F.S. Lincoln Photography Collection


F.S. Lincoln Photography Collection


The FS Lincoln Collection

Biographical Sketch

Mr. Fay S. Lincoln (known professionally as F.S. Lincoln) operated a photography studio in New York City from the 1930s until the mid 1960s. He was born in Keene, New Hampshire in 1894 and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although he received training as an engineer, Mr. Lincoln chose to become a professional photographer in 1929, when he opened the firm of Nyholm & Lincoln in conjunction with another photographer, Peter Nyholm, in New York City. A few years later, he opened his own studio at 114 East 32nd St.1

In 1932, Lincoln began corresponding with Kenneth Chorley, President of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, about the possibility of contracting with the Foundation to photograph the completed restoration work at Williamsburg. Lincoln had learned that John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was looking for someone to create a master collection of photos of Williamsburg through Arthur S. Vernay, an acquaintance of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. In his correspondence, Lincoln noted he had completed photographic assignments for many of the top architects and designers in New York, including Arthur S. Vernay, Joseph Urban, James Gamble Rogers, Voorhees, Gmelin & Walker, McKim, Mead, & White, Robert Locher, and Eugene Schoen. He also pointed out that he had sold architectural photos to many prominent magazines, including "Architectural Record," "National Geographic," "Country Life," "Architectural Forum," and "Spur."2

Lincoln's credentials, along with sample photographs and recommendations from magazine editors, enabled him to secure a contract with Colonial Williamsburg on April 22, 1935. According to the terms of the contract, Lincoln was hired to prepare a master collection of photographs and negatives that Colonial Williamsburg could sell to tourists and residents of Williamsburg, as well as use for promotional purposes. Lincoln retained the right to sell copies of his photographs at his New York studio, provided he consulted with the Foundation regarding the proposed use of the photographs. He also retained title to all negatives and copyright for all photos until the termination of his business. Plans for a traveling exhibition of Lincoln's photographs of Williamsburg were also mentioned in the contract.3

During 1935, F.S. Lincoln traveled to Williamsburg at seasonal intervals to photograph views requested by the Foundation. A panel of Colonial Williamsburg employees reviewed each series of photos and selected a group to be added to the master collection. F.S. Lincoln photos illustrated two portfolios about Colonial Williamsburg published in the "Architectural Record" in December 1935 and November 1936. Full-page black and white photos of restored buildings and gardens accompanied articles on the restoration written by Kenneth Chorley, Fiske Kimball, William G. Perry, and Arthur Shurcliff. Thus, Lincoln's photos gave the American public their first introduction to the completed restoration.

Lincoln had also been hired by Colonial Williamsburg to create a group of photographs of Williamsburg that could be exhibited. Correspondence between staff members indicates that John D. Rockefeller, Jr. hoped to mount a traveling exhibit of Williamsburg photographs. An exhibit of a selection of Lincoln's views of Williamsburg, along with photos he took for "Harper's Bazaar," "House and Garden," "House Beautiful," "Vanity Fair," "National Geographic," and "Town and Country," was held at the Rabinovitch Gallery in New York City from October 4-17, 1935.

Although Foundation employees were satisfied with the quality of Lincoln's photographs, they were dismayed by the cost of individual prints and enlargements. Memos exchanged between members of the marketing staff indicate that employees were having a hard time convincing distributors to purchase enlargements of the Lincoln photos for display in shop windows. As a result, the Foundation's agreement with F.S. Lincoln was terminated on April 21, 1936.4

Despite this setback, F.S. Lincoln secured contracts for many other architectural photography projects in the 1930s. He received numerous commissions to photograph buildings in New York City and also traveled abroad on several assignments. In 1934, he completed a portfolio of photos of Mont St. Michel and in 1938 he toured the deep South and photographed examples of antebellum architecture. Lincoln's photos were widely published in the 1930s and 1940s in such magazines as "Architectural Record," "House Beautiful," "National Geographic," "Country Life," and "Architectural Forum." In addition, he published a book of his photographs in 1946 entitled "Charleston: Photographic Studies by F.S. Lincoln."5

F.S. Lincoln continued to operate a photography studio in New York City until 1965, when he retired and moved to Center Hall, Pennsylvania to live with his sister. He forwarded all of his negatives of Williamsburg buildings to the Foundation in 1972, along with a letter stating that “the copyright of the photographs has run out, so you are free to use them as desired.”6 Upon his death in 1976, the remainder of Lincoln's archive of prints and negatives, as well as some business papers, were donated to the Pennsylvania State University Archives.

Scope and Contents

The F.S. Lincoln collection consists of black and white negatives and prints taken by Mr. Lincoln in preparation for the publication of "The Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia," a series of articles appearing in the December 1935 and November 1936 issues of "The Architectural Record." Both issues featured a portfolio of buildings and gardens in the newly restored historic area of Williamsburg.

In order to produce a large pool of photos for use in these portfolios, Mr. Lincoln created comprehensive visual documentation of the work completed during the initial phases of the restoration (1927-1935.) He photographed the exteriors and interiors of thirty restored buildings, including the exhibition buildings open to the public, such as the Governor's Palace, the Capitol, Raleigh Tavern, Bruton Parish Church, the Wren Building, and the Powder Magazine. In addition, he captured exterior views of some of the shops open on Merchant's Square and restored buildings adapted for public use, such as the Public Library. He also photographed many of the gardens and garden ornaments throughout the restored area.

