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New Funding Promises a Bright Future for Brooklyn Connections!

Aug 29, 2011 12:28 PM | 0 comments

The Brooklyn Collection is thrilled to announce that it has received an exciting two-year, $200,000 grant from the New York Life Foundation for the Brooklyn Connections program!  With additional generous support from the Morris & Alma Schapiro Fund, the Tiger Baron Foundation and Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, the program will continue to be available at no cost to Brooklyn classrooms through the 2012-13 school year.  We are especially pleased to acknowledge this renewed support from New York Life Foundation, whose initial funding made it possible to pilot the program in 2007.

Thanks to our generous program funders, Brooklyn Connections will be able to expand in several important ways:

*Additional staffing will allow us to serve an impressive 20 partner schools in 2011-12 and 25 partner schools in 2012-13.

*Over the next two years, we will work with our first three high school partners in the hopes of making our program more accessible to all upper-grade students and teachers in need.

*Each partner school will receive a core collection of Brooklyn history books and materials, ensuring that research can take place in the library AND in the classroom.

*Connections staff will organize free teacher workshops that will focus on developing research skills in the classroom.  These sessions will be open to all New York City teachers!

*A re-designed website will expand our presence on the web and make our resources more easily accessible to current partners and other students and teachers across New York City and beyond.

If you are a teacher, school administrator, parent or other education-minded Brooklynite that's interested in bringing Brooklyn Connections to a classroom near you, please check out our website.  Our 2011-12 application is available and ready for you.  With more staff power, classroom materials and online support, there's never been a better time to join us.  Please stay tuned to Brooklynology for more information about upcoming teacher workshops and other outreach initiatives.



A Lump of the Old Jersey

Aug 25, 2011 3:17 PM | 0 comments

That infamous hulk, the Old Jersey prison ship, in which upwards of 11,000 American prisoners lost their lives during the Revolution, lay rotting in the Wallabout mud for over a century. And well it deserved to rot. Crowded between airless decks, starved or compelled to eat raw meat and drink filthy water, infected with smallpox, yellow fever and dysentery, the prisoners died by the dozen. Their bodies, hastily thrown into trenches on the shore, were often washed out by the waves at high tide, so that the whole Wallabout beach became a bone-littered charnel house.

Among the keys, buttons, bottles, cups and other memorabilia that have somehow found their way into the Brooklyn Collection despite a collection development policy that expressly favors print and manuscript collections, a lump of wood occupies an archives box that is just a bit too big for it. A label written in a fluid, old-fashioned hand and stuck to the flatter of its two sides reads "His Majesty (sic) Prison Ship Jersey sunk off Navy Yard in time of Revolution." The marks of the saw scar the surface of the hard wood that might be teak on one side; on the other side, worms and tides have scoured it into hills and gullies; and a two inch crack splits it longitudinally part way down the middle.

This is, or purports to be, a piece of the Jersey. We do not know exactly how it found its way here, but a pair of Brooklyn Daily Eagle articles pinpoint October 1902 as the date when a hull was found in the mud of Wallabout Bay, during the building of the U.S.S. Connecticut. An engineer named Bellinger, who was in charge of the work on the Connecticut,  said confidently that "there can be no doubt that the hull which has been found is that of the prison ship." Of course there always can be doubt especially in light of its murky provenance; but we consider it very possible that our lump of the Old Jersey is a true relic, and with the many Brooklyn students who pass through here, we enjoy the special frisson that comes from touching something so old and so freighted with the nation's history.

The Eagle Cookbook and the Brooklyn Diet

Aug 23, 2011 11:55 AM | 0 comments

I first picked up The Eagle Cookbook from 1922 with every intention of writing a blog entry on recipes from the early 1920s.  But as I carefully flipped through the pages, I found myself distracted from the recipes by the countless advertisements for pre-packaged, pre-processed and unexpectedly modern grocery items.

While the editors proudly present a collection of recipes that were "handed down from generation to generation" in families across the United States and Europe, the advertisements tell a slightly different story about the 1920s Brooklyn diet.

For example, you could take the time to make the French Dressing recipe on page 46 or you could purchase Royall's French Dressing, advertised on page 40.

The 1920s were indeed a time of change in the American kitchen.  The combination of new technologies in refrigeration, freezing and food science, combined with a female population eager to break out of the kitchen, created an opportune moment for the food industry.  The Eagle Cookbook seems to be representative of that moment--when traditional recipes began competing with modern convenience in the form of prepared foods. 


