Even if one didn't recognize the Flatiron Building outright (most pictures depict the
tiangular side on the other side of the building), once the street is identified as Fifth
Avenue, looking north (the title of the picture), it is easily placed at 23d St, and
Broadway, the only intersection of Fifth Avenue that isn't a straight 90 degree
intersection. That's how I did it, anyway. Andy Hoh
Colleen, I'm betting that the photographer SHOWN in the photo is Bert Underwood, and
his photo is being taken by brother Elmer. I’d also bet, though you didn’t ask, that the
camera is a stereograph camera! But what I wouldn’t bet a nickel on, is that I’d go up
there and do the same, even for a hundred-million dollars!
Wouldn’t it be lovely to find an diary/day book of Elmer’s or Bert’s, telling all about
staging this photo? (OR telling how the two of them created a double-exposure hoax
N. B. Wouldn't it be horrible to find an obit of Elmer's or Bert's telling all about how
he fell to his death trying to take a stereogram from the 18th floor of a skyscraper? :-(
Oh, my gosh, YES! But happily it did NOT happen:
From Wikipedia: Underwood & Underwood was an early producer and distributor of
Stereoscopic and other photographic images, and later was a pioneer in the field of
news-bureau photography. The company was founded in 1882 in Ottawa, Kansas by
two brothers, Elmer Underwood (born Fulton County, Illinois 1859 - died St.
Petersburg, Florida 1947) and Bert Underwood (1862 - 1943).
It’s truly amazing what the internet has put at our fingertips!!! Cari Thomas
Right, from that angle [The Flatiron Building] almost looks like a square building and it
was the only building of that height around that block at that time period. Thanks for
another good one. Zach Chambers
I thought it would be easy, as I recognized the photo. I found that Underwood and
Underwood was the photographer. I've collected stereocards for many years and am
familiar with the Underwood and Underwood cards. I just couldn't come up with the
street or building. Evan Hindman
I am afraid of heights! It is a bit difficult to look at the photo for any length of time and
imagine the man sitting on the scaffolding high above the city (& then getting back
down too!). Grace Hertz
My answer about the building where the Underwood's stereographic photo was taken
was wrong. The 120 Fifth Avenue building located at 5th Ave. & West 17th St. had
eleven floors. This doesn't fit the George Eastman House description of this photo as
taken from "eighteen stories above pavement of Fifth Avenue". However, I've had loads
of fun reading about the history of stereographic photos. As an octogenarian I can
vaguely remember seeing these as a kid. Stan Read
Okay - this is tricky. The photo is credited to "Underwood & Underwood," but I'm just
not satisfied with that. Colleen has taught us all too well that a simple answer like that
one just isn't the complete answer. the Underwood & Underwood stereographic
company was founded in 1880 in Ottowa, Kansas by Elmer and Bert Underwood.
They moved to NYC in 1891. In 1891, Bert learned how to operate a camera, entering
U&U into a new market. Deb Pritchard
I have been atop manmade structures such as bank towers, the Space Needle in Seattle
and a slanted rooftop or two. Still, in many a town today or city today, the church
steeple is seen as the highest structure in town. That view becomes somewhat
obscured by the erection of tall commercial buildings. Mike Dalton
I have no familiarity with New York, having never been there, so I haven’t a clue what
any of the streets shown in the picture are and only guessed at the building based on a
rough sense of the shape and one website that showed the West Street Building which
had a very similar shape, especially at the top. I had difficulty defining a search that
would show skyscrapers of that era to make a better guess, and I’ll admit my tolerance
was lacking due to watching the Cowboys’ pitiful second half performance against the
New York Giants. Brian Kemp
Nosre Plaeraton of the Underwood & Underwood Studio [took the picture].
N. B. Nosre Plaeraton? WOW! Who is Nosre Plaeraton?
I knew you would reply quickly to my remark! I was in a mischievous mood
when I wrote that -- there is no Nosre Plearaton: the name is "not a real person"
spelled backwards. Mike Swierczewski
was a great fan of steroscopic photography. He had a stereo camera and viewer. I used
to love looking through that thing when I was a kid. Mary South
|Congratulations to Our Winners!
Mr. Rick's Quiz Angels Do It Again!
