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The Gottlieb family. Mother holding baby girl in an urban park on the Lower East Side. BJHP_0173, 1947; Brooklyn Jewish History Project, Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History This is a photo of Regina (Rivka, nee Kanner) Gottlieb and her daughter Madeline in a park on the Lower East Side in 1947. The joy on both of their faces is palpable, despite the difficult years that preceded this photo. Regina and her husband Alexander were both from Poland, Alexander from Borislaw and Regina from Lodz Ghetto. They had both survived concentration camps (...


Representing Brooklyn From his roots as a librarian here at Brooklyn Public Library, to his ascent to the New York State Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, Major Owens' legacy is defined by his work as a tireless antipoverty reformer and as an advocate for education, civil rights, Americans with disabilities, workers' rights, and immigrants. As Brooklyn Public Library cautiously opens the doors to Central Library and a handful of other branches a little further this month, we are also unveiling renovations and improvements that have taken place during...

Congressman Major Owens standing in office next to an American flag with a view of the U.S. Capitol building behind him.

[Four people and a field of sheep], circa 1890, arc.202_box17_112; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC.202; Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library. Spring in Brooklyn is often fleeting, lasting a month or two at most. With it brings relief from winter’s harsh weather, blooming flowers, and tepid evening breezes. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, spring also marked the return of sheep to Prospect Park. Every April, a large flock of Southdown, a breed known for its adaptability and good lambing abilities, returned to the...


Loew's Pitkin Theater, 1958. NEIG_0227, Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographs, Center for Brooklyn History Today’s Photo of the Week features a busy corner in Brownsville, 1501 Pitkin Avenue, where the stately Loew’s Pitkin Theater took up the entirety of the block between Legion Street and Saratoga Avenue. I was drawn to the building by this snapshot showing the random composition and distinctive pinked edges of mid-century candid photography, with the huge structure looming over a Pitkin Avenue filled with...

Pedestrians on Pitkin Avenue with Loew's Pitkin theater in background

  Old Tower House, NEIG_1696, 1910; Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographs; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History.   Today’s photo of the week takes us to Park Slope, where a residence locally known as "the old tower house” once stood on the south side of 8th street between 5th and 6th avenues. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle published the above photograph of the old tower house in 1910, two years after the death of the building’s longtime owner, Asa B. Richardson. The Eagle claimed at the time that the home was one of the...

Old Tower House

WILC_0085, 1892, Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library Today's Photo of the Week is a cyanotype created by New York City photographer Julius Wilcox. Wilcox was born in Vermont in 1837, moving to New York at the age of 29 and settling in Brooklyn. He made his living as a writer for the New York Evening Gazette and as part owner of a bicycle business. He seems to have taken up photography as a hobby, photographing mostly in Manhattan, favoring architecture and the city’s working-class and poor. His album of original cyanotypes with handwritten captions was...

WILC_0085, 1892, Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library

BPL_0002, 1951, Brooklyn Daily Eagle Photograph Collection, Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library This week is American Library Association's National Library Week, a time to celebrate library workers and outreach efforts, and promote library use and support. Wednesday, April 7th is National Library Outreach Day or the Day Formerly Known as Bookmobile Day.  The bookmobile pictured above dates back to BPL's outreach efforts in the 1950s, a beauty known as the "Library on Wheels." The borough's first, its maiden voyage was in October 1951. According to...

Library on Wheels, BPL's Bookmobile in the 1950s

[Opening game of the World Series], DODG_0002, 1947; Brooklyn Daily Eagle Photographs, Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History   It's been a strange long year and something like the start of baseball seems even stranger in our current climate. Fields and stadiums are opening slowly with limited entry and required vaccination cards. But back in 1947 all you needed to see a game was a ticket and some excitement. This is a shot of fans from Game 1 of the World Series pitting the New York Yankees against Brooklyn's own beloved Dodgers. 73,365 eager fans packed...


