Brooklyn Public Library

Mobile AppDownload our Mobile App

eNewsletterSubscribe to BPL eNews


Happy Holidays

Dec 23, 2010 4:41 PM | 0 comments



Card Design by June Koffi, Brooklyn Public Library--Brooklyn Collection.


A Class Sister Act

Dec 22, 2010 2:40 PM | 3 comments


During the period between the 1930's and 1950's the entertainment field was filled with many talented sister vocal groups. There were the McGuire Sisters from Ohio, the King Sisters from Utah, the DeCastro Sisters all the way from Havana, Cuba, and the Andrew Sisters from Minnesota.  Not to be outdone, the borough of Kings was represented in song by the Five DeMarco Sisters who began their career in the 1940's as teenagers.

The sisters got their start when their father moved the family from Rome, N.Y. to Brooklyn. Confident that they were ready for the big time he brought them in to NBC for an audition. And audition they did, right in the reception room, because Papa DeMarco had neglected to schedule an appointment. They were so good though that a producer signed them on the spot and scheduled them for the "Tent Show" Radio Program. But their career really took off after they were signed to appear on the Fred Allen radio show. For four years (1946-1949) Ann, Gene, Gloria, Maria and Arlene entered into the living rooms of America opening the show with "Mr. Al-len, Mr. Alll-llennnn." Their featured segment earned them $1000 per week enabling their family to move from their apartment in Bensonhurst to a larger home in Flatbush on East 5th Street. 


Besides their regular appearances on the Fred Allen show The DeMarco Sisters performed in shows with Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. And they ushered in the early days of television with guest spots on the Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason shows.

The highlight of their career was their part in the patriotic 1952 MGM movie "Skirts Ahoy", starring Esther Williams, where they sang "What Good is a Gal Without a Guy."

The Five DeMarco Sisters had fans all across the country. Their recordings with their sweeping arrangements and lush harmonies still have their followers. We leave you with the 1954 classic "Love Me" - lyrics and music by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. 

Irving Herzberg and the Plane Crash of 1960

Dec 16, 2010 1:35 PM | 4 comments

New York City accomodates all juxtapositions. Spend enough time here and no two things paired together, however odd, will seem unusual. This is the city where nothing can be out of place however willy-nilly the arrangement may be: from the gently surreal sight of a coyote cowering beneath a SUV in Manhattan, to the more terrible and spectral image of ash covered workers wandering the daytime streets of the Financial District. Whether it is welcome or not, the city will make room for it. But for all this open-armed receptiveness -- allowing this or that to suddenly and irrevocably appear and to become a new fact of city life -- the city remains a strange host and one whose ultimate indifference can seem a form of cruelty.

50 years ago today a United Air Lines DC-8 jet and a Trans World Airlines Lockheed Super-Constellation collided in the air above New York. Most of the Super-Constellation ended up at Miller Army Air Field in Staten Island while the United flight went down at Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place in Park Slope, just up Flatbush from the Central library here at Grand Army Plaza.

Six people on the ground were killed, including a sanitation worker out shoveling snow, a church caretaker, and two Christmas tree salesmen. Everyone on board the two flights died. One 11 year-old Illinois boy, Stephen Baltz, survived the crash only to die a day later. You can still find a memorial plaque at the chapel of the Methodist hospital where he passed away, the coins he had in his pocket at the time of his death attached to it.

At the time, it was the worst aviation disaster in history. The streets of Brooklyn looked as though they had been bombed.

The jet plummeted through one tenement on Sterling Place and eventually crashed into the Pillar of Fire Church. A series of small explosions set off fires in a total of 10 brownstones in the area, ruining many.

These photos of the crash scene were all taken by Irving Herzberg, a German immigrant who worked for nearly 40 years developing photos out of a cramped bathroom in Coney Island. We have his life's work here in our collection -- around 2,300 photographs -- and it is a work marked by its devotion to the common, day-in-and-day-out scenes of life in Brooklyn: children asleep on the subway; couples talking on their stoops; scenes from the usually closed-off Hasidic community; boys leaping from piers into the ocean off Coney Island.