Jina Yi and Ashley Hicks
Cari Thomas Zach Chambers
Grace Hertz Stan Read
Corey Condit Elaine C. Hebert
Debbie Sterbinsky Sheri Fenley
Marty Guidry Jerry Vergeront
Bill Utterback Andy Hoh
Karen Kay Bunting Margaret Waterman
Dan Schlesinger Deb Pritchard
Anna Farris Mike Dalton
Jim Kiser Brian Kemp
Kelly Fetherlin Tom Tullis
Teresa Yu Mary South
Lexie Condit Fred Stuart
Mike Swiercweski Gina Hudson
Judy Pfaff Sandy Thompson
Joe Ruffner Tom Tollefsen
Beth Long Mary Osmar
Betty Chambers Tim Merritte Alison Lillie
the building with the mansard roof (which shows up in Google Earth). You can see a
few windows on the next building south of that. So we figured he was sitting on the
building across from the next building south, more towards the south end of this
building. It is on the northwest corner of 5th and 18th St.
|If you enjoy our quizzes, don't forget to order our books!
|If you have a picture you'd like us to feature a picture in a future quiz, please
email it to us at CFitzp@aol.com. If we use it, you will receive a free analysis of
your picture. You will also receive a free Forensic Genealogy CD or a 10%
discount towards the purchase of the Forensic Genealogy book.
1. Underwood & Underwood
2. Fifth Ave, New York
Bonus: The Fuller Building, more commonly known as the Flatiron Building.
Extra Credit: The photograph was taken at 5:42 p.m.
|Answer to Quiz #143 - January 13, 2008
“Above Fifth Avenue, Looking North,” a 1905 print by Underwood & Underwood,
depicts a man with a camera sitting precariously at the intersection of two steel beams
above Fifth Avenue. Carriages stream uptown on the street below him. The tallest
building, superimposed against a bright sky in the distance, does not exceed twenty
stories. The central figure, the cameraman, looks west, but the actual photographer
looks north. But in some sense the fictional and real artists actually gaze towards the
future of New York City.
|Comparison of architecture
The Fuller Building, better
known as the Flatiron Building,
was one of the tallest buildings
in New York City upon its
completion in 1902. The
building, at 175 Fifth Avenue in
the borough of Manhattan, sits
on a triangular island block at
23rd Street, Fifth Avenue, and
Broadway, facing Madison
The building, which took its
name from the triangular lot it
There are a lot of clues to the answers to this
puzzle. Here is the way we solved it.
Searching Google I found a high res version on
AllPosters.com. (There is also a high res version
on www.wikimedia.com, shown to the right.) I
could read the writing on the building down the
street to the left of the picture. It says Orinoka
Mills. Under that it says J. W. Dimick and Co.,
I went on Ancestry.com and found an old NYC
directory that gave the address for the J W Dimick
Co as 140 5th Avenue. This is on the northwest
corner of 5th and 19th St. I compared the layout
of the area to that of Google Earth. The man in the
picture is sitting not quite across the street from
|(or Fuller) building. Excellent quiz! I've been
following the quizzes for a while now and it usually
takes me about 30 minutes to complete one, but
since this one stumped me for so long, I thought I'd
have to write in on it. Joel Amos Gordon
Underwood & Underwood was likely the largest and most
innovative stereograph producer. The company was
founded in Ottawa, KS by two brothers, Elmer and Bert
Underwood. The youths started with door to door sales of
stereoscopic photographs. Persistancy and improvements
in business methods brought the Underwoods an increasing
measure of success, and they soon became the exclusive
agency for three prominent stereographic publishers. As
the organization grew, branch offices were established in
other cities in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain. The
company relocated its headquarters to New York City in
After the move to New York, Underwood and Underwood
began making its own stereoscopic photographs and in
1896 commenced selling news photos to newspapers and
magazines. The first group of photographs showed the
Graeco-Turkish war and were taken by Bert Underwood
while at the front with the Greeks. By 1901, production of
stereoscopic photographs at Underwood and Underwood
reached 25,000 a day while annual sales of stereoscopes
attained a level of 300,000.
An army of freelance news photographers was fielded and
|1. Who was the photographer?
2. What avenue is shown in the picture?
Bonus: What is the name of the skyscraper in the distance?
Hints are always available. Just ask.
|Thanks to Carol Goodwin Goroff for submitting this photo.
drawer cabinet was also sold. Each drawer held 100 views and contained multiples of
200 views up to the 1200 view cabinet which contained a bottom drawer for viewer
A standard model stereoscope viewer had an aluminum hood. For the "Deluxe" viewer,
the aluminum hood was covered in black Morocco Leather and was made with fine
mahogany woods. The Delux viewer sold for $3 in the Underwood 1912 catalog.
|Left: Map of neighborhood
Right: Google Earth image indicating points of interest
|Comments from Our Readers
hooded model stereoscope
with Underwood "Sun
|Our quiz photo is the left side of this stereogram by Underwood & Underwood.
|New York Times Article on
MOMA's Life of the City Exhibit
Prayerfully and Powerfully,
New York City Before and After
March 6, 2002
|Hey Colleen, This was a good one! It took me
quite a while to figure it out. I searched the
Skyscraper Museum and the Museum of Modern
Art websites with no luck. I finally did a search
(grasping for straws) on Life of the City and Here Is
New York (who helped with the MOMA exhibit) to
finally find an article that talked about a photo taken
in 1905 by Underwood & Underwood, which I did a
search on and found it was this photo. The street
shown is Fifth Avenue and the photo is called
(appropriately enough) "Above Fifth Avenue."