[The Folly], THEA_0027, 1906; Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographs; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History. To celebrate the announcement in the beginning of March that theaters will reopen in April, our photo of the week takes us to the corner of Graham Avenue and Debevoise Street in Williamsburg.   This corner was the location of the Folly Theater which opened on the afternoon of October 14, 1901. The Folly was owned by Richard Hyde who -- according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle -- held a competition to...


[Former Joseph Wild & Co factory, 218 Kosciusko Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant], circa 1935; Bommer family collection, 1992.033, Box A0142; Center for Brooklyn History. This week’s Photo of the Week takes us to Kosciusko Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, on the block that forms the northern boundary of Herbert Von King Park (known in the 19th century as Tompkins Park). [Former Joseph Wild & Co building, 196 Kosciusko Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant], circa 1935; Bommer family collection, 1992.033, Box A0142; Center for Brooklyn History. Joseph Wild was an English-born...


Photo of Neighbors Against Garbage (N.A.G.) litter cleanup, GEHP_0193, c. 1990s; Greenpoint Environmental History Project; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History. In the early 1990s, residents of Greenpoint and Williamsburg were fed up with the city neglecting their neighborhoods. A number of grassroots community organizations sprang up in response to various issues, including development, community board planning processes, and excessive litter. One such organization was Neighbors Against Garbage (N.A.G.), founded in 1994 in a local church basement. N.A.G. is...


Fulton Ferry House, [190-?] TRAN_0364, Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographs, Center for Brooklyn History Our photo of the week features the Fulton Ferry House that once stood where Old Fulton Street met the water’s edge in Brooklyn Heights, one in a series of ferry buildings on that site. One of the handsomest depictions of this building is paired in the Eagle photographs with an earlier Brooklyn ferry house, built sometime before 1746. The early view is adapted from an engraving in Stiles’ … history … of Brooklyn, N. Y. from 1683 to 1884. Stiles is not clear on the exact...

Illustration of 1746 early ferry house, overlooking E. River, with second image of newer 1871 ferry house on bottom.

Did you know that Brooklyn Public Library has a web archive? In 2017, the Brooklyn Collection (now part of the new Center for Brooklyn History) joined the Internet Archive’s Community Webs program, in which public libraries around the country are given the funding and support to start and sustain web archives. We have been archiving Brooklyn web content through this program for over three years now.  Web archiving is how we describe the process by which we save and preserve websites and web content in a stable and static archival format....


[Interior of the Slave Theater], Hiroki Kobayashi, circa 2010; Hiroki Kobayashi photographs on the Slave Theater from the collection of Dexter Wimberly, 2014.023; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History. Black historical sites are rapidly disappearing across Brooklyn despite efforts by local activists and preservationists. The destruction of these tangible sites of memory--largely as a result of redevelopment and gentrification--impacts the way we remember, understand, and tell history. The recent demolition of the Slave Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant reflects this...


Khalil Abdulkhabir, Young Girls and Teachers at the Yasin Mosque, circa 1975, 2020.002.005; Khalil Abdulkhabir photographs of the Dar-ul-Islam movement, 2020.002, Center for Brooklyn History. The Dar-ul-Islam, known as "the Dar," was one of the most significant grassroots movements established by African-American Sunni Muslims in the United States. The founding members of the Dar-ul-Islam came from the Islamic Mission of America, founded in 1939 by Daoud Ahmed Faisal and Sayedah Khadijah Faisal, at 143 State Street (the “State Street Mosque”). In 1962-1963 members of the State...

Image of two adults with six children, gathered on a sidewalk.

Before Shirley Chisholm or David Dinkins made history, Bertram L. Baker paved the way. If you've found yourself on Jefferson Avenue between Tompkins and Throop Avenues, you may have noticed street signs announcing his name. The first Black elected official from Brooklyn, Bertram L. Baker made his debut in the New York State Assembly in November 1948, where he would serve for the next twenty-two years. It was a milestone in Brooklyn history, but do you know his story, or what politics in the borough looked like when he was elected?   PORT_0043, Bertram L. Baker, 1949, ...

