Fascinating Brooklyn stories from our local history archivists.

Teddy Bears from Brooklyn

by alla
Dec 31, 2014

The teddy bear has been a perennial gift favorite for at least a century. You may be surprised to learn that the invention of teddy bears is squarely rooted in Brooklyn. The holiday season is a good time to review the story of this adorable stuffed toy with which so many of us have a deep emotional connection. An early 20th century family photograph of Brooklyn-born sculptor Frederick MacMonnies' daughters Betty and Marjorie, flanked by their governess and their good friend, the teddy bear.My research was spurred, oddly enough, by a work of fiction. Karen Hesse’s...

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An early 20th century family photograph of Brooklyn-born sculptor Frederick MacMonnies' daughters Betty and Marjorie, flanked by their governess and their good friend, the teddy bear.My research was spurred, oddly enough, by a work of fiction. Karen Hesse’s “Brooklyn Bridge”, the 2008 Newbury Award winning novel, tells the story of the Russian immigrant Michtom family, who claimed to invent the popular toy. A search through the pages of the Brooklyn Eagle turned up the real life inspiration for the book, toy-maker Morris Michtom.   Michtom owned a confectionery and novelty store in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The old Brooklyn city directories for 1902 - 1908 list Morris Michstrom, a cigar seller, at 404 Tompkins Ave (this address also appears in Karen Hesse’s book).  Michtom's stuffed creation was reportedly inspired by a cartoon published in 1902, which depicted President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a tethered bear cub.   The cartoon was based on a real story of a botched bear hunting expedition attended by Roosevelt in Mississippi. When the hunting dragged on for ten days without a bear sighting, the frustrated hosts, in order to please their important guest, found a bear cub and tethered it to a tree. Roosevelt refused to shoot the captive beast, saying that he "drew the line" at killing a young animal. Spurred by the story, Michtom's seamstress wife sewed a 2.5-foot-tall jointed bear by hand and they displayed it in their store. It quickly became one of their most popular items. The legend continues that Michtom sent a bear to the White House, requesting permission to name the toy Teddy Bear, and that he received a reply from the White House granting the permission. In 1903 the Michtoms approached a wholesaler, the Butler Brothers, with their toy bear. The Butler Brothers bought Mitchom's entire stock, launching his toy-manufacturing career. The Michtoms went on to found the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company in 1907.The Ideal Novelty and Toy Company eventually expanded beyond stuffed bears to manufacture dolls, action figures and board games. “Celebrity dolls” such as Shirley Temple, Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin, as well as Wetsy Betsy, Naughty Marietta, Flossie Flirt and hundreds of others were all in their roster of popular toys. In 1951, the Christmas offerings from the Ideal Toy Company included a doll that could change the facial expression from joy to sorrow at a twist of a knob under her bonnet. It should be noted here that another name pops up in any research of teddy bear history -- Steiff.  Margarete Steiff, of Germany, is often described as the “mother of the teddy bear”. Suffering from polio as a child, she spent most of her time sewing. She made her first stuffed animal, a pin cushion shaped as an elephant, in 1880. After that, she made the whole farmyard of animals, and her brother and nephews helped her build a toy-manufacturing empire. The first evidence of stuffed bears made by Steiff goes back to 1903, when it was shown in the Leipzig Toy Fair. It was spotted in the Steiff pavilion by an American toy buyer and he placed an order of 3,000 bears to be made for the American market. It appears that the Steiffs did not call them teddy bears at that time, but rather bruins or simply bears. The Steiff bears were used to decorate the wedding reception for Roosevelt's daughter in 1906. When someone asked the breed of the bear, one of the guests reportedly exclaimed, "They’re teddy bears, of course!" While it may be difficult to pinpoint which came first, the "teddy" or the bear, I suspect neither the Steiffs nor the Michtoms would stake the claim for this talking teddy, which “presided” over Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday anniversary celebration at Roosevelt Savings Bank (Gates Avenue and Broadway) in 1950.  

Free From Freakish Ideas

by Brendan
Dec 19, 2014

Parties, man. The worst. Who do you invite? Or more specifically, how do you invite everyone except for that guy? New Year's Eve parties? The worst of the worst. A day already filled with expectations, topped with anticipation, with a dash of nostalgia and/or regret. Thank goodness there are people who are paid to tell us what to do and what not to do to avoid garish social faux pas. Marie Manning, writing under the pseudonym Beatrice Fairfax, wrote the first newspaper advice column in the New York Evening Journal in 1898. The format proved an instant success, with other...

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December 24, 1922 From 1922 to 1934, Ms. Helen Decie wrote Brooklyn Daily Eagle's etiquette column. Ms. Decie (after all, one must always use a formal address until requested otherwise) was a no-nonsense kind of lady, hence the title of her daily column: "Etiquette." She answered questions and offered general tips, never shying away from the really tough issues like who gets to enter the car first (the driver, followed by the oldest) and mourning veils: "The continued wearing of a mourning veil is entirely a matter of personal choice. No convention is so often disregarded nowadays as is the old-fashioned 'prescribed period.' Usually a widow wears black with a long veil at the funeral and with a short veil for a year afterward. Thereafter, if she is 'still young,' she may go into colors if she pleases" (18 Sept 1930). Golly, thanks! Ms. Decie didn't pull any punches (not that a lady would ever punch, slap, or commit any act of violence, as those are displays of the uneducated classes). You have a friend that is superstitious? A) "As a matter of good breeding it is vulgar to be superstitious; as a matter of common sense, superstition is blank foolishness..." (22 Aug 1930), and B) rethink that friendship. And don't ever let Ms. Decie catch you speaking ill about a hostess behind her back.   September 17th, 1927 After all, "Hospitality is one of the most ancient and sacred of social traditions. When a guest gossips about the affairs of a host or hostess, or permits herself even to criticize the household arrangements, she is doing what no well-bred woman would do, and thereby stamps herself as a disloyal, ignorant and vulgar troublemaker whom every hearer instinctively distrusts and dislikes" (27 Sept 1927).  Needless to say, Ms. Decie isn't to be trifled with. When planning your holiday parties this season, it might be wise to heed her advice.  For starters, leave your Christmas decorations up and add bells cut from cardboard that say "Happy 1934!" or, "Happy 2015!" as the case may be. As for entertainment: "Ask your more musical guests to bring their music. Time the musicale - including Christmas songs and New Year songs - with interludes of conversation, from 9 to 11, when refreshments are served." (27 Dec 1933). For party favors, jump in your time machine and check out B. Shackman's at 906 Broadway (which is now a furniture store).   December 28th, 1926 If, at your New Year's party, you feel like your dance partner might want to take a break but is too gentlemanly to ask, Ms. Decie suggests you let him know that you "require a moment's rest." Good to have code words during tense social interactions.  December 29th, 1928 And, on the (very) off chance you're throwing a masquerade party, but you don't want to shatter the illusion by answering the door in costume (but not mask, as a lady does not answer a door masked), why not have your mother or some other relative receive your guests? Such logic. She also suggests that you harken back to a more youthful time and forgo New Year's Eve parties. Bring back Saint Sylvester's Day, which the day was called previously and, in many countries, still is. Sylvester supposedly both baptized Emperor Constantine and cured him of leprosy. Sounds to me like as delightful a reason as any to celebrate with bonbons and turkey, two dishes often suggested as holiday party foods. 

Sometimes, all it takes is an episode of Bob's Burgers to ignite a historical research adventure! In the episode aptly named "Topsy," Louise devises a scheme to take revenge on an obnoxious science teacher who is obsessed with Thomas Edison. While researching for her science project at the local library, Louise and her siblings stumble across a video of an elephant being electrocuted by the Edison Electric Company. Louise cackles with delight at the idea of smearing the reputation of her teacher's beloved hero in front of the entire class, "I'm going to tell everyone the truth about Thomas...

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The headline that spelled the beginning of Topsy's demise in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle on May 28, 1902. Topsy did indeed kill a young circus-follower named J. Fielding Blount while in Brooklyn with the Forepaugh Circus in 1902. According to the Eagle's article, Blount snuck into the sleeping elephants' tent early one morning, offering nine other elephants whiskey from a glass before he reached Topsy. As bizarre as this sounds, this was actually a common practice in the circus at this time that the elephants were accustomed to -- and even looked forward to -- before their first meal of the day. But, Blount was a stranger and a drunk one at that. When he offered Topsy the near-empty glass, seeing the lack of whiskey, she expressed her displeasure by tossing him up and throwing him fatally to the ground with her trunk. An illustration of Topsy in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which accompanied the headline on May 28, 1902. After that incident, Topsy began to be referred to as a "bad elephant" by the newspaper. (Other reports of killings by Topsy exist and are even mentioned in the Eagle, but cannot be confirmed directly by multiple sources.) She was put in chains and made to do "penance" for her lethal act. By the end of the year, Topsy had changed owners a couple times to end up in the hands of Luna Park, which was preparing to open to the public in the spring of 1903. At Luna Park, her handler was arrested twice for animal cruelty and disorderly conduct. The third time he was arrested, Topsy followed him to the police station and poked her head inside. Perhaps it was out of some strange sense of loyalty to her handler or simply curiosity. Either way, the owners of Luna Park had gotten their fair share of publicity out of her antics and were done dealing with the drama of this "bad" elephant. Her owners fired her handler and, in December 1902, announced that the elephant would soon be put to death by electrocution. There is in fact no mention in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle or the New York Times of Thomas Edison himself being present on the day of the electrocution. What is mentioned in the January 5, 1903 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article is that the, "Chief Electrician P. D. Sharkley of the Edison plant at Coney Island had been secured and with the assistance of Electrician Black of Luna Park several wires were strung from the plant, two blocks distant to the park." From the evidence at hand, Thomas Edison was not present for the electrocution of Topsy. However, his company did send a film crew to record the event. (That video is the same video Louise and her siblings found over 100 years later on Youtube.) And it is here that we can begin to see the bigger picture -- wherein America's beloved inventor certainly played a role in Topsy and many other animals' demise. A photograph of Topsy from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle taken moments after her death at Luna Park. Beginning in the 1880s, Edison's direct current (DC) was threatened by the alternate current (AC) system, designed by Nikola Tesla and distributed by George Westinghouse, which was more powerful and could carry electricity for longer distances. Seeing the new technology as a danger to his business and his pride, Edison began advocating that AC was too dangerous to provide regular homes with electricity and should only be used for implementing the death penalty. This spurred the use of the electric chair as a common means of "humane" execution in the United States. To prove AC's deadly nature to both experts and the public, Edison worked with an electrical engineer by the name of Harold P. Brown to carry out public demonstrations of electrocution with the AC system on dogs. Though many were horrified at these blatant acts of animal cruelty, experiments continued on various species over the years. Edison's Electric Copmany recorded many of them, including Topsy's, despite the fact that his opponent, Westinghouse, had already won the War of Currents by the early 1890s. We can conclude, then, that Topsy's unfortunate death was most likely the result of her owners not wanting to deal with an animal too unruly to safely contain and not solely for the egomaniacal amusement of Thomas Edison, as Louise from Bob's Burgers would have us believe. That said, one doesn't have to dig too far into the annals of history to paint Edison as an evil cartoon villain either. For more information on the unfortunate life and death of Topsy the elephant, check out this book by Michael Daly available at the Brooklyn Public Library.  

The Brooklyn Collection's ephemera files are pretty expansive, filled with an array of amazing (and sometimes random) documents tucked away into acid-free manila folders: programs, community newsletters, membership cards, and the like. We have a fair amount of newspapers and periodicals as well, including one well-loved booklet from 1889 entitled Henirch's Floral Instructor. I was drawn to the book due to the filigree on the cover and the floral-themed typeface. It is pretty, yes? As I started to gently flip through the pages I began to get some scents (Pun! Bad pun!) of late 19th...

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I was drawn to the book due to the filigree on the cover and the floral-themed typeface. It is pretty, yes? As I started to gently flip through the pages I began to get some scents (Pun! Bad pun!) of late 19th century floriculture, something I knew absolutely nothing about. Quite frankly, I didn't even know that floriculture was a word. I have since tried to use it in my daily life but it is a hard one to stick in there. Folks have had gardens for a long time. There was that whole hanging one in Babylon a few thousand years ago, Versailles has a pretty one, etc. However, it was with the rise of floriculture in the late 1800s, essentially flower farming, that a wider swath of the population was able to fill indoor and outdoor gardens with flowering plants. The invention of new steam greenhouses replaced both the temperamental flume style houses with small fires that had to be constantly stoked and the outdated greenhouses that were heated with manure. During the Progressive Era of the late 1800s there was also a general desire to reconnect with nature as cities began to swell - the Fresh Air Fund has been sending low-income New Yorkers to the country since 1877 and both the New York Botanical Garden (1891) and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (1910) came around during this movement to get folks to stop and smell the roses.  Heinrich's Floral Instructor is, in fact, quite instructive. He begins with a discussion of the oft-undervalued grass plot. "Probably no part of the garden gets more abuse and less attention than a Grass Plot," Heinrich writes, "and if neglected, no part looks worse, and is noticed quicker than the Grass Plot." Even the finest home, he goes on, can be made uninviting by an uneven or spotty plot. His booklet has directions for planting, cutting, sowing, and general maintenance of grasses of all sorts. He doesn't stop at grass, though.  When it comes to vegetables, Heinrich tells you exactly how deep and how far apart to plant the seeds. He also offers a vital piece of advice for the novice gardener: "manure freely." The more rotten the better. Your cabbages will thank you.  As the title suggests, Heinrich was a seedsman and florist, thus, he specialized in flowers. The last few pages are devoted to window gardens and the care of individual plants, how to prep spring gardens, and which flowers should be paired with which. The drawings in the book are really detailed and quite lovely. Heinrich's flower shop was located at 121 Court Street or, if you couldn't make it in person, he'd send you a few seed packs for twenty-five cents.  The back of the book displays some excellent ads (which also run throughout) for Heinrich's other floral services, the floral services of one Henderson, and one for a croup tonic distributed by someone named A. Bauer. Maybe it's just me, but the idea of drinking anything called 'tar syrup' to try to get rid of a cough seems counterintuitive.  I took a chance and searched for Julius J. Heinrich in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and actually got a few hits, one of which, from March 28th, 1910, was a mention of one of his later books on a recommended reading list composed by none other than yours truly (the Brooklyn Public Library, not me). So, he had two books, huh? Interesting. 

We are pleased to announce the Brooklyn Connections 2014/ 2015 teacher professional development schedule. To register for any of the workshops, please email connections@bklynlibrary.org or visit our website. ------ Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson--a great topic for this year's NHD theme: Leadership and Legacy What: Creating a National History Day Project with the Brooklyn Collection and the Museum of the City of New York When: Monday, December 1, 2014 from 5pm-7pm Who should attend: Teachers and parents who have students or children participating in National History Day or those who...