The varying marketing techniques used to introduce these relatively new products, emphasizing cost, convenience and nutrition, seem eerily similar to today's food market.  Gobel Meat Products stresses convenience and price.  Cooking meat with gas can be pricey, the ad explains, but using pre-cooked meat limits that cost.  Plus, "There are many delicious meals that the clever woman can prepare with the Gobel cooked meats, especially when time presses, the unexpected guest arrives or some other emergency arises."

Philadelphia Cream Cheese is perfect for a "No Cooking" meal or snack--and the same argument is made today.  Cheez Whip is equally convenient, with the added attraction of being "Rich in Vitamines."


Kirsch's sodas may not be as healthy as cheese, but at least they are made "without the aid of chemical preservatives or adulterants."  The ad even challenges those who would like an "inspection of our extensive plant."

Breyer's Ice Cream makes a similar all-natural claim in this ad.  And they still rely on this marketing technique today:

Nestle's Lion Brand Milk insists that "Every recipe in this book that includes milk--for that matter, any recipe anywhere that calls for milk--can be made more delicious" with their products.  In fact, "where extra sweetness is desired, use the condensed because the sugar is already in it.  Elsewhere use the evaporated, which is simply pure, rich milk from which the useless water has been removed." 

I can't help but wonder if the advertisers ever predicted that these types of ads and products would become the staple of the American diet over the next several decades.  When Nestle suggested substituting a good tasting ingredient for a healthier (more water-based) ingredient, did they imagine such substitutions would ever be carried to extremes

For the most part, the ads seem obsessed with "new science" and a better understanding of food elements.  Many of the ads claim that the products provide necessary nutrients, like many of today's favorite food items.  The ads in The Eagle Cookbook are hailing a healthier, more nutritious and more delicious diet, but many nutritionists in 2011 would probably disagree with the prediction in this ad for "vitamine" rich jellies and preservatives:


To me, this cookbook is made all the more interesting because it (and many of the products advertised in it) was made in Brooklyn.  Today, our borough (or at least parts of it) is a hotbed of the healthy and all-natural food movement.  Our mayor wants to tax soda, our pick-up trucks have been turned into gardens and our generation's Brooklyn Cookbook emphasizes local, healthy and somewhat time consuming recipes.  Will these new trends have the same impact as the ones started in the 1920s?  Only time will tell... 

Luna Parks Galore

Aug 19, 2011 4:07 PM | 0 comments

Brooklynology readers will not be fooled by this picture of an ersatz Luna Park culled from my latest holiday snaps. This one is not in Brooklyn, of course, but in Scarborough, an attractive windswept seaside town in North Yorkshire, UK.  Our own grand original opened in 1903 and burned down in 1944, but in the interim "Luna Park" became synonymous with "amusement park" across the nation and even further afield. Just as Brooklyn itself has spawned other Brooklyns across the globe, the name Luna Park has become a proxy for places providing imaginative amusement, off-the-wall fun and games, or goods and services that wish to be associated with those notions.

In fact five minutes of Googling will tell you that you could probably span a good deal of the earth eating, lodging and amusing yourself in nothing but Luna Parks. Close at hand we have Grimaldi's Luna Park restaurant in East Syracuse, NY. From there you could head out to the west coast and eat at Luna Parks in Seattle, San Francisco and LA, before taking in a movie created by Luna Park Productions and a party arranged by Luna Park event planners of Austin TX. Then why not book your flight to Europe, for a stay in the Luna Park Hotel, Malgrat de Mar, Spain, or the other one in the Rue Jacquard in Paris--or  both? For your journey, pick up a copy of the graphic novel Luna Park by Kevin Baker and Daniel Zazelj. If this is all a bit rich for you, there's always the Luna Park campground in Magdalena NM.

In case you are confused by all these eateries masquerading as amusement parks, let me clarify that there are actually many Luna Parks that really do offer spills and thrills rather than burgers and fries. Aside from the tiny one I stumbled upon in Scarborough, there's one in Milan, another in Melbourne and yet a third in Sydney. But it's a long flight to Australia, so don't forget to take with you Luna Park, the Review of Literary magazines for a bit of edifying airborne reading.


It seems that people want to either take what we have outright (the Dodgers) or replicate it in scads. The fact is, be it through hip hop, hot dogs, roller coasters, teddy bears, arc lights, credit cards, Luna Parks and more, Brooklyn has conquered the world.