B&W portrait of a politician in a suit and tie

A few years ago, I went in search of background information about a periodical in the Center for Brooklyn History collections called Afro-America. It was published in the late 1960s from Fred Richardson’s African American Bookstore in Crown Heights, which sold books by and about Black writers, poets, and political leaders, as well as picture books for children and art by Black artists. Fred opened the store when he was just 22. Fred Richardson in his newly opened store with sculptor Ruth Inge Hardison. New Amsterdam News, Brooklyn Edition, December 12, 1964 The magazine launched...


J. S. Johnston, Life Saving Station, Manhattan Beach, Coney Island, N.Y., c. 1894, v1972.1.557; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History. This week's photo takes us to the lost eastern end of Manhattan Beach.Manhattan Beach, on the eastern end of Coney Island, was the brainchild of robber baron Austin Corbin. In the 1870s, he bought 500 acres here and erected two luxury resort hotels for vacationing New Yorkers (not all New Yorkers, however, as Corbin was a notorious anti-semite who barred Jews from the resort). He also built the New York and Manhattan Beach Railway, which made...


New Year's Day dinner toastLarry Racioppo, New Year's Day dinner toast, 6th Avenue, 1977, RCPO_0005; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History.Family history, memory, and tradition abound in the work of Larry Racioppo, including this evocative and joyful image of a family New Year's Day toast. Photographer Larry Racioppo grew up in a large Italian-American family in Brooklyn, and his family has always been well-represented in his work. We hold a collection documenting his work and career, and many of the photographs from the collection are available on our website. This image of a...


The teenage years are a difficult time, with emotions running high and relationships with the people in your life changing quickly. Poetry is a universal outlet for teens to explore feelings about themselves and their world. While most poems stay tucked away in journals or at the bottom of trash cans, some brave souls are eager to share. Before social media, publication in a school newspaper was one of the most direct ways for a poet to reach their peers. We combed through our Brooklyn High School newspapers for a selection of the very best teen poetry Brooklyn had to offer: Pam...


Office of Z. O. Nelson & SonA corner of our office, Walter H. Nelson, circa 1887, v1972.1.1222; Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn HistoryIn 1917, the best Christmas gift one could receive was a lump of coal. A coal shortage was sweeping the borough and coal reserves were dangerously low. Massive barges, laden with coal mined in the Northeast, idled in waterways along the Brooklyn shoreline. An impenetrable mile-wide ice field prevented their delivery. During the nineteenth to mid-twentieth century, most...


This year has proven to be a year like no other, full of ups and downs, and a longing from most for better and brighter days. Despite the challenges, we at the Center for Brooklyn History are grateful for what we've been able to achieve this year. A historic partnership between two long standing, and significant institutions, and with it, the opportunity to serve our community and our borough, by expanding access to a singular collection in a single space, free and open to all. For this edition of Photo of the Week, we'd like to share our personal picks from our combined collections,...


Ralph Irving Lloyd, Meserole House, 1000 Lorimer St., c. 1905, lantern slide, V1981.15.124; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History. This week’s photograph of Adrian and Mary Meserole’s house on Lorimer Street takes us to the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.  Adrian Meserole’s family had once owned much of present-day Greenpoint. His ancestor Jean Meserole and his wife were Huguenots—Protestants in Catholic-controlled France—who fled with their young son first to Amsterdam and then to New Amsterdam, present-day New York City, in 1663, becoming one of the five founding...


Close-up of portion of United Airlines airplane after crash at Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place, 1960.Irving I. Herzberg photograph collection.On December 16, 1960 a United Airlines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation collided in midair above New York City. The TWA plane crashed on the coast of Staten Island, killing all 44 passengers and crew. The United airliner veered to the East, crashing into the densely populated neighborhood of Park Slope, right at the intersection of 7th Avenue and Sterling Place. The plane left a large trench running down Sterling Place and set fire to ten homes,...