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------ Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson--a great topic for this year's NHD theme: Leadership and Legacy What: Creating a National History Day Project with the Brooklyn Collection and the Museum of the City of New York When: Monday, December 1, 2014 from 5pm-7pm Who should attend: Teachers and parents who have students or children participating in National History Day or those who want to know more about NHD Why: National History Day is a highly regarded history contest in which students choose a historical topic related to the annual theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research. After the research, students present their work in the form of a paper, website, exhibition, performance or documentary.  At this session, participants will review the step-by-step process for creating a National History Day project, look at examples of projects in various categories, review evaluation criteria, and tour the Brooklyn Collection. Light refreshments will be served and all participants will receive a Brooklyn Connections National History Day guide to take home. ------ Beverly Leeds protesting Ebinger Bakery in 1961 What: Brooklyn and the Civil Rights Movement When: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 from 9am-3pm Who should attend: English and Social Studies Teachers, Administrators and Librarians Why: Explore the Brooklyn Collection's original Civil Rights materials with expert historian Brian Purnell. Learn about the efforts of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) which included protests, community clean-ups, marches, and a sit-in at the Brooklyn Board of Education. This workshop will provide teachers with the content knowledge and materials needed to help students explore Brooklyn's role in the Civil Rights Movement. Teachers will have time to connect with the CORE collection and will sample lessons, including the new Social Movement Project Packet: Civil Rights Movement in Brooklyn, funded by the David and Paula Weiner Memorial Grant and written by historian and NYU professor, Daniel J. Walkowitz and Brooklyn Connections staff. Each participant will take home an extensive packet of resources that can be used in the classroom. ------ What: Teaching LGBT Topics in Schools When: Monday, February 9, 2015, 9am-12pm Who should attend: All teachers Why: Participants will hear from experts and discuss "people-first" language and how to address prejudice in schools. Participants will also get a chance to review our newest David and Paula Weiner Social Movement module: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Movement. Participants will have an opportunity to connect with the Brooklyn Collection's materials as well as learn where to find other materials related to the topic. Finally, a guest panel of Brooklyn-based LGBT activists will recall experiences from the LGBT movement and talk more about constructive responses to prejudice. ------

The Brooklyn Hellfighters

by Brendan
Nov 11, 2014

The day was November 11th, 1919. At exactly 11:00am, on the one year anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting between the Allies and Germany, all school children in Brooklyn were asked to place their pencils on their desks for a ten minute silence so that they could "realize vividly the significance which that moment had for America's embattled armies."  Brooklyn Daily Eagle 11 Nov. 1919. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on the events of the newly elected day of remembrance (not a national holiday until 1938 and not called Veteran's Day until 1954): parades, dinners, and...

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Brooklyn Daily Eagle 11 Nov. 1919. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on the events of the newly elected day of remembrance (not a national holiday until 1938 and not called Veteran's Day until 1954): parades, dinners, and memorial celebrations. President Woodrow Wilson's address to the nation was also framed prominently in the paper. Brooklyn Daily Eagle 11 Nov. 1919. "To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations."  The United States did fight for peace and justice in the global arena and all should be commemorated for their service and sacrifice during that time. However, a fair number of the soldiers fighting for those values -- values of democracy and equality that came to represent America during the global upheaval -- did not find those values waiting for them back home. The 369th Infantry was first known as the 15th New York Colored Infantry. Today they are more commonly known by the name they were given by their German foes: the Harlem Hellfighters. The men of the 369th were fearless in battle, highly decorated, and bursting with patriotism. The kicker, however, is that the soldiers fought for America but not necessarily with America. Due, in part, to the aggressive segregation of the US military, the Hellfighters fought with the French troops. Many of the enlisted black servicemen were not sent to combat and suffered incredible discrimination within the ranks.   For Brooklyn, a hero is a hero. The parade that marched through the streets of Brooklyn on that first Armistice Day contained "approximately 2,000 of the Negro warriors from Brooklyn who wore Uncle Sam's uniform in the trenches in France." At the culmination of the parade they were honored "when 10,000 of their relatives and friend's celebrated a big armistice day celebration... to commemorate their splendid fighting achievements." Thousands of people turned out to pay tribute to the soldiers (a parade in Harlem in February of that same year reportedly drew five million onlookers, said the New York Tribune) and "colored children, hundreds of them, from all over the borough who, hearing their heroes were going to march, hurried to the starting point."  Brooklyn Daily Eagle 12 Nov. 1919. The men marched past veterans from both the Civil and Spanish-American Wars and, upon arrival at the 13th Regiment Armory, sat for a grand meal. Imagine the 13th Regiment Armory decorated to the nines with flags, wreaths, and garlands and packed with 10,000 people in their Sunday best.  "13th Reg. Armory Interior." Brooklyn Daily Eagle 1913. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection. Mary Church Terrell, civil rights activist and suffragette, was in attendance and called for the heroic actions of the Hellfighters to propel the nation further toward racial equality. Congressmen James J. Delaney, referring to all of the black troops serving during World War I, said that " every citizen in the country, regardless of color, has every reason to be proud of the record these 400,000 brave colored defenders of liberty made for themselves."  Setting aside the antiquated language, the citizens of Brooklyn welcomed these soldiers home and graciously thanked them for their service. On Veteran's Day we remember all those who fought and still fight for the freedoms that we hold dear, regardless of their race, creed, gender, or orientation. Staff at the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library can't help but be reminded as to the sacrifice of America's soldiers, as every time we leave our office we see the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Grand Army Plaza. The arch is always a sight to see, but on Veteran's Day it seems to be all that much grander. 

Golden City USA

by SarahQ
Nov 4, 2014

When New Yorkers dream of summer fun at an amusement park by the sea, most turn their thoughts to Coney Island. However, 100 years ago they might have been dreaming about Canarsie’s Golden City Park. The popular yet often forgotten amusement park opened in the summer of 1907 to a crowd of 25,000. Built on Jamaica Bay by Warner’s Canarsie Amusement Company, the park relied on the recently extended railroad system to deliver daytrippers from all over the city. An undated rendering of the park in its heyday.Golden City delighted attendees with amusement park staples such as a...

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An undated rendering of the park in its heyday.Golden City delighted attendees with amusement park staples such as a rollercoaster, carousels, arcades, a tunnel of love and a ferris wheel. The park also included more non-traditional rides such as the “Human Laundry” which took people though a wash cycle, including a spin dry and laundry chute. Games such as “Kill the Kat” allowed patrons to test their aim and win prizes by hurling baseballs at toy cats. Braver visitors could take a trip through the park’s funhouse, navigating by boat though dark tunnels where ghosts and devils were waiting. Above and below, two views of Golden City rollercoasters. Below, a 1929 Belcher Hyde desk atlas image of the park labels the various attractions, including a carousel, The Whip, circle swings, and fun house. In addition to the rides, the park staged a number of live shows at “The Barbary Coast” amusement hall, allowing Broadway stars to try out new material before bringing the act to the major stages in Manhattan. The park’s most popular live action show, “The Robinson Crusoe Show” was a 22 minute telling of the Daniel Defoe novel that cost the park $60,000 to stage. It took 14 motors to move 60,000 square feet of scenery during the performance. A May 19, 1907 ad from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle declares the many attractions on offer.Wandering the park, one could stumble upon a live action Native American village, an animal oddities display or even a motorcycle show where daredevil drivers reached speeds of 80 miles an hour. The audience loved death-defying performers such as Arthur Holden, who twice a day dived from a height of 110 feet into a tub of water only 4 feet deep. Tamer acts such as King Pharaoh, a horse billed as an animal with “the intelligence of a human being”, wowed audiences by spelling and solving math problems. A Brooklyn Daily Eagle article from the park's opening summer highlighted this surprising feat -- an automobile rolling down a ski-jump track to turn a somersault in the air before landing safely on an adjacent ramp. During Golden City’s nearly 30 years of operation it was plagued by a number of devastating fires. In 1909, a fire that began in one of the park’s restaurants quickly spread, causing $200,000 worth of damage and destroying the restaurant, dance hall, photography gallery and office. The park was able to resume normal operations, but was the victim of fire again in 1912 when the Tunnel of Love was destroyed. The park was already losing money when a 1934 fire damaged the park so badly that management refused to rebuild. Golden City sat unoccupied until 1939, when it was razed to clear space for the new Belt Parkway.

In observance of Banned Books Week, the Brooklyn Collection offers this tale taken straight from the institutional archives of Brooklyn Public Library. On July 11, 1963 a stern memo was distributed to every library throughout the borough of Brooklyn: "TO:  ALL SERVICE AGENCIES FROM:  THE ASSISTANT CHIEF LIBRARIAN RE: MILLER, HENRY - TROPIC OF CANCER  The New York State Court of Appeals ruled on July 10, 1963 that TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller is obscene under the New York State obscenity law.  The following action must be taken immediately: No copy is to be loaned to...

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Without a catalog card like the one above, users of the library would have no way of knowing the library had ever held copies of Tropic of Cancer, much less if any of them were available for reading. Memos from branch librarians poured in from all over the borough as staff worked to track down every last copy. Even before the ruling, the book's position on Brooklyn Public Library shelves was tenuously held (which is especially unfortunate when you consider that the author grew up in this borough, at 662 Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg).  The Philadelphia Free Library withdrew its copies from circulation in December of 1961 in reaction to maneuvers by that city's District Attorney to have circulation suspended.  Throughout 1962 complaints rolled in from patrons concerned about children finding (and being corrupted by) the book in their local branch library while a flurry of letters between Brooklyn Public Library's Chief Librarian, Francis R. St. John, and heads of other institutions throughout the country grappled with the question of how to restrict access to the book to mature readers.  A staff memo from March of that year outlined a policy whereby catalog cards and index listings of the book would be excised from the record, but adult patrons who specifically asked for the book could reserve it.  Francis R. St. John and Margaret Freeman were asked to testify on the issue before the Kings County Grand Jury in January of 1962.  After grilling Freeman on the ins and outs of Brooklyn Public Library's collection policy, Assistant District Attorney Louis Ernst gave her a copy of the book and asked her to read aloud a passage from page five in mixed company.  Freeman demurred, with the caveat that there are many books she would not read in mixed company.  Other questions centered on whether or not the book had a plot (Freeman's answer: "No"), whether it was purchased because of the notoriety of the author (again, "No") and whether Freeman thought the book was obscene (a qualified "No").  Definitions of key terms, in Freeman's handwriting, presumably in preparation for her court appearance. St. John was also invited to read the infamous passage from page five before the group.  When St. John replied that he didn't think that targeting discrete paragraphs was a fair way to judge the totality of a book, Ernst continued to page six and asked St. John to read from that page instead.  St. John stood his ground, and Ernst indicated that he'd go through the entire book if he had to, page by page, with St. John refusing at every turn to read aloud in polite company.  St. John coolly replied that he'd be happy to read the whole book to the Grand Jury, noting that it had taken him a full 3 hours to read it himself the night before, and that reading out loud was generally slower going than reading to oneself.  I can't help but feel a certain pride by association with St. John's maneuver; a true librarian, he was, in effect, threatening to bore the Grand Jury into submission with a marathon reading of a plotless novel.  The Grand Jury also requested a list of patrons who had borrowed the book, ostensibly so that they could be brought into court to testify.  The library resisted, citing the confidentiality of patron records, and no subpeoena was issued. After the July 1963 ruling, once the book was pulled from shelves, indignant patrons and staff alike wrote to support their right to read what they chose.  The library was in a difficult position -- the book selection policy and mission of the institution explicity stated "It is the function of the public library in America today to provide the means through which all people may have free access to the thinking on all sides of all ideas."  To excise a book from the collection because some found its ideas challenging was against the core principles of the institution and its staff.  On the other hand, as a publicly funded entity, the library could not openly defy the law of the land.  After an uneasy year, the Supreme Court ruled in June of 1964 that Miller's book could not constitutionally be banned, decisively closing the issue and upholding American's right to read what they chose.  Among the many opinions offered on the alleged obscenity of Miller's book and the public's right to read it, my favorite comes from Margaret Freeman, who typed this eloquent (and unfortunately undated) memo at some point during the uproar. 

Williamsburg: Then & Now

by Kaitlin
Aug 27, 2014

Our collection of photographs by Anders Goldfarb are some of the most contemporary images in our holdings aside from those taken by Jamel Shabazz. However, unlike Shabazz who captures the personalities of Brooklynites, Goldfarb mostly captures the personalities of the borough's dilapidated buildings. In a 2012 interview with Goldfarb, Peter Mattei asked: "What emotion do you feel when you see these buildings? What makes you want to photograph them?" "It's a form of compassion I think I have for the building," Goldfarb replied, "because they're old and the old as a rule tend to perish and...

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Driggs and N. 8th Street, 1998 Apparently not much has changed for this old building, including the curtains and blinds!     Driggs and N. 8th Street, September 2013   Bedford between N. 7th and N. 8th Streets, December 1997 Here the pizza restaurant remains while the liquor store has been replaced by a hat shop (established in 1895 evidently, but not at this location!). Bedford between N. 7th and N. 8th Streets, September 2013 Intersection of Throop and Lorimer Streets Williamsburg, February 1999   Intersection of Throop and Lorimer Streets Williamsburg, September 2013   Bedford and N. 5th Street, January 1997   Bedford and N. 5th Street, September 2013   Berry Street between N. 7th and N. 8th Streets, January 1999   Berry Street between N. 7th and N. 8th Streets, September 2013   Intersection of Bedford Avenue and N. 9th Street, 1987   One of my favorite comparisons ... it seems to sum up the transition in Williamsburg between 1987 and today perfectly. Intersection of Bedford Avenue and N. 9th Street, September 2013   As the following photos show, buildings are not the only New York City relics that have endured a bit of a makeover since the 1980s and 90s: L Train Williamsburg, January 1988 Some for the better ... All Aboard, March 8, 2009 A. Strakey ... and some debatably for the worse. East Williamsburg, March 18, 1989 Anders Goldfarb  

We at Brooklyn Connections are gearing up for our 8th year reaching out to local schools, teaching research skills and learning about local history.  With an exciting two-year, $400,000 grant from the New York Life Foundation and additional generous funding from The Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund, David and Paula Weiner Memorial Grant, The Hearst Foundation, Inc., Tiger Baron Foundation, and Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, we can continue our efforts of teaching authentic historical research to students around Brooklyn! Students at PS/ IS 163 learned about transit history.  They...

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We at Brooklyn Connections are gearing up for our 8th year reaching out to local schools, teaching research skills and learning about local history.  With an exciting two-year, $400,000 grant from the New York Life Foundation and additional generous funding from The Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund, David and Paula Weiner Memorial Grant, The Hearst Foundation, Inc., Tiger Baron Foundation, and Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, we can continue our efforts of teaching authentic historical research to students around Brooklyn! Students at PS/ IS 163 learned about transit history.  They wrote and performed a play about their research findings! Thanks to our generous funders, Brooklyn Connections will be able to expand in several important ways: *Additional staffing will allow us to serve an impressive 32 partner schools. *Connections educators will continue to write lessons and curricula that are Common Core and AASL aligned. *Each partner school will receive a collection of Brooklyn history books, maps and other materials, ensuring that research can take place in the classroom. *A pilot program for selected Brooklyn Public Library branches to introduce a mini-Brooklyn Collection. *Targeted outreach campaign to reach underserved neighborhoods including Bedford-Stuyvesant/ Weeksville, Brownsville, Canarsie, Cypress Hills, East New York, and Spring Creek. *Connections staff will organize two teacher open houses and several free teacher workshops that will focus on developing research skills in the classroom and local history.  These sessions will be open to all New York City educators. Teachers touring the Brooklyn Collecton *Presentations at local and national conferences including the National Council for History Education in March. *We will work with Pratt University to provide professional development opportunities for MLS students. *The completion of an 8-module social movements curriculum funded by the David and Paula Weiner Memorial Grant. If you are a teacher, school administrator, parent or other education-minded Brooklynite who is interested in bringing Brooklyn Connections to a classroom near you, please check out our website.  We are currently accepting applications for partner schools for the 2014-2015 school year.