The question as to the name of the skyscraper took
me even longer. I was doing searches on the
Orinoka Mills (name appears in lower left of photo)
|How Joel Solved the Puzzle
|as well as the J.W.
Dimick Company. I tried
to make out the name of
the store (it looks like a
cafe) on the lower right
side of the photo (just
below the man) but
couldn't do it. It looks
like Fantana, but I
couldn't find anything
under that. Finally I
realized that the building
sat on at the intersection
of two roads forming a
triangle and I immediately
knew it was the Flatiron
We looked at Google and saw that the roof
of this building seems to have a flat area on
the part closest to the corner. The part
away from the corner is different - it has
kind of a slot in it - looks like the shape of
a swimming pool. So we figure he was
sitting on the edge of the flat part while the
other part as being completed. Just a
At first, I thought the skyscraper in the
back was only about two blocks away.
That made the Flatiron further down the
block hidden behind some of the
buildings. But then Andy convinced me
that the skyscraper was actually five
blocks away, and pointed out to me that
there was a main street coming in at an
angle to the skyscraper. Looking at a map,
this has to be Broadway St.
J W Dimick Company
(Bottom) 1915 NYC
directory listing the
Dimick Co at 140 5th
|Left: Closeup of buildings across the street
Right: Google Earth closeup indentifying buildings
Finally we compared the architecture of the building in the quiz photo to that of the
Flatiron Building. They are the same. The skyscraper is the Flatiron Building at 175 5th
Ave., New York, New York, at the corner of 5th Ave and Broadway.
newspaper and magazine publishers seeking to break away from traditional line
drawings and wood cut illustrations clamored for Underwood and Underwood prolific
output. Around 1904 they set up a sales agency that would virtually dominate the news
photo field for the next 30 years. The company as sold to Keystone in 1921.
Underwood and Underwood produced most of their views
in boxed sets and had them on nearly every country and
subject in the world. Millions of views were sold for
education in schools.
Typical boxed sets by Underwood are seen in the picture.
The left set contains 100 views and has the companion
travel guide with maps and plans booklet. Sets were
produced found in custom oak boxes in various sizes
containing one or two viewers and up to 200 views. A file
|A typical stereoscopic camera
like the one the man in the
quiz photo is using
was built on (the Flatiron block, so called because it
was shaped like a clothes iron), was officially named
the Fuller Building after George A. Fuller, founder of
the company that financed its construction two
years after his death. Locals took an immediate
interest in the building, placing bets on how far the
debris would spread when the wind knocked it
down. The building is also said to have helped coin
the phrase "23 skidoo" or scram, from what cops
would shout at men who tried to get glimpses of
women's dresses being blown up by the winds
created by the triangular building.
At the rounded tip, the triangular tower is only 6.5
feet (2 meters) wide. The 22-story Flatiron Building,
with a height of 285 ft (87 meters), is often
considered the oldest surviving skyscraper in
Manhattan, though in fact the Park Row Building
(1899) is both older and taller.
Today the Flatiron is a popular spot for tourist
photographs, a National Historic Landmark since
1989, and a functioning office building, currently
home to several book publishers, most of them
under the umbrella of Holtzbrinck Publishers. It was
also used as the Daily Bugle building in the
Spider-Man films. It is shown in the opening credits
of The Late Show With David Letterman as an
easily recognizable symbol of the city. The
surrounding area of Manhattan is named the Flatiron
District for its signature building.
Read more about the Flatiron Building. Click here.
|Bert Underwood Severely Burned
|How to Determine the Time of Day
Fifth Avenue makes an angle of 28.9
degrees with respect to due North
The shadows make an angle of 65.6
degrees with respect to Fifth Ave.
Measuring the lengths of the
sides of a right triangle made by
the arrows in the diagram
directly above, you can use the
law of cosines to figure out the
angle the shadows make with due
North. The angle = 85.8 degs
At noon, the sun is pointing due north (zero degrees in the diagram) at all latitudes. The
earth turns at a rate of 15 degrees per hour, so that 85.8 degrees away from zero is
equivalent to 5.7 hours, or 5 hours and 42 minutes past noon. The picture was taken at