Rustic Vanderveer Park sign at Flatbush Avenue and Avenue F, with a few houses in the background and a one-horse shay, 1894. NEIG_0905, Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographs, Center for Brooklyn History.   The last quarter of the nineteenth century brought rapid changes to many parts of Brooklyn, not least to the town of Flatbush and its environs. Flatbush (from the Dutch vlacke bos, flat forest or wooded plain) was one of the original 6 towns making up the city of Brooklyn, and became part of that city in 1894. Four years later Brooklyn would become part of the consolidation of...


Vanderveer Park entrance sign at Flatbush Avenue and Avenue F, with a few houses in the background and a one-horse shay, 1894. NEIG_0905, Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographs, Center for Brooklyn History The last quarter of the nineteenth century brought rapid changes to many parts of Brooklyn, not least to the town of Flatbush and its environs. Flatbush (from the Dutch vlacke bos, flat forest or wooded plain) was one of the original 6 towns making up the city of Brooklyn, and became part of that city in 1894. Four years later Brooklyn would become part of the consolidation of...

Rustic wooden sign reading Vanderveer Park at intersection. Behind are scattered houses in an empty space.

Providing for others, 1952, SCHL1347; Brooklyn Daily Eagle Photo Collection, Center for Brooklyn HistoryThanksgiving is typically thought of as a day where we watch a parade of large floating creatures, eat ourselves silly and then gather around the television again to enjoy grown men chasing each other in pursuit of a ball. But not too many people know its strange history. Prior to Thanksgiving becoming a national holiday, different versions of it were celebrated at different times throughout the year. One aspect of what we think of today as Thanksgiving has always been charity. But before...


East Flatbush, 1980sJamel Shabazz Photograph Collection, SHBZ_0039, Center for Brooklyn HistoryThere's a long history of medicinal uses of alcohol. Cooking too, for that matter. Recipe is the Latin imperative, and its original use was not for instructions on how to prepare dinner, but in prescriptions, where it was used as a command preceding a list of medicines to combine into a...cocktail. This also speaks to a more holistic understanding of food and drink as healing medicine, and chef as apothecary. But more on that in another POTW post!"Grip, Colds, Catarrh...Cured"Brooklyn Daily Eagle,...


Classon Avenue showing entrance to Union PlacePhotograph album; Bommer family collection, 1992.033, Box A0142; Center for Brooklyn History.   This week we explore photographs of a Clinton Hill block from the Bommer family collection. The easternmost end of Pratt Institute’s Clinton Hill campus gives little indication that it was once a densely-built city block, but it was. Bounded by Classon, Dekalb, and Willoughby Avenues, and formerly by Emerson Place to the west, the block was unusually wide. In the 1870s, a wealthy, Spanish-born merchant-developer named Bartolome...


Saratoga Park is one of the many beautiful greenspaces Brooklyn has to offer. It’s the second largest park in Bedford-Stuyvesant, named for the nearby Saratoga Street, which takes its name from the Battles of Saratoga during the Revolutionary War. According to the New York City Parks Department, the word Saratoga might be Iroquois or Mohawk in origin, perhaps meaning either “springs from hillside” or “place of miraculous water in rock.”  Before it became a park, the land was owned by James C. Brower and his family. Brower owned a hardware business, helped organize the New York and...

Brooklyn Times Union, March, 24 1913

Voting machine instructionWoman giving voters instruction in the use of a voting machine in lobby of A.I. Namm's department store. Photographs from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, CLUB_0078; Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library.Brooklynites have seen many changes in voting patterns, locations and technology through the years.In the past, the voting process was more decentralized than it is today and took place in a dizzying array of locations. Many of these are still familiar to us as polling places. A list in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1920 indicates a very large percentage were...


SWEL_0298"We want our nursery centers." Brooklyn Eagle, March 9 1947. Photographs from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, SWEL_0298; Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library.In the wake of WWII, Brooklyn's working mothers fought to continue government-funded childcare.Women in Brooklyn have been leaders of social change on every conceivable political front, from the fight for racial justice and the right to vote, to equality around labor and reproductive rights. Women have also been at the forefront of protest efforts against the Vietnam War and for environmental justice. In this newest...