A Digest of a Different Sort

by Brendan
Aug 5, 2014

Last week I was looking for a piece of ephemera for a project packet I was creating on Brownsville when I stumbled across something different: a digest, if you will. This digest then went on to change the entire course of my day. How did one small magazine change the entire course of my day, you ask? Well, I immediately stopped looking for information on Brownsville, that's how. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading about sports, history, restaurants, and women in "The Magazine For Brooklyn, About Brooklyn, In Brooklyn." Brooklyn Digest Magazine was a small monthly magazine...

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852 Cypress Avenue - Map Data: Google Maps, 2014 I am not sure when the magazine started and I don't actually know when it ended, either. I did try to cross-reference some of the information I found in The Digest with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, but when I searched for 'different digest' all I found was this snide looking Cream of Rice child: Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 14 Feb 1943.  I'm sure with a bit more digging I'll be able to find more information as to The Digest's specifics. I'll keep you posted.  I do know that the Brooklyn Collection has four issues in the ephemera files: July, September, November of '46 and January of '47. Each issue was ¢15 or you could pay $1.50 for a year's subscription. As expected, the stories and articles inside revolved around Brooklyn. These little booklets had their work cut out for them, as Brooklyn was and is a pretty big borough. As you'll see, they did a decent job covering all of their bases:  You've got your feature! In November of 1946, Gene Tierney was hot. Brooklyn born with a "love for fresh paint and gasoline," she was all over the silver screen and Brooklyn couldn't have been prouder. Below is a photo of Gene from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's portrait collection. She was a looker, no joke.   Brooklyn Daily Eagle. "Gene Tierney." Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library. In January of 1947 the feature was funnyman Mickey Rooney (who was also adorable, am I right?). You've got your sports! Some of the sports columns detailed past games or future matches, while others were just lists of incredibly relevant and helpful facts. Apparently the average speed of a hockey puck is 88 miles per hour. Golly gee, thanks Different Digest! You've got your history! The Digest had stories about old Brooklyn and some old Brooklynites: Coney Island, the Battle of Brooklyn, Whitman, Gershwin. One of them, coincidently the one about Walt Whitman, was written by George Wakefield, the former head of General Reference at the Central Branch of BPL (hey, that's where I work!) and, at the time of writing (July of '46) he was the Branch Manager at the Bedford Branch. Brooklyn Daily Eagle. "Bedford." 195-?. Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library. George Wakefield is pictured here with his colleagues at the Bedford Branch. He is the gentleman in the back on the left.  You've got your humor! From a section entitled "In Brooklyn It Happened." Wild Bill Ames, the mimic-king from Ridgewood, tells of the nun who found a hundred dollar bill on Central Avenue. Not wishing to keep the money, the sister approached an ill-shaven character leaning against a poolroom window, handed over the large bill and said, "God Speed!" The next day the ill-kempt man knocked at the convent door, and when the Mother Superior opened the door the individual gave her $800. While the mother looked at him in astonishment, the man ejaculated, "Give this to Sister Francis; tell her that 'God Speed' paid seven to one."  You've also got some pretty fantastic cartoons scattered throughout. In light of all we know about the Gowanus, this one is pretty spot on.  Now that's a merman any Brooklynite could love! The editors of The Digest felt that Brooklyn had long been glossed over by travel guide writers. The September '46 issue contained a Brooklyn Pocket Guide: (FYI - Baedeker is this guy.) The Pocket Guide touched on a variety of topics including but not limited to: "The Geography: Brooklyn is a territory bounded on the west by a huge body of water described as the East River and on the north by a place known as New York City."  "The Topography: The region's terrain is moderately level excepting the Myrtle El and Ebbets Field. The site of Coney Island, however, is never on the level."  "The Geology: The striking aspect of the territory of Brooklyn is the number of underground chambers known as subways, generally used to quarter drunks and other such nondescript characters as Giant's fans who've fallen asleep coming from the Dodger game."  "The Language: Philologists maintain that the greater part of the population by and large speaks two languages - English and Doubletalk. A strange and somewhat fictitious dialect has emerged for which a Bronx publisher has printed a "Brooklyn-English; English-Brooklyn" dictionary." And... And, finally, you've got your ladies! Brooklynology has reported on many past beauty pageants: grandmas, babies, beer. Beauty was big in the 1940s and 1950s and, what with the wars and the sailors and the like, finding a pinup girl in the middle of The Different Digest didn't surprise me. As expected, these girls were quintessential Brooklyn and each one of them came equiped with her own "Zoot Suitor from Brooklyn".  Miss January - February 1947 Miss November 1946

Irving Herzberg (1915-1992) is perhaps best known for capturing personal, candid moments. The Brooklyn Collection houses Herzberg's life's work; over 2,300 images of day-to-day Brooklynites: a woman with her tired baby, a man looking at totem poles, and children stuffing their faces with cotton candy. The Brooklyn Collection also has some amazingly terrifying photos of the plane crash that shook up Park Slope in the winter of 1960 and a wealth of photos that he took of Brooklyn's traditionally closed Hasidic community. Herzberg spent 10 years, Sunday after Sunday,...

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His images are chiefly black and white, sometimes quiet, and often personal, yet much of his work has a humor and lightness as well. It would be hard to take photos of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club without having a sense of humor. Yet, to me, Herzberg's most personal work was never framed for exhibitions at galleries or museums. His most personal work sits in a tiny archival box in the 'map room' next to my desk. It is one thing to take the photo, another to be the subject. Along with the photos from the Hasidic community, the plethora of shots from Coney Island and the subways, the Brooklyn Collection has over 200 small color Kodachrome slides taken in the early 1950s. They are personal photos from vacations and holidays; his own quiet moments. It was so enjoyable going through each of the small slides, each one taking me back to a time when each photo was precious. You couldn't delete the ones that were blurry or crop out the man unabashedly photo-bombing your beach day family portrait. You had 36 photos and you had to make them count. What's more, you couldn't document every moment of Thanksgiving or Instagram the turkey on your plate. You took one. That one photo encompassed all the memories from that one day. Below are a smattering of Herzberg's images from that tiny box, all of them taken with a photographer's keen eye for composition and color. For some of the photos, the aim of the photo was clearly art. A longtime Coney Island resident, others showcase the diversity of Herzberg's favorite subject: Brooklyn. - These ladies are lunching, for real - - These kids are lunching, for real, too - Many of the images are from a trip to the beach. With few exceptions, none of the slides have any acknowledgement as to their subject or the date. A few have 1954 written on them, others 1952. This beach adventure happened sometime in the early 1950s. The coloring on the Kodachrome slides is fantastic, something that many an iPhone app has attempted to emulate. There is nothing quite like the real thing, though. - Herzberg's wife and son -  The box contains so many memories. All of them are lost on me, as I wasn't there, but by using my imagination and my own sense of nostalgia, I can almost picture the corresponding memories. Below are photos of Herzberg's family: his son, daughter, and wife. - This is one of my favorites - We all have a family photo where no one is doing what they were supposed to do. Dad is looking down, mom has her eyes closed, Grandpa fell asleep, etc. The Herzberg family has one too. These photos are always the most honest, as how often are families truly quiet and still, smiling and facing forward? The posed photos, of course, get the frame; the others get deleted or stuck in a box under the bed. We're pulled to remember the good things, the smiling, happy, posed things. But who is to say that a photo of sleeping grandpa isn't a good thing? That distracted dad isn't something to be remembered? The photo below is another one of my personal favorites. Finally, these gems. Herzberg took two photos in this same spot, one with his color Kodachrome film, and another with his standard camera. Yes, he is in a lawn ornament display.

In an unusual confluence of the World War I centennial observation and the height of harvesting season, a small, curious cache of photographic images found its way to the Brooklyn Collection. Twenty six lantern slides and seven photographic prints, presumably from 1919, depict a group of Brooklyn youngsters and their teachers tending vegetable plots. A couple of them feature the Park Commissioner John N. Harman as well. It was not only a tree that grew in Brooklyn, apparently, but also carrots, kohlrabi, beans, beets, radishes and corn. The pictures were taken at the Betsy Park...

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The pictures were taken at the Betsy Park Playground. The park, which still exists, and the playground (since redesigned) were named after Mrs. Betsy Head, who bequeathed her considerable estate to the City of New York with the provision that one half of it would be spent on child welfare charities, and the other for the purposes of health and recreation. The Betsy Park Playground, in Brooklyn's Brownsville neighborhood, answered both requirements. A few words about the benefactress herself; Mrs. Betsy Head was perhaps one of the most unusual cases in the history of the New York philanthropy. A British native, she was hired by a Long Island millionaire recluse, George C. Taylor, to manage his estate in Islip. She became his trusted accountant and confidante, and over the many years of her employment with Mr. Taylor, Betsy Head accumulated quite considerable wealth herself. She had come to the United States with her daughter Lena. Lena fell in love with one of the employees of Mr. Taylor and married him against the wishes of her mother and Mr. Taylor. Both were banished from the estate, and the mother and daughter became estranged. They never saw each other again. When in 1907 Mrs. Head died of illness at the age of 60, her personal assets were upwards of $200,000 (the equivalent of today’s five million dollars). She left Lena only $5 ($125 today), and the rest went to the benefit of the City of New York. As it sometimes happens, reconciliation came too late, after death. Lena was inconsolable at the funeral, and it was rumored that Mr. Taylor was moved by her grief. Through this private drama in 1907, New York City came into a windfall of cash for its charities. The Betsy Head Park was open to the public in September of 1914. (Mrs. Frederick W. Bodley, once the wayward and lovelorn Lena, was an honored guest during the opening ceremony.) It is perhaps worth mentioning that the Betsy Head Park came into the existence not only due to the largess of the donor, but also because of the local residents’ activism. Although Mrs. Head's charitable monies were allocated, they were not being spent; it was only thanks to the pressure from the Brownsville community leaders that the park finally was designed and constructed on the stretch from Blake Ave., Dumont Ave., Livonia Ave. between. Strauss St., Hopkinson Ave. and Bristol St. It absorbed land that was formerly used as a dumping site. Architect Henry B. Herts designed the recreational center. The park also included an athletic field and stadium which could hold up to 20,000 viewers, public baths and a swimming pool. The Children’s playground consisted of a park with wading pool and a beach; mothers’ recreation center – which also included the city milk station; a model farmhouse and, finally, the farm school and a school for nature study. The playground farm became the largest of the four existing children’s farms in Brooklyn. The other three were in Highland Park, McCarren Park, and Fort Greene Park. I must acknowledge that some images of very young children at work in the fields made me cringe. However, there were some laws against the child labor already in place at the time, and since each little gardener took all the produce he or she raised home to replenish the family table, it was considered beneficial on the whole.   The girls (and some boys too!) were taught canning techniques, and the canning classes were offered to local residents as well. The newspapers could not resist publishing syrupy stories about struggling families who were able to survive cold winters thanks to pickled vegetables from the children’s gardens. There were competitions among the gardens from the different parks, with trophies for the best harvest. Here you can see Mrs. Jane C. Roth, a longtime director of the Besty Head playground garden with one of the winning student farmers. And there were annual fall harvest festivals. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle described one of these events in 1919: Whether the gardening fever was natural or motivated by adult supervision, the little gardeners exhibited an admirable fervor in pushing for three crops during a season: And, perhaps, it was not an unattainable goal. The young farmers grew hardy, short-season vegetables: carrots, cabbages, corn, beets, radishes, Swiss chard, turnips, peas and kohlrabi. The crops that grew more slowly – potatoes, cauliflowers, and celery – were avoided. So, what is the World War I connection? During the Great War, such gardens became known as “Children’s War Gardens”, and the Betsy Head farm was part of the movement. New York City alone counted 100 schools with vegetable gardens and it is estimated that these children-run gardens produced as much as $5,074.28 worth of vegetables, worth nearly $100,000 in today's economy. The children’s farm persevered and lasted through the 1920s and ‘30s and well into the World War II, when the urban gardening tradition found new life in the so-called "victory gardens" that grew throughout the city in support of the war effort.

The 2013-2014 school year has proven to be a truly banner year for Brooklyn Connections.  We're pleased to have partnered with over 2,000 students in 70 classes from 30 schools in Queens, Manhattan and of course, Brooklyn. Students from PS 131 before their visit to the Brooklyn Collection in January Throughout the year, Connections staff supported students by teaching Common Core-aligned research skills, including note-taking, text and photographic analysis, outlining, and writing a research question or thesis statement.  All partner schools visited the Brooklyn...

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Students from PS 131 before their visit to the Brooklyn Collection in January Throughout the year, Connections staff supported students by teaching Common Core-aligned research skills, including note-taking, text and photographic analysis, outlining, and writing a research question or thesis statement.  All partner schools visited the Brooklyn Collection at least once and an educator visited each class five or more times -- that's over 350 in-class visits this year!  After the students learned the necessary skills to do authentic historic research, they worked on a project that incorporated oral, written and visual components. 11th and 12th grade students from the Academy for Environmental Leadership in May Celebration and Exhibition The annual end-of-year celebration and recognition ceremony was held on May 23rd in Central Library's Dweck auditorium.  All projects were put on display and one student or group from 12 of our 30 partner schools presented their Brooklyn Connections project to an audience of over 130 people.  After all speeches and presentations were finished, each student and teacher was given a certificate of participation and a small gift as a token of our appreciation. Students from PS 66 presenting their project about Weeksville at the end-of-year celebration The Brooklyn Collection's current exhibit is a sampling of our students' work.  Our annual exhibit highlights the creativity and originality conveyed in our students' final projects, which ranged from the highly academic to the wildly creative.  Research topics included the abolitionist movement, neighborhood history, architecture, city planning and famous Brooklyn residents.  Students produced exhibit boards, models, plays, research papers, slideshows, movies, scrapbooks and more.  These projects reflect not only a significant amount of research, but also the unique personalities of our students. 2013-2014 student exhibition on-view throughout the summer Professional Development We're continuing to work hard to offer high-quality teacher professional developments for teachers in New York City.  This year, we held an open house and tour for teachers in October; an in-house student-teacher professional development with CUNY College of Staten Island and Brooklyn College; a professional development about local history in December with author and former Kingsborough professor John Manbeck; a full-day workshop with author and historian Brian Purnell about the Civil Rights Movement in Brooklyn and a tour of Green-Wood Cemetery for Brooklyn-Queens Day (a Department of Education mandatory staff professional development day).  Over 100 teachers, administrators and pre-service teacher attended these sessions. Teachers touring Green-Wood Cemetery on a rainy June morning Teachers exploring our Civil Rights and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) materials Attending and presenting at conferences is crucial for our professional development and also informs the public and our colleagues about the Brooklyn Connections program.  We attended several conferences this year, including the National Council for History Education in New Mexico where I was awarded with the prestigious Paul A. Gagnon Prize -- an award bestowed to an educator who contributes significantly to promoting history education in the United States. We also presented at the New York City Librarians Conference, New York City Museum Educator Roundtable Conference and most recently the New York State History Conference at Marist College where Ivy Marvel, Manager of Special Collections, presented about the Brooklyn Eagle digitization project with Newspapers.com.

Last fall the Brooklyn Connections staff was approached by two enthusiastic educators from P.S. 131 who had recently discovered fascinating artifacts at their Borough Park school. They hoped to use the artifacts to inform a school history research project with a select group of 5th grade students in collaboration with Brooklyn Connections. Given our love of school history (see To Number a School, We Don't Need No Education, Brooklyn Schools: A Look at Ephemera and More, Welcome to M.S. 57), it should come as no surprise to our faithful readers that we jumped at the...

