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Happy New Year from the Brooklyn Collection

Dec 31, 2012 12:27 PM | 0 comments

Meet our new mascot CheeChee the Chihuahua, who charmed readers in the December 31, 1954 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. We added the noisemaker ourselves.

make a gif

Last Minute Holiday GIF!

Dec 24, 2012 12:49 PM | 1 comment

Like our holiday GIF? You can make your own! Just browse our catalog for the photograph of your choice, do some fancy editing, and then upload the files to a GIF-making website like or

We'd love to see what you come up with!

Happy holidays from your friends at the Brooklyn Collection!

To Number a School

Dec 20, 2012 2:41 PM | 1 comment

The New York City school system has over 1,700 schools and while numbering them may seem simple, it is actually fraught with difficulties.   Because there are so very many schools, sometimes school numbers are doubled or even tripled.  The repeating numbers are partly due to the fact that before the Department of Education was consolidated, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan had their own school systems.  To alleviate the confusion after consolidation, letters which represented each borough were added to the end of all public school names.  For example, schools in Manhattan have the letter 'M", Brooklyn (Kings) "K", The Bronx "X", Queens "Q" and Staten Island (Richmond) "R".  Today, school names are generated by a computer program to avoid duplicating school numbers.

The graduating class of 1899, Public School 26

Take for example my elementary school, Public School 8.  The school was established in 1892 and the current building was constructed in 1915, replacing the old wooden schoolhouse.  Now, one could think I went to a school in Brooklyn Heights or even Washington Heights because PS 8 can be found in both neighborhoods but I went to the PS 8 in Great Kills, Staten Island.  Much like my grammar school, there are multiple PS 1s, PS 2s, PS 3s (the list goes on and on) and three or four PS 26s as we'll soon find out.

PS 26 was organized in 1856 as a primary school in a frame building on New Bushwick Lane and Ralph Avenue. In 1857, eight lots of land were purchased on Gates Avenue and Ralph Avenue for a new school building which opened in September 1869.  Twenty years later, because of an increase in the student population, an annex was built to expand the school from twenty-two classrooms to forty.

Atlas Page, 1904

The papers didn't report much on the school again until 1950 when in the early morning hours on April 10, a fire engulfed the annex of PS 26.  The nearly 60 year-old structure was severely damaged but thankfully no one was injured in the blaze.  While repairs were made, the nearly 1,200 students were relocated to PS 74 on Kosciusko Street near Broadway and PS 29 on Quincy Street and Stuyvesant Avenue (which is no longer there).

Brooklyn Eagle, April 10, 1950

In 1944, plans had been made to erect a new PS 26.  However, in November 1950, seven months after the fire that caused over $75,000 in damages, residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant were still asking Borough President Cashmore for a new school building.

Brooklyn Eagle, November 26, 1950

Eventually a new school building was erected on the current site on Ralph Avenue and Quincy Streets, behind Junior High School 57. The school operated without incident until the mid-1960s when it experienced a slew of break-ins.  Then shortly after the schools' expansion with a new wing in 1968, PS 26 experienced fifteen break-ins within a two-month period.  During one of them, vandals ransacked the library and "tossed books and cards from the catalogue all over the place and poured glue over them" according the Eagle.

Google Maps indicating the three different locations of PS 26.

Today, Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School is on the former site of PS 26, on Quincy Street and Ralph Avenue.  Brooklyn Connections partnered with Excelsior to do a project about the history of their school.  Eighth grade students were asked to analyze primary sources including a New York Times article and an atlas page.

 'Public School 26 (1900)

What we learned from this document...

"Is that this part of the school was built in the nineteen hundreds.  This used to be the front of the school and then a few years later, it became the back.  This part of the school no longer exists because it got burnt."

Students made connections to their current school building from the resources and began to understand the complicated history of the school.  News of the school traveled quickly, and by lunchtime, practically the entire student body knew the history of the building.  It was amazing to not only watch the kids become student history detectives but to see all the students teach their fellow classmates about the school and experience how excited they were to share the information with one another.

If you're a teacher or administrator and are interested in learning about the history of your Brooklyn school, please contact Brooklyn Connections at and we will be happy to share our lesson plans with you!