The collection is organized into series by format. Series included in the collection are negatives; bound matted and signed prints; unbound matted and signed prints; and small albums. Within each format, items are organized according to the numbering system assigned by Mr. Lincoln. The first three digits of numbers assigned to the images correspond to a particular building or subject category. For example, all images of the Capitol have numbers beginning with 325 and all miscellaneous views have numbers beginning with 365. After these first three digits, Lincoln added a P for print and then a successive number for each view. For example, the first view of the Capitol is number 325P1. An “LC” prefix has been added to all image numbers by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to identify the images as coming from the Lincoln Collection.


1 Champagne, Anne, “Fay S. Lincoln Collection,” History of Photography 17, (Spring 1993): 127-128.

2 F.S. Lincoln to B.W. Norton, October 18, 1933. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Archives.

3 Agreement dated April 22, 1935 between Colonial Williamsburg, Inc. and F.S. Lincoln, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Archives.

4 Mr. Norton to Mr. Darling, February 22, 1937; Kenneth Chorley to F.S. Lincoln, April 6, 1937, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Archives.

5 Champagne, Anne, “Fay S. Lincoln Collection,” History of Photography 17 (Spring 1993): 128.

6 F.S. Lincoln to James R. Short, May 15, 1972, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Archives.

Collection Items

This view of the south and east facade of the Courthouse shows the building with its unique cantilevered entrance porch. This original building was constructed shortly before the Revolution and it is thought that the stone columns intended to support…

Clerk's Office, House of Burgesses
Interior view of the Clerk's Office in the House of Burgesses, Capitol Building, 1935.  Charles Willson Peale's portrait of Washington (accession # 1933-502, A&B) is featured prominently on the wall. In 1928, it was acquired by John D.…

Palace Green
The vista south along Palace Green is a feature mentioned by Thomas Jefferson who noted that native American catalpa trees were planted along the sides. The open space continues south of Duke of Gloucester Street on what Benjamin Bucktrout's map of…

Apollo Room, Raleigh Tavern
The Apollo Room at the Raleigh Tavern was the frequent scene of both jollity and consequence. Dinners and dances rivaled in elegance those at the Palace. Burgesses reconvened at the tavern when they were dissolved by royal governors prior to the…

St. George Tucker House
This view looking northeast at the St. George Tucker property shows one of the Historic Area's original eighteenth-century houses, when still occupied by descendants of the original builder. Later additions and outbuildings have been removed and…

Nicholas-Tyler Office
The north and west facades of the Nicholas-Tyler Office illustrate both the varied use of buildings in Williamsburg's Historic Area, as well as modifications that are undertaken when research identifies incorrectly interpreted features. Used as the…

Custis Tenement Garden
This view, looking southwest in the Custis Tenement gardens, shows the plan following the outlines of the British Union Jack as designed by Arthur Shurcliff. Investigations and research were undertaken and, where no information was found, the garden…

Governor's Palace
Exterior of Governor's Palace, view from the northeast, 1935. This image of the Governor's Palace, shown as it was first reconstructed, includes features and details that changed with later research and investigation. Wrought-iron gates and the…

Governor's Palace Garden
This view from the pleached hornbeam arbor at the Governor’s Palace shows the north and west facades. The ballroom wing, an addition during the 1750s, includes the royal arms in its pedimented gable. Gardens, designed by Arthur Shurcliff, include…

Capitol Building
This image of the reconstructed Capitol shows its south and west facades. Rounded apsidal ends derive from Roman basilicas which contained such features in which public magistrates officiated. Completed during the reign of Queen Anne, the original…

Arcade Building
This image of the present-day Christmas Shop, in what is known as the Arcade Building, shows the evolution of uses on Merchant's Square. Among the earliest in the shopping mall genre, the area has had a variety of tenants. Initially the town's post…

William Finnie House
This view of the north front of the William Finnie House shows the property as first restored. An original structure remaining intact from the late eighteenth century, the building is admired as an early example of Federal architecture and…

St. George Tucker House, View From Left
View looking from the boxwood garden towards the eastern end of the St. George Tucker House, 1935. St. George Tucker, a law professor at the College of William and Mary, purchased and moved the central portion of the house from Palace Green to…

Wren Building, Front Elevation
Front elevation of the Wren Building, College of William and Mary, taken by F.S. Lincoln in 1935. Begun in 1695, the construction of the Wren Building marked the birth of an academic center in colonial Virginia. A series of fires in 1705, 1859, and…

Ayscough Shop, Exterior Detail
Entrance of the Ayscough Shop in 1935, when it housed the Forge and Wheel, a retail establishment. As noted on the sign, the shop sold decorative ironwork, pottery, and other items.

Christopher Ayscough, the namesake of the shop, tried operating…

Finnie House, View From Street
View from Francis Street looking towards the William Finnie House. One of the eighty-eight original buildings at Colonial Williamsburg, the Finnie House is named after William Finnie. He resided in the home in the 1770s and early 1780s and held the…

Finnie House, View From Right
Two costumed hostesses stand at the gate of the William Finnie House in 1935. One of the eighty-eight original buildings at Colonial Williamsburg, the Finnie House is named after William Finnie. He resided in the home in the 1770s and early 1780s and…

Finnie House, View From Right
View of the front elevation of the William Finnie House taken by F.S. Lincoln in 1935. One of the eighty-eight original buildings at Colonial Williamsburg, the Finnie House is named after William Finnie. He resided in the home in the 1770s and early…

Finnie House, View From Street
View from Francis Street looking towards the William Finnie House. 1935. One of the eighty-eight original buildings at Colonial Williamsburg, the Finnie House is named after William Finnie. He resided in the home in the 1770s and early 1780s and held…

Finnie House, View From Street
View from the Ayscough property looking across Francis Street towards the William Finnie House. The Ayscough Shop's "Forge and Wheel" sign is visible in the foreground.

One of the eighty-eight original buildings at Colonial Williamsburg, the…
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