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F.L.Thomas Teacher's Record of Attendance and Progress of Pupils, 1921. Of particular interest to me was what we found inside the booklets: vital contact information for students (you can learn so much about Borough Park at the time from the names alone!), grading systems, punctuality protocols and how these all changed over time. What I haven't included here, though equally fascinating, is the Board of Education's (as it was previously referred to) instructions for using the booklets, which ranged from one page in 1921 to more than a dozen pages in 1947. Marjorie W. Nichols Teacher's Record of Attendance and Progress of Pupils, 1947-8. Also found at P.S. 131 were two treasured copies of the same photo album from the early 20th century; we couldn't pinpoint a date until we stumbled across a very subtle hint in this class photo -- Thursday, October 21, 1909 is written on the board. P.S. 131 Photo Album, 1909.   It's difficult to make sense of the class makeup at the time. Inspection of the albums show both mixed and single-sex classes ranging from kindergarten to high school students.   P.S. 131 Photo Album, 1909.   Someone with an eye for design might appreciate the architectural details. I couldn't help but see hints of teachers' stern instruction, as students sit with hands nicely folded behind their backs or studiously engaged with a book at the front. P.S. 131 Photo Album, 1909. We were swept up in studying and marveling at these documents and photos, but our 5th grade students wanted to know more about the history of their school's building, so we moved on. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 1, 1909. P.S. 131 was built between 1900 and 1901 by preeminent Superintendant of School Buildings C.B.J. Snyder. During his tenure (1891-1921), Synder was responsible for building over 400 New York City schools with innovative architecture allowing for cross breezes and natural light in classrooms, rooftop playgrounds and virtually fireproof structures (Epoch Times, September 5, 2012). And yet, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, overcrowding remained a constant problem. Despite Synder's advancements in making education more comfortable and accessible to New York City students, the Eagle offered this criticism:  "The typical big elementary school now has forty-eight class rooms, with auditoriums, gymnasia and facilities for instruction in special subjects, like cooking, sewing and shop work ... But forty-eight room buildings will not reduce overcrowing quickly enough ... Is the sacrifice of outward impressiveness - even magnificence in many cases - too great a price to pay for haste in reaching the ideal of this administration to [sic] a seat for every child? It is high time that this problem of the quickest practical construction be given careful attention. In education looks are not everything." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 5, 1922. I suppose it should come as no surprise then that the Board of Education published a call for proposals for the temporary construction of an annex to P.S. 131 a mere 7 years after its initial completion.  Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 10, 1908.  P.S. 131 Photo Album, 1909.     Temporary the annex was not. A generation later, in 1935, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle describes in great detail parents' complaints and concerns over the safety of the now dilapidated structure:  CHARGES FIRE MENACE "The annex is practically falling apart; the outer and inner wood is rotting away. There is no adequate heating facilities and children have informed me that the rooms do not warm until noon time. Ventilation is poor and the windows have heavy wire netting on the outside to protect the glass. This netting is locked and can only be opened by the use of a key, which the teachers in the individual classroom do not possess. In the event of a fire this means of escape is blocked ... it is unsanitary; the plaster is falling from the walls and ceilings and there is a distinctly unhealthy odor throughout the entire building. There is no lavatory in the annex and children are forced to cross the open court to the main building to reach one ... the water trough where the children are supposed to drink is exactly what the word implies, a place for animals to drink. The bottom of it is filthy and looks as though it had not been cleaned in months." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 2, 1935. A surprise inspection of the annex by Mayor LaGuardia confirmed parents' allegations and resulted in an official promise to replace the dangerous building ... Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 5, 1935. ... but a failure to follow through. Parents spent much of 1935-36 lobbying to protest delays in the destruction and rebuilding of a new annex. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 5, 1935. It took a full two years for the Board of Estimate to act on Mayor LaGuardia's promise and even then only after ongoing threats by parents to pull their children from the school.   Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 10, 1937. Finally, a confirmation from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in August, 1938 that the construction of the new annex was complete, adding 1,042 seats to the school:   Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 28, 1938. And here a plaque marking the addition found just inside the current structure: Holt, Kaitlin. "Addition to P.S. 131 Plaque," January 8, 2014. It's hard to look at P.S. 131 in 2014 and imagine the structure that used to exist behind C.B.J. Synder's original building. Today's 5th graders are working on an exhibition and accompanying tour they plan to offer fellow classmates on this and many other historical aspects of their school. With any luck I'll be invited to attend a tour myself and report back on their success. Stay tuned!

Everybody Loves a Parade

by Brendan
Jun 2, 2014

Born in 1846, William Cody, better known by his stage name Buffalo Bill, was a jack-of-all-trades when it came to the American West. He rode for the Pony Express, scouted for the Union during the Civil War, and rode against various Native American tribes during the period of westward expansion. His stories would eventually find their way to the big top when, in 1882, Cody began his 45-year career as an entertainer and showman by creating a small show that would eventually morph into an extravaganza entitled Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World. He wooed audiences...

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Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 16, 1898. Buffalo Bill's Wild West came through New York many times, staying for periods ranging from weeks to months. Regardless of which borough housed the show, it always arrived with much fanfare. In 1898: "Early this morning a strange cavalcade crossed the bridge from Manhattan. The greater part of it was of a military character. There were some strange uniforms worn in addition to those of the United States cavalry and artillery. There were the red and blue of the Irish Royal Lancers, the white facing and glittering helmet and armor of the German cuirassiers, the long brown flowing coats and cloaks of the Russian Cossacks, the variegated hues of Indian blankets and feathers, the light brown and the shining buttons and enormous sombreros of Mexican vaqueros, the white waving sheets and red fez worn by the Arabians and so on through the entire gamut of garb and color" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 24, 1898). In addition to the military battalions, Native Americans in traditional garb were prominently featured. I love the juxtaposition in the photos below, rows of onlookers in black hats and black coats next to the white horses and presumably colorful clothing worn by the tribesmen. Froger-Doudement, Raoul. Parade of Buffalo Bill. 1898. Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library.  Froger-Doudement, Raoul. Parade of Buffalo Bill. 1898. Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library. The 1898 procession was headed to an open area at the intersection of Knickerbocker and Myrtle Avenue and, although the weather wasn't all that nice, the attendance was high.

Knish Knosh

by June
May 23, 2014

     Join us this Wednesday evening May 28th, when the "world's leading knish expert and author" Laura Silver will be with us to talk about her new book, "Knish, In Search of Jewish Soul Food".  Ms. Silver will share with us her travels and research through various countries and communities, as she traces the origins and contemporary expressions of this ubiquitous culinary icon that once reigned from Brownsville to the Lower East Side. We'll have a knish reception at 6:30, with the talk beginning at 7:00 p.m.   

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Researching Reinhardt

by Ben
May 15, 2014

If reports are to be believed, Brooklyn has been undergoing some kind of ground-shaking cultural renaissance for the past ten or twenty years. The borough -- once sleepy, then neglected -- is now a ballyhooed land barnacled with oft-parodied "artisanal" this-and-that shops, awash in alternative art-spaces, and peppered with the black and white "gear" of our recently dispatched cagers. Brooklyn is it! Brooklyn is cool! Brooklyn is a global brand, a baby's name! But if you Google "Brooklyn is" you will also see the gloomy auto-fill death of this shangrila not too far...

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We recently received a very generous donation of Brooklyn Dodger material from a life-long collector, Mr. Al Todres. The gift is largely comprised of the kind of ephemera that would have been swirling around any devoted fan's house: magazines, newsletters, lapel pins, ticket stubs, programs, and team yearbooks -- all of the little things that give so much color to the historical record. The two images here are both scans of team yearbooks from the 1941 and 1942 seasons. And though these yearbooks are noteworthy because they commemorate remarkable seasons (in 1941 the Dodgers clinched their first pennant in 21 years, and in 1942 they ran a close second to the Cardinals, who won 106 to the Dodgers' 104 games) they are particularly noteworthy because of the young man who designed them. It might be hard to see, but there beneath the disembodied hand and varied typeface (the disembodied hand and varied typeface which he chose) is the name of one of America's most notable post-war painters: Not unlike the sighting of a yet-to-be heralded Richard Avedon in the pages of The Helm and The Mast, here we have a still unknown 28-year-old aspiring painter and day-job designer for the Brooklyn Dodgers named Adolph (Ad) Reinhardt. Curious to learn if Reinhardt grew up in Brooklyn, I headed upstairs to the Arts and Music division to see what I could find. In this collection of Reinhardt's writings you'll find a (very funny) chronology of the artist's life written by the artist himself where we discover the following: 1913: Born, New York, Christmas Eve, nine months after Armory Show. (Father leaves "Old country" for America in 1907 after serving in Tsar Nicholas' army. Mother leaves Germany in 1909.) 1913: Malevich paints first geometric-abstract painting.1914: Matisse paints "Port-Fenetre, Collioure."1914 Mondrian begins "plus-minus" paintings.1915: Gets crayons for birthday, copies "funnies," Moon Mullins, Krazy Kat, and Barney Google.1916 Juan Gris paints "Dish of Fruit"1916 Dada in Zurich.1917 Cuts up newspapers. Tears pictures out of books.1917 October Revolution in Russia. Lenin replaces Kerensky.1918 Malevich paints "White on White"1918 Peace. World War I ends.1919: Enters Public Grade School No. 88, Fresh Pond Road, Ridgewood, Queens. To see exactly where in Ridgewood Reinhardt lived, I checked census records on Ancestry.com (free here at the library!) and found the following listing from a 1930 record: That's 16 year old Ad Reinhardt third from the top. And though you can't see it here, the family is listed as residing at 2529 Madison St. in Ridgewood, Queens. But when I check Google maps to see where exactly 2529 Madison Street is I turn up nothing. Google is flummoxed. Paging through our atlases I also come up empty-handed. This part of Ridgewood is a bit too far into Queens to be captured by our Brooklyn-only atlas collection. Hitting nothing but dead ends, I see if I can't get a general idea of his whereabouts on Madison Street through the Enumeration District listed on the 1930 census. In the upper right hand corner you can find the ED for each page's listing of inhabitants; in Reinhardt's case it is 41-611. Going back into Ancestry.com I search their Maps, Atlases, and Gazetteers database and find the Enumeration Districts for 1940 (close enough for our purposes) and turn up this: From this rather bleary map, it would be my guess that Reinhardt lived somewhere on that block of Madison which I have circled in red. There are no addresses on this map, but the houses here were very likely in that 611 district. Here's how Google's ubiqutous eye saw this block back in 2012. From here, Reinhardt need only walk 6 short blocks to PS 88. However, proximity, and the Dodger yearbooks above, were not Reinhardt's only connection to Brooklyn. As his chronology plainly states, 1947 saw the beginning of Reinhardt's teaching career at Brooklyn College and, as luck would have it, we have a few yearbooks from his time there. Below we see an arms-crossed Reinhardt surrounded by his colleagues in the 1951 Broeklundian. And here's a close-up of the artist/professor from the 1954 yearbook. And lastly, in a very Reinhardt-esque collage, we see the artist's head, along with those of the other Art Department instructors, stationed like statuary in Panini's Gallery of Views of Ancient Rome. (Reinhardt's is the large, topmost head just off center). And though Reinhardt is perhaps best known for his weighty, abstract black paintings, he was also a talented and prolific comic artist (all those years of copying out Krazy Kat must have amounted to something!) and both of these modes were recently on display at a large show of his work at a Manhattan gallery back in late 2013. But if you missed that, you can always come by the Collection to have a peek at these Dodger yearbooks, where you'll find a number of gems like the ones reproduced below:

The Stone Avenue Library Branch has stood at 581 Mother Gaston Boulevard for 100 years, and has recently celebrated that fact with a renovation and re-opening party. Of course, the street wasn't called Mother Gaston when the branch was built -- that came later, after local activist Rosetta "Mother" Gaston opened the Heritage House as an education and community center in this very library.  Another name change worth noting is that of the branch itself. Now known as the Stone Avenue Library, it first opened its doors in 1914 as the Brownsville Children's Library --...

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Children wait patiently outside the Brownsville Children's Library, c. 1930 A recent New York Times article touched on the history of this branch, but we think it's worth delving into a bit more deeply. At the end of the 19th century the Brownsville neighborhood was changing rapidly. What had once been a pastoral suburbia was developing into a dense urban community as thousands of immigrants -- almost entirely Eastern European Jews -- moved to the area. Demand for library services was high, perhaps in part because of crowded and unsanitary conditions at the tenements that sprouted up to house this new population. Then, as now, the library provided a communal space outside the home and the opportunity for self-edification. The original Brownsville Branch opened in 1905, operating out of the Alliance Building at Pitkin Avenue and Watkins Street.  Its circulation doubled twice in its first two years of operation, driven from the start by enthusiastic demand for juvenile fiction. According to a 1908 annual report, republished in Margaret B. Freeman's 1940 thesis The Brownsville Children's Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library : its origin and development, fully two-thirds of the branch librarians' time and effort was spent on the children's collections. "The little readers are the most insistent and are very willing to wait a whole afternoon for the return of a book they want." Crowded quarters in the Brownsville Branch children's room, 1909. In that same year a Carnegie-built Brownsville Branch opened in its own space, but still the demands of local children taxed the branch's resources. A plot of land was purchased at Stone and Dumont Avenues (the latter now called Mother Gaston Boulevard) -- just six blocks from the standing Brownsville Branch -- for the purpose of easing some of the burden. Clara Whitehill Hunt, who served as Superintendent of Work with Children for the Brooklyn Public Library, proposed a novel idea for the space -- that new building be just for children. Hunt included several design suggestions for the branch to serve the particular needs of its intended patrons. Practical suggestions included "1. We must get inside the building those long lines of children who have had to wait, out-of-doors, their turn at the loan and registration desks," and "5. Turnstiles are not needed, instead make the aisle beside the loan desk narrow. Children can be controlled better than grown-ups and turnstiles are dangerous with swarms of children." Indeed, Hunt thought of every last detail: "7. Woodwork should extend high enough so that dirty hands cannot reach the plaster." She was also adamant that the iron fence surrounding the library property have closely spaced bars, so that no curious heads could poke between the bars, only to find themselves stuck here. With these and many other specific recommendations folded into its architectural plan, the Brownsville Children's Library threw open its doors to welcome its target constitutency on September 24, 1914.  Even with Hunt's design specifications in place, as you can see above, the queue inside the Brownsville Children's Library still snaked back upon itself multiple times and ran out the door down the block. In the annual reports from the branch's early years, much is made of what came to be known as "the line", which formed daily as librarians struggled to check in returned books fast enough to meet the demand of children checking out books. As Freeman details in her thesis, this line often extended down Dumont Street and past the entrance of a local butcher's shop, who complained loudly that the crowds of eager readers -- albeit orderly and well-behaved -- were ruining his business by blocking his doorway.   You can hardly begrudge the patrons their eagerness to get inside the building -- in addition to all the books they could want, for free, the children also had access to the large fireplace pictured above and meeting spaces for their various clubs and clans. Decorative elements were added to tickle a young one's fancy, including the fantastical scene depicted in the fireplace tile as well as rabbits heads carved into the arms of the reading benches. "The rabbits' ears," Freeman wrote in 1940, "laid flat along their necks, are now worn to a satiny smoothness by the affectionate pats of small hands." In these years before the mass availability of popular entertainments like movies and music, libraries were a primary bridge to the outer world, be it real or fictional. Moreover, many of these children were living in crowded tenements, so access to a nook of one's own was a precious thing.  The Brownsville neighborhood changed as the 20th century wore on, losing much of its homogeneity as an Eastern European Jewish enclave when other populations moved in, including, over the years, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, and Arab-Americans. The branch saw a decline in its juvenile readership, which is explained in Freeman's survey by a rise in affluence among its original patron base, who could now afford to own their own copies of beloved titles.  In 1929 the branch extended its resources to teenagers, and it was in this location that the civic service group the Brownsville Boys Club held their planning meetings for several years. Above, a 1953 Brownsville Boys Club meeting. In that same year, the club would open a recreation center just off of Mother Gaston Boulevard and Linden Boulevard.  The center still stands today as part of the Brownsville Playground. After World War II the neighborhood saw even greater change.  Tenements were razed to make way for low income housing projects and the population was accordingly uprooted and resettled.  Today the branch is nestled among several housing projects -- the Van Dyke, Tilden, Brownsville, Howard and Seth Low Houses.  Juvenile readership declined with these neighborhood changes, and the need for a no-adults-allowed library branch was found to be less pressing.  Renamed the Stone Avenue Library and broadened again to serve patrons of all ages, it has continued to serve the Brownsville neighborhood alongside its predecessor branch just six blocks away.     Above and below, children's programs at the Stone Avenue Branch in the 1970s.  

