Eugene De Selignac (1861–1943) was born in Boston into an eccentric family of exiled French nobility, de Salignac had no formal training in photography. In 1903, at the age of 42, his brother-in-law found him a job as an assistant to the photographer for the Department of Bridges in New York City, Joseph Palmer. After three years of apprenticeship, Palmer suddenly died, and in October 1906, de Salignac assumed his duties.
As the sole photographer for the department from 1906 to 1934 (in 1916 it changed its name to the Department of Plant & Structures), he documented the creation of the city’s modern infrastructure— including bridges, major municipal buildings, roads and subways. In addition to construciton sites, buildings and bridges he also photographed vehicle accidents.
Above: Manhattan Bridge Damaged Car 1936
Williamsburg Bridge, showing accident, interior of trolley car 1926
Vernon Avenue Bridge broken fence and coal truck “accident” 1935
Manhattan Bridge view showing auto damaged by accident 1924
Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, three mast schooner Bertha Walker, damaged bowsprit 1910
Brooklyn Bridge showing railing north side of footwalk looking west Manhattan 1917
Traffic Light 34th Street and Lexington Avenue traffic post signal damaged 1928
Stage Line “accident” 11:30am Park Circle stage line close view accident 1919
Williamsburg Bridge view showing auto truck south roadway between Bedford and Driggs Avenue Brooklyn 1923