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Ephemera #1: Locks, Olives, and Hats

Aug 31, 2010 12:25 PM | 1 comment

We have filing cabinets full of ephemera -- campaign materials, menus, ticket stubs, old library cards, beer coasters -- all the typical daily detritus which, through our careful selection and preservation, we have saved from the trash bin. But a filing cabinet is no place for what are, more often than not, strikingly designed historical materials. So in an attempt to air out these easily overlooked treasures, we here at the Brooklyn Collection will start posting images of our favorite flotsam and jetsam every week to offer an unglossed peek at some of the surviving bits of Brooklyn's past.

The images in our first installment -- of locks, olives, and hats -- all come from the Business and Industry folders of our ephemera collection.

LOCKS (1883) from Wilson Bohannon, manufacturer of bronze metal patent pad locks (with Japanned chains) at 756 Lexington Ave.

OLIVES (1931) from Austin, Nichols & Co., importers and packers of olives, at North 3rd St. and Kent Ave. 

Note accompanying the catalog: "The illustrations in this book are made from photographs and are a true reproduction of the actual package, showing the full size of the package, also the size of the fruit"

HATS (1896/1897) from the Dunlap Co. at 60 Nostrand Avenue

Catalog includes the styles: Men, Young Men, Opera, Boys' Speciaties, Ladies' Specialties, Ladies' Riding, Ladies' Walking, and Coachmen.

 More to come next week!


"Brooklyn, Then and Now" Exhibit....curated by teen interns.

Aug 24, 2010 11:40 AM | 1 comment

Stop by the Brooklyn Collection to view our new exhibit, "Brooklyn, Then and Now."  This new exhibit was curated by our teen interns, Arelis and Eva, who joined us this summer through the Multicultural Internship Program.  Eva and Arelis at the Opening of "Brooklyn, Then and Now"

We were very lucky to have two eager interns help us with tasks throughout the collection. Their primary project was to create a series of "Then and Now" pairs, which match a historic image from our collection with a photograph taken from the exact same spot today.  From day one, Arelis and Eva helped us with this project by selecting the neighborhoods, examining our historic photographs of each neighborhood, charting a route and taking photographs with the Collection's digital cameras.  We were so impressed with their work that we asked them to share their findings in an exhibit.  The girls were completely hands-on in the exhibit process, from selecting their favorite images to mounting and arranging each pair on display. 

Pairs of Images Mounted and Labeled by our Interns

The story that Eva and Arelis tell through their exhibit is surprisingly optimistic.  Although some of the images show 19th century structures being torn down for modern high-rises, most of the pairs depict stability and improvement.  The staff all agreed that it was refreshing to see today's youth experiencing Brooklyn as moving in a positive direction, and as a great place to call home. 

 Prospect Park Boathouse, 2010 by Arelis

Prospect Park Boathouse, 1905

69th Street Pier, 2010 by Eva

69th Street Pier, 1934

We are very proud of our interns' accomplishments this summer and are thrilled to show off their hard work in this exhibit.  We hope it will inspire our visitors to consider the changes in their own neighborhoods, and to make positive contributions to those changes.  The exhibit is housed here in the Brooklyn Collection and runs through September 30. 

Leprosy on Kingston Avenue

Aug 24, 2010 9:50 AM | 6 comments

 Although many have heard of Kings County Hospital, the huge medical center that sits right in the middle of Brooklyn between New York and Utica Avenues, few now remember the name of the Kingston Avenue Hospital, which occupied a site bounded by Kingston and Albany Avenues to the west and east, and Rutland Road and Winthrop Street to the north and south. And the reason we have heard of it here in the Brooklyn Collection, is that a doctor by the name of Boris Schleifer photographed the hospital and some of its inmates and staff during the 1930s. The resultant collection of over a hundred images somehow made its way to Brooklyn Public Library--with every photograph of the creator removed except those in which he is too small to be recognized.

Lepers at Kingston Avenue Hospital

Kingston Avenue hospital, founded around 1890, specialized in contagious diseases at a time when epidemics of smallpox, polio, diphtheria and scarlet fever were common. The hospital also treated people with venereal diseases, and seems to have offered long-term housing to a few people suffering from leprosy, (now known as Hansen's Disease,) three of whom--Tony, Graw and Joe--are shown in the picture above.