“The History of Pizza in New York” with Scott WienerWednesday, April 30th 2014, 7:00pm Brooklyn Collection, Second Floor, Central Library Everyone loves pizza. Scott Wiener, however, loves pizza more than most people. In fact, he transitioned from a pizza enthusiast who dragged his friends on pizza adventures to a nationally-known “pizza expert.” He runs multiple highly-rated tours of pizzerias in NYC, writes a column for a pizza trade magazine, holds a Guinness World Record for the largest collection of pizza boxes, and even wrote a book titled Viva La Pizza! The art...

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Come see Doin' It In the Park

by Sarah
Apr 22, 2014

Come to the Brooklyn Public Central Library on Thursday, April 24, 2014 to see Doin’ It In the Park! The movie will play at the Dweck Center (follow arrows to the basement level). Showtime is at 7pm. Directed by Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau, this independent documentary explores the history, culture, and social influence of New York City’s summer basketball scene. As we all know, pick-up baseball is a way of life in New York City – according to the filmmakers, there are 700+ outdoor courts and an estimated 500,000 players. And despite the summer heat, there’s...

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Directed by Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau, this independent documentary explores the history, culture, and social influence of New York City’s summer basketball scene. As we all know, pick-up baseball is a way of life in New York City – according to the filmmakers, there are 700+ outdoor courts and an estimated 500,000 players. And despite the summer heat, there’s always someone willing to play. "You can play high school or college for four years. You can play Pro for a decade. You can play pick-up … for life." The directors visited 180 courts throughout the five boroughs, travelling to most locations on bike with their camera equipment and a ball in their backpacks. During their travels, they recorded the voices of both playground legends and people who simply love the game. Of course, Brooklyn is well represented. One of the characters in the film is James ‘Fly’ Williams, who used to dominate the courts of Brownsville, Brooklyn.  At Austin Peay University in Tennessee, he started on the college team and led the nation in scoring. He played in the now-defunct ABA for a season, and now he runs a basketball program for kids in Brooklyn. 

Kingsborough Golden Anniversary

by Ivy
Apr 14, 2014

Brooklynology is happy to present a guest blogger this week, historian John Manbeck. After 32 years teaching English at Kingsborough Community College and eight years as Brooklyn Borough Historian, Manbeck continued to write a column for The Brooklyn Daily Eagle for another eight years. He has authored/edited nine books on Brooklyn history and is now writing fiction. Back in 1967, I was looking for a job. I had just returned from a two year grant as a Fulbright professor at Helsinki University in Finland and applied for a professorial position at Kingsborough Community College in Manhattan...

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The Merchant Marine base as it appeared during World War II.  Photo supplied by John Manbeck When I walked through the gates, I felt I had walked onto a set for a Hollywood western. Sidewalks were wooden, buildings had been former barracks, and sand blew over the muddy roadways. Street signs heralded the names of naval heroes. The remains of the former Rainbow Bandshell, left from the Manhattan Beach Baths of the 1930—where big bands played, Danny Kaye got his start and Mayor LaGuardia held a war bond drive—wobbled as the wind blew through the superstructure. Above, a brochure from the Manhattan Beach Baths, an earlier tenant of this plot of land.  Below, images of how the decommissioned Merchant Marine base looked in 1967. Photos supplied by John Manbeck. Nearby were the remains of a freighter built on sand where recruits had trained; on Jamaica Bay waterfront hung lifeboat davits. The former officers’ club, with a substantial oak bar, had been a dance hall before World War II interrupted the party. By the gate was a gun used on Liberty Ships and a brig, used as an art studio by the school. A flagpole donated to the Manhattan Beach Baths had been at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair was still flying the flag over Brooklyn’s most recent college.   Because of lack of space while new classrooms were being created, Kingsborough had two additional campuses: West End on Manhattan Beach’s West End Avenue, and Mid-Brooklyn in the Masonic Temple in Fort Greene. The college also had an amenity no other New York City college could claim: a private beach on the campus where life guard chairs and barbecue stoves were soon erected. Until the college, and the community college concept, gained wider recognition, classes were small: not more than 20 to a room where merchant mariners had studied. A typical Manhattan Beach scene from the 1960s.  Initially the academic structure was designed around six divisions consisting of departments: Division 1 for Liberal Arts contained English, Languages, Art and Music, for instance. Students who attended were experimenting with higher education, had difficulty passing CUNY’s admission tests, or used the community college to build their academic grades so they could transfer to a top senior college. Within the next five years, the campus began to take shape with the temporary buildings—former barracks—replaced by new construction with a library, theater, gymnasium with pool and marine center. The ancillary campuses closed—the Fort Greene site became home for the new Medgar Evers College—sending the Kingsborough students to Manhattan Beach and enrolling in the new academic programs now available, including the college’s own FM radio station, the first in New York City in 40 years.

The Eagle has Landed!

by Ivy
Apr 10, 2014

Yes, the long wait is over!  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper is available in its entirety (or as near as we can hope to get to its entirety) as a free, searchable database online.  Those who have used our Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online database, which offered the Eagle from 1841 to 1902, will be pleased to learn that the second half of the Eagle, 1903 to 1955, is finally open for research online.  You can search the database, browse specific dates of the paper, print or save articles, and share them through the social media outlet of your choice through our new historic...

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Above, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle building in downtown Brooklyn in the 1920s.  Below, the same eagle that brooded over its entrance arrives at Brooklyn Public Library fifty years later.    Brooklyn Newsstand is a newspaper digitization initiative between the Brooklyn Collection and Newspapers.com. This partnership gives the public free access to the full run of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper, which was published from 1841 to 1955.  Thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, Brooklyn Public Library was able to digitize a microfilmed copy of the Eagle from 1841 to 1902 and make those years searchable in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online database in 2003. With the second phase of digitization completed by Newspapers.com, using microfilm master negatives from the Library of Congress, the full breadth of the Eagle, and the history it documented, is now available for general research. You can learn more about the history of this influential Brooklyn newspaper here. We will continue to digitize more historic Brooklyn periodicals in the near future, so check back often to see what new resources are on offer. Founded in 1841 by Isaac Van Anden and Henry Cruse Murphy, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle was published as a daily newspaper for 114 consecutive years without missing a single edition. At one point the Eagle actually became the nation's most widely read afternoon newspaper. Unusual among major metropolitan daily newspapers of that time period, the Eagle chronicled national and international affairs as well as local news and daily life in Brooklyn. As a result The Brooklyn Daily Eagle provides a window into Brooklyn's past, as well as documentation of national and international events that shaped history. The rise and fall of the Eagle coincided with economic development in Brooklyn. The paper folded in 1955 after a prolonged strike called by the New York Newspaper Guild. At the time it closed it employed 681 people and did an annual business in the sum of approximately $6 million.

We've become a monoculture of list readers. With the advent of Buzzfeed and the like, we've grown accustomed to sifting though these monotonous lists to identify if we saw that movie or had that toy as a child. Admit it, you totally read these articles. Did you see the one about the 58 worst things that happen on social media? Or the 19 questions people with moustaches are tired of hearing? And don't get me started on all the quizzes.  Recently, while scrolling through my newsfeed, I came across a Buzzfeed article about the 60 things you probably didn't know about New York...

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        Clarence D. McKenzie, July 1861 2. Shortly after the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, there was a panic on the bridge when a woman's heel got caught in the wooden planks.  She screamed and those around her thought the bridge was collapsing, causing a rush off the bridge. 12 people died in the stampede.  Panic on the bridge. May 30, 1883 3. Steeplechase Park held an annual "Most Beautiful Grandmother Contest", beginning in 1932. 4. Brooklyn had its very own ice hockey team named the Brooklyn Americans (although they weren't very good). 5. Borough President John Cashmore wrote Dodgers star Jackie Robinson a heartwarming letter in 1949 after reading a story about him in the Brooklyn Eagle.  Letter to Jackie Robinson from John Cashmore.  August 15, 1949. 6. The Brooklyn Public Library offered classes for women entering or re-entering the workforce including, "Make-up and Hair Design for the Working Woman" and "Capsule Dressing" in 1983.   7. To demonstrate against unfair sanitation practices, residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant organized a "cleansweep" of their streets, bringing all the uncollected garbage to the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall on September 15, 1962.           "Bernard Hall Telling It Like It Is" 8. FDR visited Ebbets Field while campaigning for his 4th term as president. 9. Erasmus Hall High School was established in 1787. 10. Brooklyn Borough Hall had WPA murals which depicted the history of Brooklyn from 1609 to 1898.  The project took two years to complete and covered 900 square feet.     "GI of '18--These are soldiers of the last war, as represented on the wall at Borough Hall." Brooklyn Eagle, July 26, 1945 11. And in 1946, they were torn down. 12. In 1942, the Brooklyn Navy Yard made a call for women to apply for work as mechanics, painters and welders for the first time in their 141-year history.  20,000 women applied.  Women on their first day of work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. September 14, 1942. 13. The Howard Colored Orphan Asylum was located on Troy and Dean Avenues. Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, ca 1910 14. Dreamland Park in Coney Island had a "midget" fire department.                                       15. A portion of Long Island University is housed in the former Paramount Theatre.  Paramount Theatre, January 17, 1955 16.  Mickey Rooney was born in Brooklyn on September 23, 1920.  He began his acting career in his parents' vaudeville act at 17 months old.  He died yesterday (April 6, 2014) at the ripe old age of 93.             Mickey Rooney and Sally Forrest at Loew's Metropolitan Theatre, October 13, 1951  17. Before talkies, Midwood was a center of movie making and home to the Vitagraph Studio.   Vitagraph Studio's dressing rooms under construction, 1926. 18. Parking was a problem even in 1954!  Brooklyn Eagle, May 27, 1954 19. In 1914, the Brooklyn Public Library opened the first library in the world devoted exclusively to children in Brownsville.  It is now the Stone Avenue branch. 

As an undergraduate studing history, I've enjoyed spending my past semester interning at the Brooklyn Collection. Because of my love for all things sports, I jumped at the opportunity to help create an exhibit focused on the history of sports in Brooklyn. I quickly realized that there's so much more to Brooklyn's sports history than the Brooklyn Dodgers! I sorted through hundreds of old photographs, newspaper clippings, and even yearbooks to create a diverse representation of sports in Brooklyn. Come check out the display in the Brooklyn Collection (on the 2nd floor balcony...

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The Brooklyn Collection Photo Archive It turns out Overton Tremper was a popular guy during his time. Tracing his history through the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, I discovered Tremper’s unusual background ... and despite whatever impressions the image above might create, he was never an aspiring model. Brooklyn-born Tremper expertly balanced academics and baseball. He grew up playing on the Parade Grounds, and became a star academic and player for Erasmus High School and then Poly Prep. While studying for a degree in economics, he continued his baseball career at the University of Pennsylvania. He made only one error as a centerfielder on the freshman team in 1924, and finished with a batting average of .410. He became captain of the varsity team in 1927, and according to his coach Doc Cariss, he was “one of the best college hitters.” Cariss went on to say, “He is easily the best outfielder in the Eastern ranks today and there is no reason in the world why he shouldn’t make the major league grade.”   Brooklyn Eagle - June 5, 1927  As his coach predicted, Tremper signed on with the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1927 team with a $10,000 bonus. His contract with the Dodgers caused public outrage.  John McGraw of the New York Giants announced that Tremper had accepted financial aid from the Giants to pay for his Ivy League education, with the assumption that McGraw’s investment required Tremper to play for them. Tremper publically confirmed that he had received payment from the Giants during his college career. Defending his choice, Tremper said, “I could have gone to a bank, borrowed $1,000 and there would have been no objections. Instead, I borrowed from a ball club and paid it back. What’s the difference?” (As a side note, this entire situation is HIGHLY illegal in today’s world of sports.)  Brooklyn Eagle - June 27, 1927 Despite the debate that complicated his professional baseball debut, Tremper proved relatively unsuccessful in the major leagues. According to a Brooklyn Eagle article published on August 11, 1928, journalist Thomas Holmes wrote, “Probably [New York Giants Manager John] McGraw felt avenged when Tremper failed to show hitting ability or fielding talent to justify all the fuss about him.” The Dodgers quietly demoted him to the minor leagues in his second season, and he was eventually dropped by the team. Not yet willing to give up his love of the game, Tremper started to play semi-pro baseball in Brooklyn in the 1930s. Becoming a household name in the area, he first played for the Bay Parkways and then the Bushwicks.  

Earlier this month, Brooklyn Connections educators – Christine, Kaitlin and Brendan – descended on Albuquerque, New Mexico for the annual National Council for History Education (NCHE) Conference. Christine Kaitlin Brendan Excitement over this conference was twofold; well maybe three if you count the added bonus of temporarily escaping winter’s reach for a few glorious days …   Santa Clara, NM … ok, twofold: 1) it offered the opportunity to replace our educator hats with those of students eager to soak up historical antidotes and best practices...

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Christine Kaitlin Brendan Excitement over this conference was twofold; well maybe three if you count the added bonus of temporarily escaping winter’s reach for a few glorious days …   Santa Clara, NM … ok, twofold: 1) it offered the opportunity to replace our educator hats with those of students eager to soak up historical antidotes and best practices from colleagues around the country; and 2) Christine would accept the prestigious Paul A. Gagnon Prize, an award bestowed to the educator who contributes significantly to promoting history education in the U.S. You cannot imagine how proud we are of Christine and furthermore what her achievement says about the importance and relevancy of the Brooklyn Connections Program, and by extension the Brooklyn Collection as a whole – go Christine! Christine's Paul A. Gagnon Prize The two-day NCHE Conference presented a plethora of breakout sessions equally devoted to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), an ever present thought in the minds of today’s educators, and using history, and specifically primary sources, to help students develop critical thinking and college readiness skills. Topics overlapped many of the new social movements curricula Brooklyn Connections is establishing thanks to the generosity of the David and Paula Weiner Memorial Grant, including gender, race and environmental issues. Topics of particular interest to Brooklyn Connections educators grappled with how to teach students to identify bias in historical dialogue, become self-reliant when searching for facts and make historical connections to self. It was especially pleasing to hear how valuable, if not completely essential, library and archival collections are to educators in their quest to teach these skills. Day one’s keynote speaker, Patty Limerick, was a particular inspiration to us all. A faculty member at the University of Colorado, Patty candidly acknowledged the all-too-common fear educators encounter as they find themselves losing touch with new generations of students that don’t abide by the old order of learning (we can relate). However, she didn’t stop there; after admitting her fear and subsequent bitterness over the fact, Patty did what many of us don’t have the insight to do – she accepted it and made amends to cease judging and change herself to meet the needs of this new generation of students rather than sticking to what she felt comfortable with from the past (insert moment of pause). Our intellect adequately filled we set off to satisfy some of our other appetites, including the following: Enchiladas   Cacti Sandia Peak Tramway

The book "Brooklyn Bounce: The Highs and Lows of Nets Basketball's Historic First Season in the Borough" documents the first year of the Brooklyn Nets. The arrival of the team and the rise of the Barclays Center was accompanied by much public discussion, heated at times. The sports writer Jake Appleman shadowed the team for the first year in Brooklyn and chronicled its many (sometimes unexpected) highs and lows. To prepare yourself for the conversation, please take a look at the interview with Jake Appleman. Join us this Wednesday evening, March 26, at 7:00p.m. in the Brooklyn...