Cultural  reproduction occurs in many and various ways. When the gates of the first Luna Park fell to a terrible fire in 1944, new Luna Parks rose like phoenixes from the flames spreading bright lights and screams of mock terror wherever they appeared.

For Those Who Would A-Wheeling Go

Aug 10, 2011 3:52 PM | 0 comments

Such hyperbole could only come from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which printed this notice on June 26, 1896, the eve of the grand opening of a new bicycling path connecting Prospect Park to Coney Island.  Twenty-thousand cyclists were expected to ride in a parade down Eastern Parkway to the path's head in Prospect Park, with thousands more spectators cheering from the sidelines.  Leading the pack was the distinguished Brooklyn Park Commissioner Timothy L. Woodruff, who would later serve as lieutenant governor under Theodore Roosevelt.

This photograph by Edgar Thomson shows a portion of the bicycle parade. 

The parades and fanfare of 1896 marked bicycling's official arrival as the sport of choice for Brooklynites, after the pastime was treated for years as public nuisance.  In 1873 Brooklyn's aldermen passed a law banning bicycles from city thoroughfares during daylight hours, and a few years later, the Eagle declared that one of the only excuses for the bicycle's existence was "the larger chance of the non-survival of the unfittest -- being those who ride the velocipede -- through accident."  I'm pretty certain there's an insult embedded in that double negative. 

Another Thomson photograph, from 1894, of bicyclists taking in the views at P.T. Barnum's circus at Broadway and Halsey Street.

By the 1890s, the Eagle was singing a very different tune; the newspaper had jumped on the stretch tandem of bicycle fandom, and was leading the call for better cycling paths in the city.  Articles on the benefits and pleasures of cycling abounded in the summer of 1896, with the Eagle dispensing tips on what routes to take (there's a 120-mile jaunt to Patchogue and back for ambitious bikers, or a milder 20-mile route through Fort Hamilton for those still getting their legs) and wondering incredulously how it is that only 10 years before a city official had the temerity to declare that "persons who had arrived at years of discretion and still rode wheels were asses." 

The stretch tandem of bicycle fandom -- an 1896 ad for Ehrich Bros. bicycle shop, at 6th Avenue and 23rd Street in Manhattan.

The pages of the Eagle were filled with advertisements for all the necessary accoutrements for a pleasure cruise -- beyond buying the bike itself, would-be wheelers might also consider purchasing a lamp for nighttime riding (like the 20th Century Company's model, left), a "body shield" to cut down wind resistance, or sporty "leggins" to be worn under skirts.

The women's cycling boots, right, sold by J & T Cousins on Fulton Street, promised "perfect ankle motion" for the lady cyclist.

Almost as prevalent as the praising ads and articles were the grumbles of protest from those who were not so thrilled with the two-wheeled contraptions.  Then, as now, pedestrians urged the police to crack down on bicyclists riding illegally on city sidewalks.  Then, as now, a small but aggravating cadre of wheelmen ignored speed limits and stop signs to use the city as their own personal racetrack (back then, they called them scorchers, and fined them $5 for each offense).  Then, as now, bicyclists were less than welcomed by other traffic on the streets, although in the 1890s that traffic consisted not of delivery vans and SUVs, but of horses and buggies.  Then, as now, a bit of commonly understood etiquette was needed to facilitate the bicyclists' relationship with his or her fellow Brooklynites, and the Eagle helpfully, and sometimes condescendingly, offered this advice to "the girl who would a-wheeling go."

This feature, which printed in April of 1896, largely doled out fashion tips, with an in-depth discussion of the bloomer and its waning popularity.  More to the point was a section called "Bicycle Don'ts"; a list of seventy-two aphorisms to keep in mind whilst perched atop a bicycle seat, ranging from useful to ridiculous.

"Don't fall."

"Don't swear."

"Don't be ungraceful."

"Don't be a freak."

"Don't ride till you are numb."

"Don't forget to turn to the right."

"Don't think you are the only cyclist in the road."

"Don't use bicycle slang."

"Don't ride a tandem with a 'soldier'."

"Don't try to ride like a man -- if you're a woman."

"Don't collide with railroad trains.  It is not good for your wheel."

"Don't run over babies because they happen to be in the road."

And finally, "Don't chew gum.  It looks bad and doesn't make your wheel go any faster."  Words to live by.  Bike safely!