Fascinating Brooklyn stories from our local history archivists.

"Hailing Brooklyn--Edwin B. Wilson, executive editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, takes part in the 'Hi, Jinx!' program broadcast from the Eagle office over NBC network as a tribute to Brooklyn." Image includes Jink Falkenberg and an unidentified man sitting in the right foreground. Back in the days of analog (film) photography, there was a lag, serendipitous or frustrating depending on how you looked at it, between taking a photo and seeing the result. Once the prints were in hand, shuffling through them brought the realization of joyful accidents and unforeseen failures, like seeing...

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The Other Side of the Park

by Larry Racioppo
May 5, 2017

Photographer Larry Racioppo, whose work is on display in our current exhibition on Prospect Park for the park's 150th anniversary, shares some memories and photos of the park in this guest post. Racioppo is also working on our Third Avenue blog series with blogger One More Folded Sunset. Prospect Park was a part of my life long before I became a photographer. Glued to the black construction paper pages of Racioppo and Tenga family albums are photos of my parents and their friends posing ‘dressed up’ in the park or just outside it, along its stone walls. My mother and her friends,...

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Third Avenue Series: At the VFW

by One More Folded Sunset
Apr 4, 2017

Blogger One More Folded Sunset and photographer Larry Racioppo are working on a series of pieces on Brooklyn's Third Avenue.  This is the second.  Click here for the first, and stay tuned for more. Larry Racioppo, 2017   VFW Post #7096 has been at 804 Third Avenue since 1956.  When it opened, there were around ninety active posts in Brooklyn.  Today the VFW website lists fifteen. Post #7096 sits in the shadow of the Expressway, right around the site of the Gowanus village the Dutch settled almost four hundred years ago.  Before it was a VFW Post...

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In January 2017, a new piece of art was installed at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Tillary Street, at the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. Two snow-white resin sculptures representing “Miss Brooklyn” and “Miss Manhattan” were hoisted above the busy street traffic on two slowly rotating “Lazy Susans” supported by a stem-like post. Now, as they steadily revolve in opposite directions, they enjoy a 360 degree view of the area from whence they were banished nearly 60 years ago. The original “Miss Manhattan” and “Miss Brooklyn” were not rotating. Once upon a time, they were...

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Unsung: The Story of “Pinky”

by Natiba
Mar 28, 2017

The subject of this blog post was presented at the Medgar Evers College Conference Women and the Abolitionist Movement that took place on Sunday, March 26th 2017 in celebration of Women’s History Month. Women formed a central part of the abolitionist movement in the years that led up to the civil war and during war time. They participated in many varied ways, from writing and giving speeches to becoming conductors of the Underground Railroad and assisting union soldiers by organizing Sanitary Fairs around the country. There were others who participated in a more unconventional role...

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Blogger One More Folded Sunset and photographer Larry Racioppo are working on a series of pieces on Brooklyn's Third Avenue.  This is an excerpt from the first.  In future posts, they'll be interviewing businesses owners, uncovering art, and continuing to find inspiration in the avenue's changing landscape. I'm drawn to city borders.  Not 'edge of town' divisions, but the ones inside the city limits, where infrastructure, for better or worse, creates some kind of boundary: a rail track, a highway, an elevated train line.  They're city landmarks, hardly ever...

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Ina Clausen & Protest in Brooklyn

by Deenah
Feb 27, 2017

Ina Clausen (center), 1957, Prospect Park, Brooklyn. With the inauguration of Donald Trump in January, it seems that we have entered a renewed moment in the public sphere, with each week defined by protests, community meetings, and urgent calls to contact your elected officials. This moment, however, is not so very brand new -- there is of course a long and varied history of protest movements and resistance both in the United States and abroad. Given the current political climate, I thought it would be appropriate to mine the Brooklyn Collection for some local precedent. I...

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“We’ve already lost too many trees, houses and people…your community – you owe something to it. I didn’t care to run.” – Hattie Carthan Welcome to Black History Month at the Brooklyn Collection. As most of you know, many great artists, leaders, educators, activists and politicians contributed to Brooklyn’s rich and indispensable Black history. Today we thought we would highlight one of those activists, Ms. Hattie Carthan, a community leader and environmentalist who forever changed Bedford-Stuyvesant. Hattie Carthan moved to Brooklyn from Virginia, and was once described as “the...

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You Gotta Believe

by June
Jan 31, 2017

Swimming is one of the best ways of keeping physically fit, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.  There are those that swim recreationally, and then there are those brave souls who test the limits of their capabilities by endeavoring to swim the English Channel.  One such person was Mrs. Betty Cohn of 120 Ocean Parkway, who became the first grandmother to swim the channel when she swam from France to England in 1951. News of her swimming prowess was carried in newspapers around the world. like the Singapore Free Press, and Melbourne Australia's Argus newspaper where she...

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Recently, I had a to check a number of microfilm reels of the Brooklyn Daily Times. As I scrolled through the reels, a recurring comic feature caught my eye. Modish Mitzi features stunning fashion illustrations and the trials and tribulations of the titular Mitzi, a wealthy fashionista who always has to have the latest styles. With the help of her equally stylish friends Polly and Adelaide, and of course, the funds from her very accommodating father, Mitzi somehow manages to both navigate her socialite lifestyle and always be wearing the most up-to-the-minute 20s and 30s fashions while...