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Prospect Park, Two by Two - Part Two

by Brendan
Mar 19, 2014

This is the second part of a two-part blog post on the Prospect Park Zoo, read the first part here. End radio silence. "The good ship West Point has been heard from. All fears that the prowling warships of the European combatants had intercepted it and carried off the animals, perhaps to provide amusement for the Kaiser's grandsons or the young Russian Grand Dukes, have been laid to rest" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 7, 1914). A few days later the animals arrived safely but, on the day of the grand parade and exhibition, it rained. A lot. Commissioner Ingersoll postponed the opening...

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Prospect Park Menagerie card. 19-?, Brooklyn Collection. Brooklyn Public Library.  On April 21st, 1916, with the help of Brooklyn's citizens, both average and high-profile, the first of three proposed wings opend to the public.  Prospect Park Zoo, Brooklyn, N.Y., Postcard, 191-?, Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library.  Watching The Seals At Zoo, Brooklyn, N.Y., Postcard, 191-?, Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library.  The new facility had more room for the animals who currently resided at the zoo and additional space for more exotic animals. Chicken hawks arrived from outer Queens, homeless after their house took an unfortunate tumble.  Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 2, 1916.Battalion C, Second Field Artillery, sent a wildcat and a coyote from the Texas border. Both animals were trapped for the express purposes of sending them to Prospect Park. Not the best way to acquire animals, no doubt, but I'm sure they meant well. On October 3rd, 1916, a polar bear moved into 12 Den Row. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 3, 1916."He did not do like a well-seasoned house hunter on moving in, however. He did not run around to see if the gas range was working, if the radiators leaked, an if the wall paper was unmarked. No; he simply yelped and plunged ker-flop into his bathtub" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle). New animals were not the only exciting development in 1916. A surprise letter from Francis Bostock, son of Frank Bostock, showed up at the zoo. Francis was stationed in Salonika and his mother had sent him a clipping from the Eagle detailing a very special birthday party. The party was for the daughter of a former family employee and the party's guest of honor (aside from the birthday girl) was Old Baltimore, one of Frank's lions. Francis sent his regards to all of the animals and expressed a hope that he might one day more to Brooklyn and see them again. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 20, 1916.The Eagle reported on all of the new arrivals in great detail as well as, sadly, some unplanned departures.  Two lion cubs were brought to the zoo in October of 1916 after being born at sea to proud papa, Satan.No, that isn't typo. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 15, 1916. Satan was one of the stars of a wild animal show at the New York Hippodrome. The cubs did not take well to their new surroundings and, after one of the cubs died in early January of 1917, the second cub began to lose its hair and refuse food. A month after its littermate passed, the second cub "died of distemper and grief... at last he turned up his toes and went that place where we are told the lion will lay down with the lamb - if it chooses a corner where the breeze will not carry to the lion the odor of mutton." One of the keepers remarked that "raising lion cubs seems to be as delicate an operation as growing eggplants" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 13, 1917). I would venture that raising cubs is more challenging than growing eggplants. But what do I know?Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 13, 1917.Not all departures were so tragic, nor so permanent. Bismark, a lion, choked on a large piece of meat during one of his feedings. The keeper had already walked away to continue his rounds and, upon his return, he found Bismark weak and losing consciousness. The keeper sprang into action, sticking a garden hose down the lion's throat in hopes that Bismark's reflexes would dislodge the obstruction. Huzzah, it worked! Bismark, I'm sure, took smaller bites from then on. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 4, 1918.And what zoo tail (see what I did there?) would be complete without a good jailbreak? Meet Jimmie Coati, a sneaky Central-American cousin of the raccoon. Jimmie committed an unspeakable act and then used his nose to flip the latch on his pen and escape one warm July night. Maybe you think from the name "Jimmie" Coati, who most certainly did 'rock the boat' before they got him back in the pen, comes from the olive groves of sunny Italy. He does not; he is Mexican with a heart of a brigand and no soul, is James Coati. He proved it soon after he came to the park by blossoming out as the zoo's only criminal. Conceiving a violent dislike of his wife, he slew the old-lady one day, and since he eliminated her from the scheme of his little world he has lived a life of single blessedness. Finally, the one-eyed brigand was trapped and put back in his pen after his finger-prints had been taken. There is his now, very sour, with a bolt fastened to the catch which defies the nosiest nose that ever grows on coati. (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 16, 1916.) As of 1923, just under a decade after the Eagle worked tirelessly to acquire a portion of the Bostock collection, the same Eagle remarked that the hand-me-down animals were dying and the new houses, all three wings having been completed, were crumbling. The Prospect Park Zoo would go through many more periods of great change over the course of the 20th century. It was taken over by the city in 1935 at the behest of Robert Moses, fell into ruin alongside much of New York in the 1970s and 80s, and was revitalized in the 1990s, as were the rest of the Wildlife Conservation Society's parks. The Prospect Park Zoo has given millions of New Yorkers the chance to see the natural world up close. However dubious the origins of zoos, there is something irrefutably special about communing with nature. And something even more special about challenging it to a (soda) drinking contest.

Prospect Park, Two by Two - Part One

by Brendan
Mar 13, 2014

I have always had a fondness for zoos. I used to work with a zoological park in Washington State and volunteered with one here in New York City. I love that even though we live in an urban jungle we can travel to a jungle in Asia or South America for the price of a subway ride (and general admission). Zoos were not always magical places. Many of the early menageries and zoos collected animals by trapping them in the wild and placing them in cramped cages that looked nothing like their native environment. Today, the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the zoos and the aquarium here in...

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Paging Bo Peep, World News. March 25, 1945.  (The above photo from the World News was found in the "morgue" and shows two tiny lambs in the London Zoo hiding from the Nazis. It doesn't have anything to do with this post, but look at how amazing it is!) The original design for Prospect Park included a zoological garden which never came to fruition during the construction of the park in the 1860s. A fairly informal menagerie was created in 1890 to showcase a smattering of animals including elk and sheep. Many people found the animals to be quite a nuisance; they made noise and smelled like, well, animals. Elks in Prospect Park, 190-?. Brooklyn Eagle Postcard Collection, 70. Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library. What's more, Manhattan already had a legitimate menagerie in Central Park (1864) which was nearly thirty years older and far more permanent than the one on the grassy knolls of Prospect Park. As the 19th century came to a close, the menagerie began to acquire more animals and a permanent place within the park's identity. In 1898, the Prospect Park menagerie was one of the few places in the country to host a baby bison. This was (and remains, to me at least) super exciting. Prospect Park's bison, identified as buffalo (a bit of a misnomer), in this print from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 22, 1898. By the turn of the century millions of bison had been slaughtered and there were thought to be no more than 1,000 left in the country. One of those supposed 1,000 lived in Prospect Park. He was big. He was brown. And, by all accounts, he was lonely. George V. Brower, the Parks Commissioner, had been searching the country for a female bison (cow) to bring to Brooklyn. This proved to be an insurmountable task, as most of the remaining animals were in private collections and could not be purchased. Serendipitously, Brower came into contact with a Kansas man had recently purchased a small herd from a tribe who could no longer care for them. The man was willing to sell one of his newly acquired cows. This was a lucky break for Brower (and for the cow) as the man had purchased the herd with plans of slaughtering them for winter meat. Side Note: The idea of slaughtering a herd of critically endangered animals makes my heart hurt. So, for $500 and the cost of shipping, the Prospect Park bison was given a mate. When the cow arrived via Wells-Fargo wagon "the delight of the lonesome bull at seeing one of his own kind was a cheerful spectacle. They rubbed noses though the bars in a most affectionate manner. In a very short time they were given the same cage, and were friends from the moment this was done" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 22, 1898). Commissioner Brower was exceedingly proud of his purchase. I'm pretty happy with his purchase, too. I am a big fan of the buffalo. Over the years, both the Central Park Zoo and the Bronx Zoo (here is where I switch from 'menagerie' to 'zoo', as the words were being used interchangeably since the early 20th century) padded the Prospect Park Zoo with 'extra' animals, among them bears and coyotes. Other donations came in from private collections. In July of 1900, the zoo opened a flying bird cage (a cage for flying birds, not a cage that flew) and also acquired "a Columbian black-tailed deer, a pronghorn antelope, five swift foxes, two gray wolves, six woodchucks, two red foxes, four American flamingos, one dusky horned owl, and two coral snakes" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 8, 1900).  New Bear Cage in Prospect Park, 190-?. Brooklyn Eagle Postcard Collection, 10. Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library. Not to be outdone by other boroughs, Brookynites began calling for an updated park to match the grandeur of New York City's other zoological gardens. But if the zoo in Prospect Park was to be taken seriously it needed an influx of even more new animals and a more modern facility to keep them in. Cue Frank Bostock. Bostock Arena, Dreamland, Coney Island, N.Y. circa 1905. Library of Congress.  Frank Bostock was an entertainment mogul in true 19th century fashion. The Bostock family had been involved in traveling circuses for decades in both England and abroad. His animal shows contained all the drama of the circus (if circuses are your thing): lion tamers, acrobatic bears, and snake charmers. As of 1903, 'Bostock's Wild Animal Show' had a permanent home in Dreamland, one of the amusement parks at Coney Island. He also had a reputation for animal cruelty, but that's a another post. 1911 was a bad year for both Bostock and Coney Island. Dreamland caught fire and burned to the ground. Tragically, few of Bostock's animals could be saved from the blaze. Frank Bostock would follow the next year, dying at 46 years old of a stroke. His animal shows would continue, but on a smaller scale.  Dreamland fire, 1911. Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library.  Cue WWI. Out of the frying pan, as they say. As of July, 1914, Europe was at war. Bostock's European animal collection needed a new, safe home, and fast. Some of the animals were quickly purchased by Hollywood, others by zoological associations, and a few went to other wild animal shows. In October of that year, Brooklyn threw its hat into the mix by purchasing 70 animals of her very own. Lions don't come cheap, however. Cue Brooklynites. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle spearheaded a project to raise money to purchase the animals. The debt was to be paid before the animals were shipped. Readers were asked to send in donations to 'buy' the animals for the Prospect Park Zoo. Anyone who purchased an animal would be given the right to (re)name it.  Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 18, 1914. When the money started rolling in, the Eagle felt confident they could pay the bill and officially purchased the animals and ordered the whole lot shipped. "Hurrah! The animals for the Prospect Park zoo are by now on the high seas en route from England to America and Prospect Park. It was a veritable Noah's Ark that embarked today and the lions roared, the bears gave grunts of satisfaction, and the monkeys chattered vigorously, no doubt speculating on all the fun they would have when they ensconced in the new zoo..." (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 21, 1914).  Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 18, 1914. The total cost was $3000. Roughly $2000 was to be the responsibility of the citizens of Brooklyn. Parks Commissioner (and later Borough President) Raymond Ingersoll urged all Brooklynites to participate. He called on kids to send in their milk money, called on grandparents to buy gifts for their grandchildren, called on all Brooklyn fathers to donate $1, and even called on park employees. Employees of Prospect Park ended up buying three bears. When your boss tells you to buy a bear, you ask how many.  Henry Milton's Junior Eagle Zoological Society Membership Card, 1914. Brooklyn Collection. If the animals were purchased in segments, the owners had to agree upon a name. It turns out naming zoo animals can be a fairly divisive process. The Berkely Institute (now the Berkely-Carroll School in Park Slope) purchased 1/2 a lion. "The Berkely Institute has decided that it wants that part of the lion that roars, being that part which takes in the head and the front legs, and the more noise that it makes the better... they do not care as to what the name will be, as far as that is concerned. It can be called Dave, Tom or Jerry. It must be a lion with a heavy, shaggy mane, and they probably prefer the name Dave to any other" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 19, 1914). This put the lion in an interesting predicament. Who would purchase the back half? Dave Porter, apparently, a real estate agent with northern Irish roots. Porter was happy to purchase the lion's rear as long as he could pick both the name and gender. After some careful thought, however, the Berkely Institute changed their mind. 1/2 a lion was not sufficient. They wanted the whole shebang. Thus, the lion was thrown back into limbo. Now, the front 1/2 was up for grabs! As troubling as lion purchasing can be, it can also unite nations. Yes, it is that powerful. A letter came to the Eagle on October 26th, 1914. Dave Porter's half lion must not be allowed longer to suffer. We've got home rule in Ireland now and there is no reason why a South of Ireland man shouldn't be proud to own half a lion with a North of Ireland man. Buy me the other half of Dave Porter's lion and let it typify 'Unified Ireland' in the new zoo. But I want the better half, just the same. If Dave feels otherwise, why we'll have to fight it out in good old Irish style, though, of course, as an Irishman I'm not looking for a fight. - Mr. Jack Ryan Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 26, 1914. The collection continued to grow. On October 25th, Mrs. G. V. Cartwright inquired about an animal she could purchase in full, making it clear that she would not be sharing. Thus, because of Mrs. Cartwright's generosity (and originality?), the zoo got a kangaroo named The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. (Eat your heart out, North West.) Mr. Charles Higgins bought a leopard, the most expensive animal at the collection valued at $150, and named him Gowane. The Orpheum Theater bought a bear and, even if the bear couldn't sing, his name was to be Orpheum.  Not all of the animals were coming via ark, however. Mrs. Ruth Hill donated two small alligators for whom Commissioner Ingersoll had to scramble to create some sort of special enclosure. It was not explained where she got them nor where she had been keeping them. I'm guessing sewer and bathtub, respectively. Madam Adgie, a patriotic Brooklynite and circus performer whose trained lions rivaled Bostock's, donated a lion cub and the 'services' of a male lion for breeding purposes. Generosity abounds! Every day the Eagle would publish a list of the animals still available for purchase.

Spring Teacher Professional Developments

by Christine
Feb 27, 2014

We here at the Brooklyn Collection are pleased to announce two FREE professional development opportunities for teachers in spring 2014.  The professional developments are open to all English Language Arts and Social Studies teachers who teach grades 4 - 12.  Brooklyn and the Civil Rights Movement on May 15, 2014, 9:00am-3:00pm with special guest speaker Dr. Brian Purnell.  Explore the Brooklyn Collection's original Civil Rights materials.  Learn about the efforts of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which included protests, community clean-ups, marches,...

