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Edith Fullerton, LIRR Pres. Ralph Peters, President Roosevelt, and Hal Fullerton during Roosevelt’s 1910 visit to the experimental farms. (Credit: SCHS Collection)

Photographer Hal B. Fullerton is synonymous with Long Island the way Alfred Stieglitz is to New York City and Ansel Adams to the American west. The late 19th century photographer’s work is considered to have significantly contributed to the development of the nearly 120 miles of land just east of Manhattan.

Now a new exhibit featuring 70 Long Island photographs by Fullerton is on display at the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead.

Hired by the Long Island Railroad in 1897 to promote railroad tourism, Fullerton’s pictures are like a historical record of the step-by-step development of the island.

From LIRR employees at Jamaica Station in Queens to oyster shuckers in Blue Point to Riverhead farms and soldiers at Montauk’s Camp Wyckoff, much of Long Island is represented here.

The exhibit, curated by photographers Neil Scholl and Peter Dicke, is titled “The Lure of the Land,” which is also the name of a book written by Fullerton’s wife Edith published in 1909.

“He and a few other people invented modern day advertising,” said Scholl. “These were big promotions at the time to get people out to the railroad to take the trains.”

While Fullerton was photographing Long Island to entice tourists out to Greenport, Orient and Montauk, he and Edith were also establishing experimental farms, financed by the railroad. These farms, one in Medford and another in Wading River, were created to promote modern agricultural methods and the railroad as the way to move produce into New York City.

So while Hal Fullerton’s pictures show Long Island as a beautiful expanse of empty land ready to be developed, Edith Fullerton’s book is about Long Island soil and the farming methods they helped develop that turned farming into an industry on the East End.

Edith Fullerton is as well known for her gumption as she is for her writing. At a time when women still could not vote, a photograph taken by Fullerton in 1910 shows her driving none other than President Theodore Roosevelt when he came to inspect their farms.

“She was a real go-getter,” said Historical Society librarian Wendy Polhemus-Annibell. “I mean she was out there with the dynamite in the field blowing up tree stumps.”

Today Fullerton’s vision, photographs and writings showcase his legacy as one of the people who helped make Long Island, especially the East End, what it is today.

“Fullerton’s Long Island: The Lure of the Land” will run until December 23, 2016.

For more information call (631) 727-2881 or visit  The Suffolk County Historical Society is located at 300 W. Main Street in Riverhead.

"Fullerton's Long Island: The Lure of the Land" is now on display (Credit: SCHS)
“Fullerton’s Long Island: The Lure of the Land” is now on display (Credit: SCHS)