2015.008.1Long Island Historical Society, Library Floor Plan, circa 1878; 128 Pierrepont Street building architectural drawings, ARC.302; Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library.This week we look back at a building design contest that literally shaped our library space.The Long Island Historical Society (the former name of Brooklyn Historical Society which recently became the Center for Brooklyn History) held a building design contest from December 1877 to February 1878 after raising approximately 93,000 dollars to construct a new building at the corner of Pierrepont and Clinton...


Button, 1997; M1999.17.1, Center for Brooklyn History In 1997, Brooklyn Public Library celebrated its 100-year anniversary serving local readers, the first free public library in Brooklyn having opened in 1897 inside Public School 3, in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. This button is one example of our extensive button collection. In the 1980s and 1990s there was a substantive push to collect more community ephemera, and pin-back buttons such as this one are excellent examples of the importance of ephemeral social and cultural history. Last week we announced that Brooklyn Historical...


The Brooklyn Collection is now part of the Center for Brooklyn History! Learn more about this historic partnership here. This post is a collaborative effort of historian Dylan Yeats, Vice President of the Montauk Club and co-chair of its History Committee, and archivist Diana Bowers-Smith, who processed the Montauk Club Collection at Brooklyn Public Library along with librarian and archives volunteer Kreya Jackson. Founded in 1889, when Brooklyn was still an independent city, the Montauk Club is a social club in the Park Slope neighborhood. Its landmarked Venetian Gothic clubhouse,...

T. McCants Stewart

[Candy Dept., A. I. Namm & Son Department Store], 1898, V1972.1.749 ; Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201; Brooklyn Historical Society. Halloween is still four weeks away, but store shelves are already stocked with candy for eager trick-or-treaters. While today most of the candy is manufactured outside of New York, a hundred years ago Brooklyn had a thriving candy industry. In the mid nineteenth and early twentieth century, Brooklyn was one of the largest confectionery and chocolate manufacturing centers in the United States. By 1908, local factories produced...


The "Camperdown elm," circa 1950; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection (V1974.5.3405), Brooklyn Historical SocietyWith temperatures falling, the beloved (or controversial) smell of pumpkin spice in the air, and the autumnal equinox passed on Tuesday, fall has officially arrived! While the “vehicular-ly” blessed may head upstate or into New England for their annual “leaf peeping” pilgrimages, Brooklynites looking for a taste of fall foliage need only head to Prospect Park. Home to tens of thousands of trees, the one that, perhaps, best embodies our mood in 2020 heading into fall...


Old Navy yard sign that reads: Builders of the World's Mightiest War ShipsFrank J. Trezza, Old Navy yard sign that reads: Builders of the World's Mightiest War Ships, 1978, color slide, V1988.21.344; Frank J. Trezza Seatrain Shipbuilding collection, 1988.21; Brooklyn Historical Society.   Brooklyn Historical Society is thrilled to announce that the Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection is now available through our online Oral History Portal! Forty-nine interviews with the women and men who worked in and around the Brooklyn Navy Yard, particularly during WWII, can now...


Old Mexico Restaurant[Old Mexico Restaurant, 115 Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights.], 1959, V1974.4.295; John D. Morrell photographs, Brooklyn Historical Society. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! This month-long observance encourages Americans to recognize and celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of communities who trace their heritage to Spanish-speaking populations from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, as well as Spain itself.Hispanic Heritage Month begins every year on September 15 and extends through October 15. Its unique timeframe comes from the fact...


Schwarren, Litchfield VIlla, circa 1880, arc.202.box17.113; Photograph and illustration collection, ARC 202, Brooklyn Historical Society.I’m both lucky and thankful to have gotten the opportunity to intern at the Brooklyn Historical Society this past summer. 2020 has been unique in its challenges, and at the end of a disjointed spring semester, I was left without a real plan for the summer. When I came across a notice for a remote internship through the Brooklyn Historical Society that seemed to fit my area of interest, I decided to apply, despite having never physically been to Brooklyn...


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