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Brooklyn and the Civil Rights Movement on May 15, 2014, 9:00am-3:00pm with special guest speaker Dr. Brian Purnell.  Explore the Brooklyn Collection's original Civil Rights materials.  Learn about the efforts of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which included protests, community clean-ups, marches, and a sit-in at the Brooklyn Board of Education.  This workshop will provide teachers with the content knowledge and materials needed to help students explore Brooklyn's role in the Civil Rights Movement.  Teachers will have time to connect with the CORE collection and will sample lessons, including the new Social Movement Project Packet: Civil Rights Movement in Brooklyn, funded by the David and Paula Weiner Memorial Grant and written by historian and NYU Professor Daniel J. Walkowitz and Brooklyn Connections staff.  Each teacher will take home an extensive packet of resources that can be used in the classroom. Brian Purnell's book, Fighting Jim Crow in the County Of Kings:The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn On June 6, Brooklyn-Queens Day, teachers are welcome to join us for a tour of Green-Wood Cemetery at 9:00am (please be prepared to walk).  After the tour, we will take a historic trolley to the Central Library and practice using primary sources and non-fiction texts.  Participants will have the opportunity to research some of the "permanent residents" they learned about during the tour.  Teachers will also be shown techniques for using Brooklyn Collection materials to fulfill Common Core Standards and develop new methods for increasing student engagement with local history topics. The full-day professional development will end at 3:00pm and a Common Core aligned packet of resources will be given to take home.

Brooklyn's Carnegie Libraries

by Ivy
Feb 25, 2014

This blog post looks at Andrew Carnegie's library legacy in the microcosm of one borough, but those interested in a wider-angle view of the philanthropist and industrialist are encouraged to attend a lecture by Carnegie biographer David Nasaw in the Dweck Center at Brooklyn's Central Library this Sunday, March 2nd, at 1:00pm. RSVP for free tickets here: http://brooklynpubliclibrary.brownpapertickets.com/. An eager line outside the Brownsville Branch library, 1908. In the Brooklyn Collection we have a few boxes of photographs documenting that special, revered category of library --...

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An eager line outside the Brownsville Branch library, 1908. In the Brooklyn Collection we have a few boxes of photographs documenting that special, revered category of library -- the Carnegie branch.  For those of us who didn't learn about the steel magnate's bibliophilic legacy in the United States in library school, I'll give a brief overview.  Andrew Carnegie was in many ways a poster boy for the American dream -- an immigrant from Scotland, he rose to the top of the Gilded Age heap after working his way from lowly telegraph assistant to head of his own steel conglomerate at a very opportune moment -- that is, the birth of the United States' extensive railroad system.  After amassing his impressive fortune (with $480 million in the bank in 1901, he was for a time the richest man in the world) Andrew Carnegie devoted his time to philanthropy.   Below, a portrait of the magnate as a young man. Attributing his own ascent to prominence to free access to books during a crucial period in his adolescence, Carnegie set out to establish free libraries across the nation and the world for the edification of similar ambitious youths.  The deal he offered to communities was a generous one: if they could demonstrate need, provide land, commit future financial support, and pledge to remain free to the public, any locality could get funds to build and furnish their very own brick-and-mortar library.  The deal was an irresistable one; more than 1,500 Carnegie-sponsored libraries went up in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century.   Above and below, views of Brooklyn's Pacific branch, built in 1904 and the first of many branches built in this borough through Andrew Carnegie's campaign. Brooklyn was no exception to this philanthropic spree.  Although some library service already existed in the borough, Carnegie's contribution kickstarted the drive to put a branch in every neighborhood.  Eighteen of Brooklyn Public Library's current-day branches were built with Carnegie funds.  Of these, today's Stone Avenue branch first made fame as the Brownsville Children's Library -- the world's first library devoted to the reading habits of little ones.  The Park Slope branch recently received a major renovation, perhaps making it once again the "most pretentious" of the Carnegie-funded branches, as the Brooklyn Citizen described it at its opening in 1906.   Below, the showy Prospect Park branch around the time of its opening.  Now known as the Park Slope branch, it is oddly prescient that this building was deemed a bit much from the beginning. It is not difficult to find information about these century-old libraries that continue to serve their constituents (albeit in somewhat compromised conditions, as even far-sighted Carnegie couldn't predict our recent need for laptop plug-ins and bean-bag-strewn teen spaces); it is harder to track down details of the Carnegie libraries that failed the test of time.  It is certainly no secret that the Pacific branch -- the very first of the Carnegie libraries to be built in this borough -- is facing potential demolition now that it has found itself in poor physical shape and, coincidentally, next door to one of Brooklyn's hottest properties, the Barclays Center.  Have we lost other historical gems through the years?  The answer is yes. The South Branch was constructed in 1905 at the corner of 51st Street and 4th Avenue in today's Sunset Park neighborhood. Above, a rendering of the South Branch and below, a photograph of its interior taking shortly after its opening. The building was declared obsolete in 1970 and demolished.  A new branch quickly went up in its place and opened to the public in 1972.  More in keeping with the design ethos of its time, today's Sunset Park branch may not be as architecturally appreciated as its Classical Revival forbear, but it does at least fulfill the Carnegie promise of operating on the same plot of land.   Another Classical Revival branch that was lost to the ravages of time and dilapidation was the original Greenpoint Branch.  Opened in 1906 and praised by the Greenpoint Star for its "tasteful simplicity", this building also succumbed in 1970.   Above, the Greenpoint Branch around the time of its opening in 1906.  Below, a sad view of its demolition in 1970.  As with the former South Branch site, a new library quickly opened up in the footprint of its predecessor. Most tragic, perhaps, is the plight of the original Red Hook library branch.  Built in a Mediterranean Revival style, the branch stood out against the typical brick and brownstone facades of Brooklyn.  At the time of its opening, much was made of its "open-air reading room". Above, a headline from the April 21, 1915 Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper announcing the new branch.  Below, exterior and interior views of the branch shortly after it opened. This unique branch was closed in 1946 due to extensive damage from a fire the previous year.  As this letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, published on July 27, 1947 stressed, no mere fire could gut a community of its need for the services offered by a library.

Please join us this Wednesday, February 26th, for an evening with Lucia Trimbur, author of Come Out Swinging: the changing world of boxing in Gleason's Gym.  Founded in the Bronx in 1937, Gleason's Gym moved to Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood in the 1980s and remains there to this day, even as redevelopment and an influx of wealth transformed the waterfront area.  A holdover from the "golden age" of boxing, Gleason's itself has transformed through the years; the changing demographic of its clientele reflects broader trends beyond the roped boundaries of the boxing ring. ...

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From the June 12, 1949 Brooklyn Eagle newspaper: "Boxing bouts are responsible for some of those big muscles featured by all members of Coney Island Athletic Association." We are also pleased to announce a new exhibit in the Brooklyn Collection, which coincides with the theme of tonight's lecture.  "Sports in Brooklyn" surveys the history of the borough at play, looking past the obvious athletic icons (dem bums, that is) to the recreational passtimes of everyday Brooklynites -- the basketball teams, cycling clubs, and junior boxing leagues that fluorished as Brooklynites tested one another's mettle in various forms of physical exertion. 

And the Medal Goes To...

by June
Feb 19, 2014

After watching the Winter Olympic games in Sochi for the last two weeks, I got to wondering, how many individuals from Brooklyn had participated in the winter spectacular?  I mean, let's face it: Kings County and Alpine skiing don't really go hand in hand.  Where would people practice?  I know, I know, there is Prospect Park, and I have seen people on cross-country skis there.  But one slide down Mt. Prospect and a mogul skier is headed straight for Eastern Parkway, or over Copley Plaza.  I suppose with all the snow and ice lately, officials could turn Flatbush Avenue...

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But I digress. After some research, it turns out there are quite a few Brooklynites who have participated in the Winter Olympic games throughout the years.  One of them, Charles Downing Lay, wasn't an athlete, but an urban planner, and in 1936 he won a silver medal in the town planning category for his design of Marine Park at the IV Olympic Winter Games in Germany. From 1912 to 1948, works of art inspired by athletics were an integral part of Olympic competition. His design of the sports and recreation complex was the first award won by an American during these games, which were hosted by the Sports Office of the Third Reich.                Lay was a modern day Renaissance Man -- an accomplished painter, architect, writer, landscape architect, and urban designer, who designed numerous parks around the country, including Jones Beach. He lent his expertise to the redevelopment of Albany, as well as to the general plan for Saguenay River Park in Canada.  Originally from Newburgh, New York he and his wife lived at 199 Montgomery Place in Park Slope for a while, before moving to the old Mott Bedell house at 11 Cranberry Street. A lover of big cities, Lay had strong opinions about how people could ideally live in them.  "I am interested in everything about the city. I do not believe in the back-to-the-land movement carried to extremes....Far more practical is it to bring the country into the town. In 1931 he was chosen to design Brooklyn's Marine Park with a budget of $40,000,000.  His drawings were exhibited in the print gallery at the Brooklyn Museum in 1933.               

Please join us this coming Wednesday, February 19th, at 6:30pm for a special closing reception.  We've had the deep pleasure of working with photographer Elizabeth Felicella during her residency at the Brooklyn Public Library and we invite the public to meet the artist and view some of the images she's captured in her months-long exploration of Brooklyn's Central Library building.  The Brooklyn Collection is located on the 2nd floor balcony level of the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza.  Wine and cheese will be served.

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Over the past few weeks, it seems as though every other day a mess of snow, sleet, and rain has fallen on our fair city, only to become a sheet of treacherous ice in the days following. New Yorkers have been running to the local supermarkets to buy the necessities ('necessities' being an incredibly subjective term: milk and bottled water for one person might be chips and a bottle of wine for another) and stopping at the hardware store to purchase the last remaining bag of salt and a leftover garden trowel, the only shovel to be found in a twenty block radius.  Even though we've been...

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Central Library, ca. 1940. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection.  Taking a walk down memory lane, one coated in ice, we can see that New Yorkers have been faced with many a snow storm. We had a nasty one in 1996, another in 1980, and a big ol' blizzard in 1947.  Blizzard of '47, Vincent L. Stibler. Brooklyn Public Library. Brooklyn Collection.  Blizzard of '47, Vincent L. Stibler. Brooklyn Public Library. Brooklyn Collection.  And of course, the Blizzard of 1888. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 13, 1888.  On March 12th, 1888, a great storm ravaged New York.  Shortly after 12:00am on Monday morning, what was rain and sleet quickly turned over into snow. By 10:30am, Brooklyn's Fulton Street was a ghost town. Only a few stores were open and walkways were filling up with snow as fast as the men could shovel them. By noon, milk deliveries had ceased. Although the milkmen had the supply, the horses were exhausted and frozen. Schools closed early, the attendance being so meager that most people questioned why they were open at all. (Did we just pull that last line from a recent De Blasio press conference? As Mark Twain said, "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.") The snow grew more intense. It was said that you couldn't see New Jersey, Brooklyn, or even Governor's Island from the tip of Manhattan. The wind howled, whistled, banged, roared, and moaned as it rushed along. It fell upon the house sides in fearful gusts, it strained the great plate glass windows, rocked the frame houses, and pressed against the doors so that it was almost dangerous to open them. It was visible, substantial wind, so freighted was it with snow. It came in whirls, it descended in layers, it shot along in great blocks, it rose and fell and corkscrewed and zigzagged and played merry havoc with everything it could swing or batter or bang or carry away. New York Evening Sun By 6:00am on the 13th, the snow stopped. The winds had calmed. All in all, 21" fell on New York, with winds at times reaching 85 mph. Snow drifts of 20' towered over some areas of the city. Birds lay dead amid piles of debris, having frozen or been knocked about by the wind. The total cost of the storm would be $5,913,000.  Blizzard of March, 1888, Morris Betts. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection.  As with most storms, with snow comes hyperbolic rumors. A report was made that the Greenpoint ferry was lost due to the storm. It wasn't lost, simply buried. Some of the rumors, however, turned out to be quite true indeed. Many men were reported missing. And many of the missing men were found drunk. Some folks became so inebriated they were collected by the police and, eventually, returned to their homes. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, "It is a singular thing that almost every man Monday night was drunk. Men lost their bearings in the dark streets and high drifts and after plunging about in the snow that came above their waists, they felt like lying down and giving up. The police rescued many but the list of missing is swelling up and the snow may reveal some ghastly sights when it disappears."  The Eagle's prediction was correct. Bodies of men began to appear as the drifts began to melt away. Men were not the only victims of the cold, however. A young boy who lived near Green-Wood cemetery had gone out on an errand early on Monday and was never heard from again. Blizzard, 1888. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection.  Blizzard of March, 1888. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection.  Trees and telegraph lines were down all over, thrown about by the wind like matchsticks. This would be the first time since the introduction of the telegraph that New York City was cut off from communication, as lines to Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, and the South were down.  In the aftermath, cab drivers charged an arm and a leg to go a few blocks. In Manhattan, one man paid $35 to take a cab uptown. Keep in mind, $35 was two month's rent for many poor families. While the wealthy were haggling with cab drivers, those unfortunate families were searching for coal, "bareheaded and scantily clothed, dragging shivering little children at their heels, carrying little tin pails with them, burst into tears while reading the placards, and turned away to pursue too often an equally fruitless pursuit at other stores" (New York Evening Sun). One coal cart driver made the mistake of taking a full load through a crowded, tenement lined street, only to be swarmed by 100 women and girls with pails and baskets begging, pleading, and stealing coal from the back of his wagon.  The cars were not running across the Brooklyn Bridge and foot traffic, for the time being, was also prohibited. Many people who had found themselves trapped on one side of the East River or the other decided to attempt an alternative route. Accounts of the number of people that chose to walk across the frozen East River vary, some say 1,000 and some say 10,000. One observer noticed unattended women making the trek as well. (Scandal!) People, however, were not the only travelers. One Sun reporter noticed "dogs who crossed the natural bridge were legion. They seemed to appreciate the rarity of the situation."  Yet, as the tide began to come in "the great ice field moved. Not a crack on its surface showed the change, but a grating on the ends of the piers against which it was pinned told the story to the self-appointed watchers among the shore and loud were the cries to get onto the shore " (New York Evening Sun, March). There were over 100 people on the ice and many of them, apparently unperturbed by the slight movement under their feet, ignored the warnings of onlookers. Not until great cracks began to appear in the middle of the floe did they take heed, rushing to the shoreline. At least two men were found covered in ice, having taken an unintentional polar bear plunge into the East River.  On the Brooklyn side, a daring rescue was taking place. One Sun reporter watched three men start on an ill-fated journey just before the ice shifted. As it began to crack, they found themselves trapped on neighboring cakes slowly moving downriver. Two of the young men were on neighboring ice cakes. One finally made a dangerous jump onto the cake nearer to the shore where his companion stood. The crowd shouted approval and told them to keep heart, but could do nothing. The other young man who was irreproachably dressed and carried a satchel, was on a cake scarcely 25 feet in diameter. He ran from edge to edge, till each time he nearly dipped in the water, and showed such terror that terror was communicated to those on the shore.  New York Evening Sun I know you're incredibly nervous at this moment, fearful for the lives of the young, inappropriately dressed men floating down the river. You shouldn't be. As the men were crying out, Captain Lisha Morris was deftly maneuvering his tugboat through the ever-widening cracks in the ice to save the men. With the help of some tow line and guile, all three men would see another sunrise. 