And on this day 50 years ago, Herzberg was there again, recording an ordinary day that turned out to be extraordinary -- looking on at the people of Brooklyn as they themselves looked on at a sight so incomprehensible and awful.

A Brooklyn Child's Christmas List, 1953

Dec 16, 2010 12:13 PM | 1 comment

In November 1953, Abraham & Straus Department Store opened its annual holiday Toyland with a party for children from the Brooklyn School Settlement.  Activities included visits with Child star Richie Andrusco signs autographs at a holiday "coke-tail" partySanta, music by an accordion quartet, a doll fashion show, and an appearance by local child "movie star" Richie Andrusco at a "Coke-Tail" party in the store's restaurant.  But the biggest moment of the day was when the children took a first look at Toyland intself.  As the Eagle reported, the children from the Settlement "lost themselves."  Even a movie star like Richie "admitted that he wasn't play-acting when he was carried away with the charms of the breathtaking new Christmas toys."Photographs of the party and A&S' favorite new items appeared in the Eagle a few days later, giving children across Brooklyn plenty of inspiration for their wish lists.  

Aspiring bakers may have been drawn to Junior Chef's baking sets, which featured real Aunt Jemima cake mixes in gingerbread, coconut sprinkle, devils food and other flavors.  The sets also included baking pans, a measuring cup, spoons and recipes.  All of the mixes could be baked in just fifteen minutes at 375 degrees.  And the Ding Dong School apron was the perfect way to keep clothes clean during those messy baking sessions. 

Junior Chef Set, $2.98

A&S carried a number of models for all ages and abilities.  Young engineers could mimic the work completed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard while assembling and painting this model of the U.S.S. Missouri.  For a final touch, paper signal flags could be cut out and rigged with string.   

U.S.S. Missouri Model, $1.98

More mature model builders hoped for the latest addition to their multi-model displays.  This plastic Hand-Car and Trailer model would have been perfect for any train collection.Hand-Car and Trailer Model, 69 cents.

As with models, a variety of dolls could be found in all shapes and sizes.  These sisters were hoping Christmas morning would bring a Madame Alexander doll, such as "Rosebud" (left) or "Winnie Walker" (right).

Madame Alexander's "Rosebud" and "Winnie Walker", $17.95

With the help of a Wonder Weaver, the girls could have created mini blankets to keep their favorite dolls warm on those cold winter nights. 

Gabriel's Wonder Weaver, $2.50\

Imported Italian Knight Armor, $19.95

And who better to protect those dolls than a knight in shining Italian-imported aluminum armor?  The outfit in this photo cost only $19.95.  But ambitious young knights could also ask for the complete "head to toe" version for only $89.95.   

Last but not least was the Shooting Gallery, a "French import" that recreated the experience of duck hunting.  The kit included a spinning tripod stand, three "gaily painted wooden ducks" and a rifle that shot rubber arrows (sorry kids, the fringe jacket is sold serparately).  As A&S described, "The three arms are in motion and the "hunter" then takes aim with his rifle.  When he "wings" a duck with a rubber-tipped arrow, the duck drops realistically limp on its chain."

Shooting Gallery, $15.95

One can imagine many requests for the Shooting Gallery being met with the ominous phrase, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."

A Movement Grows In Brooklyn. The Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. Wed Dec 15 2010, 7:00 p.m.

Dec 15, 2010 4:29 PM | 0 comments

Brooklyn was the location of one of the most important northern urban civil rights movements of the 1960s. Brian Purnell will describe the activities and impact of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) in Brooklyn, where protesters and activists demanded jobs, improved schools, clean neighborhoods and citizenship rights.

Brian Purnell is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Bowdoin College.

Refreshments will be served from 6:30 to 7 p.m.

Brooklyn Collection, 2nd floor, Central Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn NY 11238.