The images selected for this project focus on architecture, city life, people, transportation and other aspects of urban development, such as neighborhoods, commercial streets, and business districts. The pictures were taken by two photographers, Harrison Forman and Harold Mayer between 1942 and 1994. The digital collection provides access to photographs of over 450 cities worldwide. In addition to present-day metropolitan areas, this collection also features ancient cities and deserted settlements, including Carthage, Great Zimbabwe, Machupicchu, and Persepolis.

The images for this project were drawn from two slide collections, the Harrison Forman Collection and the Harold Mayer Collection, housed at the American Geographic Society Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. The goal of this project is to provide a comprehensive coverage of cities worldwide as reflected in the photographic collections of the American Geographical Society Library.

Harrison Forman

Harrison Forman (1904 – 1978) was a native of Wisconsin. He studied at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Oriental Philosophy. An adventurous journalist, photographer, and explorer, he has been called “a modern Marco Polo” during his lifetime. In his career as a photographer, Forman created a unique visual record of the life and cultures of Asia, Indochina, the Middle East, South Pacific, Africa and South. He focused his camera on distant places and people, on streets of little known towns, historic sites, buildings, art, landscapes, scenes of sheer natural beauty, and portraits of women, men, and children. His primary interest was in people and in capturing their daily activities.

The Harrison Forman photographic collection covers the period from the mid-1920s to the mid-1970s. This collection includes approximately 30,000 black and white negatives, 2,000 Ektachrome and 49,000 Kodachrome slides. The collection was donated to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s American Geographical Society Library by Mr. Forman’s widow in May 1987.

Harold Mayer

Harold Mayer (1916 – 1994) was a professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and one of the leading scholars in the field of urban geography in the twentieth century. He specialized in Urban and Transport Geography of North America with a focus on New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, and British Columbia. During his academic career, Mayer created an extensive photographic collection that he used as an instructional tool in teaching geography students. In his photography, he documented the changes in urban landscape of North and Central America. He often returned to the same city to take a picture of the same sight over the course of several years. His slide collection was donated to the American Geographical Society Library by his wife, Florence Mayer.

Of the approximately 50,000 slides in the Harold Mayer Collection, over 2,828 color slides were selected for this project. His collection focuses on urban development of American cities over the period of 1942 – 1994.