After a brief holiday hiatus, the Brooklyn Collection is happy to kick off another year of public programming next Wednesday, January 29th.  On this evening we will take an audiovisual tour through some previously unscreened gems from our 16mm film collection as well as introduce new content from a collection of Umatic videos created by Brooklyn Public Library staff in the 1980s.  All fans of vintage Brooklyn are welcome!  Come by at 6:30 to pick up free tickets and mingle during our wine and cheese reception.  Screening starts at 7:00pm. All programs are held in the...

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A Brief History of a Blonde Bombshell

by Brendan
Jan 7, 2014

While researching the Queen of Tots pageant at the Infants Home of Brooklyn, I stumbled upon a photo of Hollywood icon Carole Landis crowning one of the young queens.   Queen Crowns Queen, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1954. I could have Googled her and gotten an immediate summary of her life and work, but that's not how we roll at the Brooklyn Collection. I went downstairs into our archive to see if I could find a small envelope with her name on it amidst the myriad of file cabinets. Lo and behold, I am not the only person who has taken an interest in Ms. Landis. I found a whole mess...

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Queen Crowns Queen, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1954. I could have Googled her and gotten an immediate summary of her life and work, but that's not how we roll at the Brooklyn Collection. I went downstairs into our archive to see if I could find a small envelope with her name on it amidst the myriad of file cabinets. Lo and behold, I am not the only person who has taken an interest in Ms. Landis. I found a whole mess of clippings from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle relating to her life. As I started to lay the clippings out on my desk a seemingly familiar story started to take shape. Young girl takes a leap of faith at age sixteen and heads to the big city in search of fame and fortune. Didn't I see this movie?  Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 6, 1945. "Carole Landis was stage-struck at the age of 7 and never got over it. She waited until she was 16 before she took any definite steps about her career. Then, with insufficient funds to take her to New York, and judging the competition in Hollywood to be too tough, she went to San Francisco and haunted the night clubs in search of work" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 4, 1945). Eventually Landis would make it as a singer in San Francisco and, with $100 and a prayer, she headed to Hollywood. As of 1945 she had become a fashion icon with weekly write-ups detailing her style choices (she was a big fan of blue velvet, but aren't we all?), appeared in three Westerns with John Wayne, and caused a national uproar (pun intended) with her role as a member of the gentle Shell People clan in One Million B.C. (a movie that would see a 1960s remake with Raquel Welch in her iconic leather bikini). She would go on to star in over 30 films, appearing uncredited in many more. One Million B.C., Theatrical Release Poster, United Artists, 1940. There was a really stellar review of One Million B.C. in The New York Times which gave viewers permission to enjoy the film in all of its improbable glory. In the first place, anthropological research has incontrovertibly shown that whatever life existed on this cooling earth 1,000,000 years ago bore absolutely no resemblance to homo sapiens of the lower orders - and certainly not to the peculiarly cultivated and distinctly Caucasian cave men and cave women who love about with such charming grace and poise... But what of it? What if the cave men didn't have such nicely barbed beards and the cave ladies didn't look as though they had just visited the beauty parlor? [The director] didn't start out to tell the literal story of creation - and any homo who thinks he did is just a sapiens. (The New York Times, May 5, 1940) Let's be real. Everybody likes dinosaur movies. Like many celebrities of the past and present, Landis used her fame to promote social causes both at home and abroad. In addition to crowning the Queen of Tots in 1944 she attended Jewish Day during the Brooklyn Week for the Blind. Aid the Blind, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 9, 1946. She also took her winning smile and signature blonde hair on a four-and-a-half month tour of various American camps during WWII. "Our boys over there who are not in the front lines," she reported, "want nothing more than to get there as soon as possible, to get a whack at the enemy" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 5 1943). Good Medicine, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 14 1942     Something For The Boys, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 30, 1944. Landis' public persona was not simply one of patriotism and great hair, however. Taking a page out of the book of one of her contemporaries, Elizabeth Taylor, Landis had a bit of a storied love life. In 1934, at the age of 15, Landis married Irving Wheeler. The marriage lasted all of 25 days. In 1940 she married yacht broker Willis Hunt Jr. Apparently Mr. Hunt "was 'inhuman,' called her 'a fool,' was rude to her film friends and attempted to interfere with her movie career" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 1, 1941). Needless to say, that one ended in divorce. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 21, 1941. In 1942 she was engaged to Gene Markey, a screenwriter, producer, and Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy but the engagement was called off. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 31, 1942. Her third marriage, to Maj. Tom Wallace in 1944, did happen, however, it just didn't happen for long. They divorced within the year. Her fourth and final marriage was to film producer W. Horace Schmidlapp in 1945. Upon marrying Mr. Schmidlapp, Landis was asked by a reporter if the marriage was her fourth. " 'Need we go into that?' Miss Landis said in a very happy voice. 'It's my only marriage as far as I am concerned.' " (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 9, 1945). By 1948 Landis had filed for divorce from Mr. Schmidlapp. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 9, 1945. Had circumstances been different Carole Landis might have given Elizabeth Taylor, who was married eight times, a run for her money. Alas, due to a tragic turn of events this was not to be so. On July 5th, 1948, at the age of 29, Carole Landis was found dead in her home. "Coroner B.H. Brown gave four empty sleeping tablet bottles to County Toxicologist R.J. Abernathy for analysis, along with two loose capsules and a small white pill found in an envelope clutched in the actress' hand... Propped against a huge cologne bottle was a note, on her personal stationary, addressed to 'Dearest Mommie.' It read: 'I'm sorry, really sorry to put you through this. But there is no way to avoid it. I love you, darling, you have been the most wonderful mom ever and that applies to all our family... everything goes to you. Look in the files and there is a will... Goodby [sic] my angel, pray for me. Your baby.' " (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 6, 1948). In the following days rumors began to surface of an unrequited love affair between Carole Landis and British heartthrob Rex Harrison (who had six marriages of his own). Harrison, with his wife at his side, refuted the rumors. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 7, 1948. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 9, 1948. A Hollywood rumor is not so easily quelled. When Harrison and his wife arrived at Landis' funeral the crowd, complete with movie stars, makeup artists, and prominent Hollywood elite, let out a collective gasp. Harrison, the last person to see Landis alive, insisted that she seemed upbeat and happy when they parted ways on the evening of her death. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 6, 1946. Even in death Landis was a trendsetter. When her body was found "her head was pillowed on a brown leather jewel case and her long hair fell casually to the round neckline of her white lace blouse. Her gold-sandaled feet were tucked under her unmussed blue-and-white checked skirt" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 6, 1948). At her funeral her "body lay under a gold covering in the coffin, dressed in an evening gown spattered with multi-colored sequin butterflies" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 11, 1948). " "The bishop said Carole 'was a regular trouper. I don't think the Almighty God will judge her too harshly'." (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 11, 1948).

Toddlers in Tiaras of Yesteryear

by Brendan
Dec 17, 2013

Brooklyn has crowned many a beauty queen in its day. The Queen of Beer? Yes. The most beautiful grandmother? Of course! It turns out Brooklyn was crowning beauties of all ages. The Infants Home of Brooklyn, originally located in a private home at 1356 56th Street which was later demolished to make room for a new, more permanent building, hosted an annual beauty pageant to crown the Queen of Tots. The Infants Home opened in 1919 as an emergency shelter for five children left homeless by a fire in Borough Park. It was specifically a home for Jewish children until a 1947 plea by the Welfare...

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Infants Home of Brooklyn, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1931  Desk Atlas, Borough of Brooklyn, 1929 What goes into crowning a Queen of Tots, you might ask? I asked the same question. As I began digging through the Brooklyn Daily Eagle archives in search of the Infants Home's regal past I began to uncover some fantastic images of daily life. Admittedly, I couldn't find anything about the judging criteria. Therefore, I've created my own. The Queen of Tots is always modest. Pardon Us for a Moment, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1954 "Pardon Us For A Moment!" the caption of this 1954 photo reads, "It's time out and back to the camera for these youngsters, determined to stay on schedule." The infants went through an average of 22,000 diapers a month. Goodness. The Queen of Tots must comport herself appropriately at parties. Parties Galore, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1954 The children celebrated birthdays with chaperones from Brooklyn College who were working toward degrees in child care. What's more, the Infants Home of Brooklyn was a recipent of generous donations from the public. The 1954 charity ball had an expected attendance of 3,000. We can only hope that every one of the 3,000 attendees wore one of the fantastic hats pictured above. The Queen of Tots works to beautify her community. The Scrub Team, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1953 From left to right; Peter, 4, Fanny, 5, and Melody, 5, work to clean their wading pool before the hot months of summer. The little boy on the far left isn't listed in the caption. You can see from the red grease pen that he was cropped out of the photo that eventually appeared into the paper. Apparently white was in that summer. The Queen of Tots is always selfless. America's Sweet Tot, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1954 "Linda is offering Barry his choice of sweet." An informal holiday, the Sweetest Day, was held in 1951. Gifts were distributed around the Infants Home and throughout other orphanages in Brooklyn by the Sweetest Day Committee. Another little girl shares her ice cream (or some other spoon-appropriate food) with a very smug looking doll. The Queen of Tots must be a law abiding citizen.   "Toby is the belle of the bathers, Toby is the best on the beach. Dressed in a bathing suit just a bit snug, everyone says she's a peach. When in the pool she's a corker and swims out of every guy's reach. Toby's the belle of the bathers, Toby's the best on the beach." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1952 Playing in their wading pool (cleaned by their own hands, no less) was a welcome respite from the summer heat. The above caption goes on to state that Toby, the aforementioned peach, fell for the pool lifeguard, four-year-old Anthony. Oh, young love. Rivera in Borough Park, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1954 For those who weren't in the market for a water bath (perhaps those who had yet to learn to eat on their own, let alone swim) a sun bath might have been more appropriate. Nurses supervised the infants in their special rooftop solarium. A glass roof protected the infants from the elements. After all, a windburn does not a queen make. There she is, the Queen of Tots! Queen Crowns Queen, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1954 In 1944 it was Iva! Iva was crowned by Hollywood icon Carole Landis.* Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1947 In 1947 it was Linda! Just Barbara, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1953 In 1950 it was Barbara, and on her first birthday, no less! Queen of Tots, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1951 In 1951 it was 10-month-old Judy! Ain't she a beauty! Royal Treatment, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1953 In 1953 it was Rose. She was given the royal treatment by five-year-old Frieda.

Prohibition has always held a certain level of fascination in my mind and, dare I say, I'm not the only one. Long has the era been immortalized by Hollywood through movies, TV shows and the fashion trends they inspire. However, living in the current day and age that we do one might find it difficult to navigate what's real from what's merely a romantic reinterpretation of a profound, if not completely befuddling, time in our nation's history.    Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 6, 1928. The Morgue hosts not one, but three drawers stuffed with newspaper clippings from the prohibition era...

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   Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 6, 1928. The Morgue hosts not one, but three drawers stuffed with newspaper clippings from the prohibition era, but it was the recent discovery of the "Bedford Nest" file that piqued my interest. Located at 1286 Bedford Avenue, the Bedford Nest was one of Brooklyn's most infamous speakeasies. Close to a dozen articles detail the notorious raid on Bedford Nest proprietor and ex-dry (or prohibition enforcement) agent, Francis Conly. Desk Atlas Borough of Brooklyn, 1929.  Raided on Feburary 17, 1930, the headlines following the bust were littered with scandalous accusations, as if raiding an ex-dry agent wasn't exciting enough! Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feburary 24, 1930. The three aforementioned policemen were later acquitted, having proven the checks were cashed by a third party who in turn cashed the checks at the Bedford Nest. It all sounds a bit dubious to me, but apparently the excuse carried some weight with the judge who deemed this chain of events legitimate according to the customs of the time. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 3, 1930. Prohibition was highly unpopular with New Yorkers who made quite an effort to get their "hooch" despite the law. In fact, one Brooklyn Daily Eagle article went so far as to claim that it was unsurprising that "there had been no cessation of drinking in the State and that the number of speakeasies had been holding it's own, if not increasing" ("New York Speakeasies Under a New Attack," May 1, 1932). The law was also unpopular among politicians including then-Governor of New York Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who promised to repeal the 18th Amendment if elected president in the 1932 election.   The New York Times, 1931. In February 1933, Congress adopted a resolution proposing the 21st Amendment and in December of that year enough states voted to ratify the Constitution, effectively ending prohibition and just in time for New Year for these happy Brooklynites: Court Grill, December 6, 1933Brooklyn Collection Unfortunately, relief didn't arrive soon enough for the Bedford Nest. In 1931 the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that government agents seized $40,000 worth of property from Francis Conly, gutting the establishment of all its furnishings and ensuring "Brooklyn's ... most ornate speakeasy" remained a short-lived affair ("Act to Confiscate Bar Furnishings of Bedford Nest," November 23, 1931).

That green branch cut down

by Ben
Nov 19, 2013

When the Brooklyn Daily Eagle shut its doors in 1955 the borough lost an important conduit for receiving news of the world and for investigating and editorializing on community developments. After the paper's short-lived revival finally sputtered out in June of 1963 -- just a few months before John F Kennedy was killed in Dallas -- Brooklynites had to turn to smaller neighborhood newspapers for reports on the assassination and to see their grief reflected back to them in stunned print encomiums for the recently dead president. In addition to the entirety of the Eagle, we also have...

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In addition to the entirety of the Eagle, we also have here in our Collection 88 of these neighborhood newspapers. Though not all of them were around on the day Kennedy was killed, I combed through the reels to select a few that were. Here is a short selection of front pages from Brooklyn's local papers, most which -- being weeklies -- were printed on the day of his death (thus, featuring your run-of-the-mill neighborhood news) and again a week afterwards, which might account for the apparently muted reaction of some papers. The Graphic, above, ran a portrait of the President that was ubiquitous in the days following the assassination. The front page of the November 29th Brooklyn Heights Press, below, features tree lighting and turkey basting articles, with a memorial spread buried on page 8. Though a bit too dark to see here, the spread featured photographs of impromptu memorials set up in shop windows.   In the middle of the page, Brooklyn's Norman Rosten contributed a poem: In Memoriam The day is still reverberant with drums,We are blinded in the blaze of his death. We know there was that green branch Cut down, the perishable honour;We know there was the young alternativeTo war and evil, the possible good. Enshrouded in flags, what he gave usIs yet to be recognized, and time,The abstract mercy, will come to heal -- Except we feel the terror once againThat moves beneath the blind skin,Our savage self, who lives upon a landBlessed with every wind but love.  A common discussion printed in the Bay Ridge weeklies was whether or not the new Verrazano-Narrows Bridge could instead be named for Kennedy. In the end, Idlewild won out as the best choice for civic memorialization. High Schools were also in the running for name changes, as can be seen in the Canarsie Courier. Additionally, as you can see from the headline above the masthead, the question of who really killed Kennedy was already on peoples' minds.  And for those of you interested in the coincidental connections between the presidencies and fates of Kennedy and Lincoln, you'll likely find something of mystic import in this ad which, eerily, ran in just about all of the weeklies on November 22 1963. The Coney Island Times, on November 29th, spent more front page space mourning the death of Pauline Gluck, mother of the paper's Scouting News columnist, than JFK.   The editors of the Ridgewood Times struck a common note -- that Kennedy's death should not be in vain: John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1917-1963 If John Fitsgerald Kennedy is to truly rest in peace it will only be if his death has not been in vain, and that we the people will turn back those forces of hate, bitterness and violence that are eroding the moral fibre of our country and dedicate ourselves to pursue true, lawful Democratic principles to settle our differences. However, the anger and bewilderment felt by many was given free reign on the front page of the Kings County Chronicle: