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Check out these amazing photos of midcentury New York

Photographer Frank Larson captured the city back when men wore hats, everyone smoked and coffee cost a nickel a cup

Written by
Howard Halle
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Mad Men ended its run last spring, but the fascination for all things midcentury continues apace, especially when you’re talking about midcentury New York. The period produced its fair share of New York photographs and street photographers documenting the city a half-century ago, among them a talented amateur shutterbug named Frank Larson (1896–1964). It’s only been in the past several years that Larson’s work has been discovered. The Queens Museum mounted a survey of his work in 2012, but before then, little had been heard of him.

That’s probably because Larson led a fairly quotidian life. He lived in Flushing, Queens and worked at the same bank for 40 years, confining his picture-taking to the weekends. His hobby evolved to a more committed practice after his sons grew up and left the house, though photography remained an avocation for Larson instead of a profession, even after he retired and moved out to Connecticut in 1960. Still, he had deft eye for capturing people meshing with the rhythms of ’50s and ’60s New York in a way that seems timeless while also serving as a perfect time-capsule evocation of a certain moment and place. That moment and place could be described as New York at its most confident, most modern and most egalitarian—the crest of a wave that was soon to crash into postmodern doubts and disparities.

Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Four boys are perched on a window sill to get a good view of New York's Saint Patrick's Day Parade sometime in the early to mid 1950's.
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

People gather on the corner of Mott Street in Chinatown in January of 1953.
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Pigeons gather in Times Square on a rainy day in 1954 in front of the marquee for "A Star is Born" starring Judy Garland.
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Across from St Patricks Cathedral
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

AP Window Rockefeller Center
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Beer Truck at NBC Theatre
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

The reflection of the Chrysler Building is seen in a puddle on a sidewalk along 42nd Street in New York in April of 1954.
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Two men have a conversation in a coffee show near Times Square in April of 1954.
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Crowds Reflected in "Today Show" window
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Escalator to Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Kids feed a young elephant over a fence at the Bronx Zoo on October 4, 1953.
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Frank's Bowling Team
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

A man loads kegs of beer into a bar basement in 1953.
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

A man playing a guitar promotes the film "Johnny Guitar" on the sidewalks of Times Square in the Spring of 1954.
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Four kids play in front of a building in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York in May of 1959.
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

A woman suns herself outside the entrance to the main Public Library building in 1955.
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Two parade official watch New York's Saint Patrick's Day Parade pass by on Fifth Avenue as one of them sneaks a cigarette break.
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Posing for the Camera, Pier 86, 46th Street
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Professional Skaters execute turn in mid-air, Rockefeller Center
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

School girls
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

A couple take to the ice on the Rockefeller Center rink on November 8, 1954.
Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

Shoe Shine at Horn & Hardart Automat
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Photograph: Frank Larson/ Courtesy Queens Museum of Arts

The set of NBC's "Today Show" is seen though a reflection of people outside peering into the window in April of 1954.
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