Street Scenes in the 1950s by Frank Oscar Larson


Frank Oscar Larson was born in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 1896, the son of Swedish immigrants who moved to New York in early 1890’s. At the turn of the century Greenpoint and the surrounding area was home to a sizable Swedish population , most of them recent arrivals who worked in the factories of what was then a heavily manufacturing area. Frank’s father John Larson was a foreman at Hecla Iron Works in Williamsburg, one of the nation’s premier manufacturers of decorative wrought iron gates and installations.

After serving in World War I as an artillery man and then completing his college education, Frank took a job with Empire Trust Company in Manhattan, where he worked his way up the company ladder to become an auditor for the bank. He worked there until he retired in the late 1950’s.

Frank had a number of hobbies which provided for him a creative outlet and a much needed relief from his 9 to 5 banking job. He played the violin, carved wooden sculptures and was an avid photographer. Photographs dating back to the 1920’s attest to the fact that he was always the family shutterbug, But it was in the early 1950’s that Frank’s passion for photography blossomed. By 1949 both of his sons had left home, and perhaps this new situation, no longer having kids at home freed him up on the weekends to delve into photography with a passion.

For the next 16 years he took thousands of photographs, mostly with a medium-format Rolleiflex camera. On weekends in the early 1950’s he would leave home early in the morning on photographic expeditions to exotic places like the Bowery, Chinatown or Times Square, or to less exotic places like Central Park, the Cloisters or nearby Kissena Park.

A rainy evening in New York's Times Square under the neon lights of the "Black Widow" marquee.

A rainy evening in New York’s Times Square under the neon lights of the “Black Widow” marquee. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

Three young ladies prepare to have their pictures taken in Manhattan photo booths in April 1954.

Three young ladies prepare to have their pictures taken in Manhattan photo booths in April 1954. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

A group poses for a picture at Pier 86, on 46th Street.

A group poses for a picture at Pier 86, on 46th Street. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

Professional skaters make a gutsy move in this shot, taken at the Rockefeller Center rink.

Professional skaters make a gutsy move in this shot, taken at the Rockefeller Center rink. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

The view from the top of a Rockefeller Center escalator looks out onto Fifth Avenue.

The view from the top of a Rockefeller Center escalator looks out onto Fifth Avenue. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

A candid moment of school girls in 1953.

A candid moment of school girls in 1953. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

Cops, delivery men, construction workers, cooks, cobblers and kids, just going about their business.

Cops, delivery men, construction workers, cooks, cobblers and kids, just going about their business. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

A man works on New York City souvenirs with his sewing machine in November 1954.

A man works on New York City souvenirs with his sewing machine in November 1954. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

A woman peers out from a ticket booth of a movie theater in New York's Times Square in 1954.

A woman peers out from a ticket booth of a movie theater in New York’s Times Square in 1954. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

Pigeons gather in Times Square on a rainy day in 1954.

Pigeons gather in Times Square on a rainy day in 1954. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

A rainy day across from St. Patrick's Cathedral.

A rainy day across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

A group of businessmen huddle together at the window of the Associated Press office at Rockefeller Center to read the latest news, 1955.

A group of businessmen huddle together at the window of the Associated Press office at Rockefeller Center to read the latest news, 1955. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

The Chrysler Building is reflected in a sidewalk puddle on 42nd St. in April 1954.

The Chrysler Building is reflected in a sidewalk puddle on 42nd St. in April 1954. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

Two men chat in a coffee shop window near Times Square in April 1954.

Two men chat in a coffee shop window near Times Square in April 1954. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

A Ballantine beer truck stops to make a delivery in front of the NBC Television Theatre.

A Ballantine beer truck stops to make a delivery in front of the NBC Television Theatre. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art

A street performer promotes the film "Johnny Guitar" on the sidewalks of Times Square in Spring, 1954.

A street performer promotes the film “Johnny Guitar” on the sidewalks of Times Square in Spring, 1954. © Frank Oscar Larson Photography / Queens Museum of Art


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