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Gertrude Hoffmann's First Act

by Sunny Stalter-Pace
Oct 19, 2016

This week, guest blogger Sunny Stalter-Pace marks the 50th anniversary of dancer and choreographer Gertrude Hoffmann's death with a post sharing some information about Hoffmann's early life and career. Stalter-Pace is writing a biography of Hoffmann and has used the Gertrude Hoffmann Collection here at the Brooklyn Collection as part of her research. Gertrude Hoffmann (1885-1966) enjoyed a long career as a performer, choreographer, and producer. Brooklynology introduced the versatile vaudevillian in a blog post that’s now more than 5 years old; it followed that post with another on...

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A couple of months ago, a colleague at the Brooklyn Museum Library tweeted that she had found a film reel in their collection with nitrate film. Since nitrate film is highly flammable and needs to be stored in special conditions in order to prevent it from catching fire, the library needed to identify the film quickly in order to decide whether or not to keep such a dangerous item. All they knew was the film's title, "Brooklyn Progress," the date range, 1933-1937, and that the content included a kind of tour through prominent Brooklyn sites. Photo courtesy J.E. Molly Seegers I...

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I was working with our clippings collection the other day and came across the subject heading "Red-Headed Legion." Intrigued, I decided to explore this organization further. The trail led me all the way to the 1924 Republican National Convention which, like this year's, was held in Cleveland, Ohio. But let me start with the legion itself. "Red-Headed Legion Holds Rally of Nine" announced a headline in the June 9, 1924 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The nine who attended the rally comprised "four red-headed women, four red-headed men and one man with black hair and a red...

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That's A Wrap

by June
Jun 29, 2016

The school year has finally come to a close but, before students and teachers rejoice at the long summer days that lie ahead, they take the time to pause and partake in that time-honored celebration of achievement: the graduation ceremony. How have Brooklynites celebrated this singular milestone throughout the years?  We have numerous graduation programs in our collection, and by studying their content, as well as the physical program themselves, we see how the ceremonies were a reflection of their era, and how they changed with the times. The early commencement programs were...

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Children of the Dump

by Brendan
Jun 10, 2016

A few months back, the Brooklyn Collection provided some images and expertise to ABC News for a story about Brooklyn’s Dead Horse Bay. The story was most excellent – if you missed it you can check it out here. I used the video as a source for a note taking lesson and, during the lesson, my students kept peppering me with questions: What was life like for the people who lived and worked on the island? What was school like? How did the island's inhabitants navigate all that garbage?  I could only answer their questions in adjectives: smelly, exhausting, backbreaking, dangerous,...

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Goats Do Roam in Brooklyn

by alla
May 20, 2016

This spring, one of the most hotly anticipated arrivals to Brooklyn is a herd of eight goats. The animals are here on the loan from a Rhinebeck farm for the summer months during which they will help control invasive weeds in the Prospect Park. They will be deployed in the Vale of Cashmere (between Flatbush Ave and the East Drive) to graze on poison ivy and goutweed which have been taking over the area after Hurricane Sandy damaged it. The goats are already hugely popular; the park's free “Fun on the Farm” event this weekend – with a "bleet and greet" tour every 30 minutes – is booked to...

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Brooklyn's Paper Trail

by Diana
May 4, 2016

We are pleased to announce that we have completed a finding aid for our collection of Brooklyn letterhead stationery. The Brooklyn Letterhead Collection spans 200 years of business in our borough, from 1802 to 2002, with the bulk of the collection representing the 1850s to the 1960s. Several thousand different businesses, institutions, and organizations are represented in the collection, including carpenters, plumbers, painters, city agencies, religious institutions, and more. The finding aid includes a complete listing of the names, addresses, and dates from the letterhead collection,...

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The Story of the Little Brown Jug

by Joan Harrison
Apr 29, 2016

This week a guest blogger shares her story of how researching in our digital newspaper database, Brooklyn Newsstand, led her to a surprising discovery about her family history, and a new heirloom to boot! We librarians are always so happy to hear these kinds of stories, as we often don't get to learn where research in our collections leads after patrons exit our doors. Our guest blogger Joan Harrison is an artist and author. She is a Professor Emerita of Long Island University, where she taught for many years. One evening in early March as my husband was watching the PBS show "Finding Your...

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With the upcoming primary elections on April 19th, Brooklyn, all of New York City, and indeed all of New York State finds itself basking in the reflected glare of the white-hot spotlight that follows this season's presidential candidates. Trump, Cruz, Kasich, Clinton and Sanders are trotting all over the map this month, drumming up support for their causes and tasting some local delicacies along the way. Tomorrow Brooklyn's Navy Yard will host a debate between Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, drawing even more focus onto our patch of Long Island. As is widely...

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Our newest blogpost is written by a guest blogger Linda Granfield. It is published with her permission and that of the Guelph Historical Society (Guelph, Ontario, Canada). The article first appeared in Historic Guelph, vol. LIII. 2014-2015. Linda Granfield, a native of Melrose, Massachusetts, is the award-winning author of 30 history books for adults and young readers; John McCrae is the subject of two of those titles. She holds degrees from Northeastern University and the University of Toronto; Linda lives in Toronto, Canada. She invites anyone with further...

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