A leprosy case that was famous in medical circles was that of Henry Albury, who lived at the hospital for four years. The son of a wealthy tobacco merchant from Key West, Henry Albury was diagnosed with what was termed "elephantiasis" at the age of thirteen.  Dr. Calvin F. Barber of South Oxford Street in Brooklyn, an acquaintance of the family, was able to secure his admission to the hospital in Kingston Avenue. A small house was erected specifically for Henry's use and, with some difficulty, a private nurse was hired. Afflicted with a particularly vicious form of the disease, Henry Albury died at the age of  eighteen. Although effective treatments for this stigmatizing disease were found in the 1930s, the hospital still housed at least one sufferer as late as 1947, when one Creacion Manguel, perhaps tired of confinement, walked out of the hospital in his blue flannel pajamas and set off a full-scale manhunt. Mr Manguel returned after one day on the run, refusing to say where he had been.

Hospitals cannot help but be theaters of tragedy, and Kingston Avenue was no exception. In 1901 a boy named Theodore Perry was carried in suffering from scarlet fever. According to his grief-stricken mother, Theodore was placed in a ward with forty-three other patients suffering from the same infection or from other diseases such as measles and diphtheria, both of which he contracted. The boy died, causing a furore over unsanitary conditions and inadequate staffing.

The following year a smallpox patient named Jeremiah Shea jumped out of a window and began wandering around Flatbush in his nightclothes, scaring everyone he met with the sight of his floridly pockmarked face. Eventually Mr Shea ran into the arms of a policeman who had the presence of mind to call an ambulance to take him back to his ward.

Early buildings at the hospital were intended to be temporary, but they remained in use for years. The site stood in a depression in which water gathered during wet weather, sometimes to a depth of  several feet, so that boats had to be used to communicate between buildings. In 1905 it was decided that improvements were needed and plans for a hospital complex costing $7 million were set in motion. The photographs in the Boris Schleifer collection, taken when the hospital enjoyed more salubrious quarters, show a staff working in clean but  Spartan conditions.

The diseases that filled the beds of the Kingston Road Hospital have largely been eradicated thanks to vaccinations and the discovery of antibiotics. The hospital was closed in 1955 and the site is now a part of the Kings County Hospital complex.

Little-Known Brooklyn Residents: Charles M. Murphy

Aug 20, 2010 1:52 PM | 0 comments

Charles M. Murphy was one of the greatest riders in bicycle history. On June 30th, 1899, he completed a famous bicycle ride behind a Long Island Railroad train, covering an entire mile in the record-breaking time of 57 4/5 seconds. This record earned him the nickname of "Mile-a-Minute Murphy."

Mile-a-Minute Murphy

The event took place at Maywood, Long Island, where board track was placed over the railroad tracks, and visitors piled in by the hundreds to watch the event. On the following day, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported "the ride was thrilling and exciting beyond in the car behind which the ride was made, cried like children, while other men old in years of spirits and railroad life were as babies...the scene was terrible in its intensity and to those who rode the memorable trip from the rear platform of the car, it will live while memory lasts."

Crowds gathering in preparation for the record breaking ride

After his famous mile-a-minute ride, Mr. Murphy mastered many other feats according to the Eagle, including joining the police force, organizing a police bicycle club, rescuing a woman from a burning building, taking up motor cycling and aviation; was promoted to sergeant, and even saved a man from quicksand. In his later years he also found time to teach youngsters how to ride bicycles.

Mile-a-Minute Murphy giving bicycle lessons in 1934

Found in the Morgue: Seven Special Cats

Aug 17, 2010 3:01 PM | 1 comment

We have a great folder of vintage cat photographs in the collection of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Morgue; below are some of my favorites.

Barbara Baiena's Brooklyn kitten had a special talent -- sipping her milk through a straw in tandem with her owner.

These three kittens were found inside a furniture crate shipped from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, discovered at the end of their transcontinental trip.

Susie, who lived on a wharf at 57th St., chased a rat that dove into the water and Susie went in after it. Workmen tried to rescue her for more than six hours after she scrambled onto a crossbeam just above the high tide level. They eventually succeeded in rescuing her, and rewarded her with a meal of milk, fish and chopped meat.

This kitten was rescued after being trapped inside an unused Ocean Ave. chimney for a week.

This feline was trapped on top of a roof elevator for twenty four hours at the Parkview Apartments at 57 Prospect Park Southwest.

Tillie, resident kitten of Sommerville Fire Station in Boston, can be seen here sliding down the fireman's pole, perhaps wondering why her claws won't stop her motion.

Last but not least, here is Princess Mickey, Queen of the Brooklyn Cat Show at the Hotel Granada in 1948.