Wonder City of the World: New York City Travel Posters

March 14–September 8, 2024
Painting of numerous New York icons against a white background.

The phrase “Wonder City” in regards to New York was the brainchild of marketers. It had appeared in newspaper and magazine advertisements and articles sporadically through the final decades of the 19th century. And although it didn’t specifically originate in New York City—a number of cities around the country and in Europe also used it in their promotions at that time—by 1914 the phrase appeared on a New York Souvenir booklet.

The city’s explosive growth beginning at the end of the 19th century ultimately led to the creation of more travel posters than were designed for any other world city: a host of images as varied as her ever-shifting identity, seen from the water, from the ground, and, eventually, from the air. This exhibition will track how New York City was represented to decades of new travelers, immigrants, and tourists.

It is a visual, graphic experience in how artists were able to capture the multitude and the magnitude of the thriving metropolis, selling the hustle and the bustle, the bright lights and the imposing structures, as well as managing to capture some moments of intimacy and slice-of-life imagery within the canyons and among the ziggurats.

Nicholas D. Lowry is a New York City born internationally recognized authority on vintage posters. He is President of Swann Auction Galleries where he oversees the vintage poster department,  and is also known for his appearances on the PBS television series Antiques Roadshow for which he has been appraising vintage posters for almost 30 years. He is currently working on Bohemian Identity, a documentary on the history of Czech graphic design.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA).


— NYC-ARTS, MARCH 29, 2024

Selected Images

Poster of a bird's eye view of the lower Manhattan skyline overlooking the bay.
New York/The Upper Bay from Lower Manhattan, 1935
Leslie Ragan
Poster of the upper half of the statue of liberty with the New York skyline behind her.
New York/Swissair, 1951
Henri Ott
Poster from the continent of France looking up at a city skyline in the sky.
Air France/Amérique du Nord, 1946
Guy Arnoux
Painting of Times Square with a giant torso in front of it.
New York/Fly TWA Jets, c. 1960
David Klein
Poster of a geometric city skyline with a boat crossing the water.
American Airlines/New York, 1956
Weimer Pursell
Poster of a giant ship being accompanied by tugboats through a harbor, seen from above.
French Line/Southampton to New York, 1935
Designer Unknown
Poster of a geometric view of Times Square made of colorful rectangles.
New York/TWA, 1956
David Klein
Poster of Times Square in the rain with all of the theater posters and lights lit up at night.
New York/American Airlines, c. 1965
Frederick E. Conway