Charles Rivers Photographs, 1929-1963 (mostly 1929-1930)
Rivers, Charles 1904-1993
Empire State Building New York, N.Y Construction
Chrysler Building (New York, N.Y.)
Prints: Silver gelatin on paper, on Fome-Core mounts, 5.5" x 9.25" to 10.75" x 13.75"
Prints: Silver gelatin on paper, mounted in scrapbook
Prints: Silver gelatin on paper, mounted on Masonite
Negatives : Silver gelatin on film
0.5 cu. ft.: 3 boxes
Photoprints: 85 items
Photonegatives: 76 items
New York (State)
New York (N.Y.)
Rivers was born Constantinos Kapornaros (or Kostandinos Kapernaros) in Vahos, Mani, Greece, and immigrated to the U.S. as a child of five or six with his parents. Having lived in Massachusetts, his change of name apparently was inspired by the Charles River in Boston. He photographed the construction of the Chrysler (1929) and Empire State (1930) buildings. An iron worker, Rivers traded tools for a Zeiss Ikon folding camera on lunch hour or when photo opportunities arose. Unemployed in the Depression, he was involved in efforts to create Social Security, unemployment insurance, and housing programs.
In the 1950s Rivers worked in steel fabrication, in a chemistry lab as a technician, and as legislative aide for a New York state senator.
29 silver gelatin photoprints mounted on Fome-core, Masonite, and cardboard, three unmounted silver gelatin photoprints, an album containing 56 silver gelatin photoprints; and approx. 76 silver gelatin photonegatives. Most of the photographs depict the construction of Chrysler and Empire State Buildings: iron workers on the job and on breaks, and buildings at various stages of completion. Also: a demonstration to prevent World War II (1935), a color photoprint of the Civil Rights March and Demonstration in Washington, D.C. (1963), and two magazine clippings from a Soviet publication in which Rivers's "Self Portrait" (1930) was reproduced.
Miscellaneous other negatives document the Pathe News fire in Harlem, shipyard workers, longshoremen, and a portrait of Ruby Bates and Alice White of the Scottsboro boys case.
Charles Rivers Photographs, 1929-1963, Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Gift of the artist