The hundred dollar handkerchief.

Dec 18, 2012 1:50 PM | 1 comment

Perhaps you are like me. As you approach the season of giving, the cold hard fact dawns that you have done nothing to prepare. No tree adorns your living room, no lights brighten your window, your child's only presents were sent by family members more thoughtful than you, and it is too late now to mix a Christmas cake with a sixpence in it for luck--even if you had a sixpence, which you don't.  So now that all is pretty much lost, why not procrastinate a few moments more--or, if you prefer, consider it a creative form of gift research, inspired by items available a century ago--by perusing some advertisements in the Brooklyn Life magazine of December 14, 1912. Yes, even a hundred years ago at this time, Brooklynites--in particular the well-heeled readers of this magazine--were also waiting for the perfect gift idea to come and strike them on the head with no more effort than it takes to turn a page.

The disappearance of the handkerchief as an item of daily use is a sad thing for the holiday gift exchange. What baby boomer does not remember as a child receiving a box of handkerchiefs marked for every day of the week? Or initialed ones in linen or fine lawn, perhaps lace edged? Yet the generation of 1912 had us beat on the handkerchief front. You could cross over to Manhattan and, at the linen store of James McCutcheon, be sure to find handkerchiefs at anything from 12 1/2 cents a piece, to $100 (or upwards of $2000 in today's money.) That high end item must have been the spun gold handkerchief dropped by Marie Antoinette as she mounted the scaffold--or something similar. This year instead I'd suggest a couple of boxes of tissues, or pehaps a crocheted tissue box holder for those who prefer their paper goods to be used with discretion.

Here's a suitable gift for the gentleman in your life. Who wouldn't want a handsome set of bodkin-clutch studs and vest buttons? A lot of people, you say? Humbug!

Well then how about this little chap?

Actually, sorry, that particular doggy in the window isn't for sale, but I bet that second prize in the Long Island College Hospital Guild dog show made "Nikon" a prized progenitor of Samoyed pups. So let's all remember that giving a puppy for Christmas is not a good idea unless you have really thought it through. A harp is a much better idea.

Can't you just see your significant other in flowing robes, hands wafting over the strings with deft touch, producing waves of evocative sound? No again? Well, Brooklyn Life has an alternative for you:

but I am certainly not going to be the one to suggest it for this year. Instead, I think a trip to Bermuda for two--on the updated version of the a twin screw steamship--would be a wonderful gift.


And if your salary like mine doesn't run to such jaunts, how about this?

You know that weird old trick--you take a bath with some of these bath salts and come out ten pounds lighter, avoiding that drawn and haggard look? So now you can tell your friends not to worry--just eat as much pie and pudding as you want, then go take a bath! What a gift!


On View Now: Jamel Shabazz

Dec 13, 2012 3:14 PM | 0 comments


Last September it was our great pleasure to host Brooklyn-born photographer, Jamel Shabazz, at our monthly lecture series. He spoke at length about his personal history, his work, and the passions that drive him to document life, not only in Brooklyn, but all around the world. After his appearance here at the Brooklyn Collection we began working with Mr. Shabazz to bring his photographs into the Collection with the aim of preserving them for future generations while giving the Brooklynites of today a chance to access his tremendous archive.

As part of our job to make Mr. Shabazz's work more accessible, we have installed an exhibit of nearly 100 4x6 reproductions of his donated photographs here in our Brooklyn Collection display cases on the 2nd floor balcony at the Central Library. Including photos from the early 1980s to as recently as 2012, this exhibit, entitled Reflections, serves as a wide-open introduction to Mr. Shabazz's documentary concerns, covering everything from intimate portraiture, to elegant and dynamic group compositions, to glances into the daily life of a diverse group of Brooklynites.

Along with these photos on exhibit in our Collection, we have also created a more focused online gallery of Mr. Shabazz's photographs, all of which were taken in and around Prospect Park. This online exhibit, entitled Prospect Park -- An Oasis in Brooklyn, can be viewed as a slideshow here and comes complete with a voice-over by Jamel Shabazz... so why not click on the link and listen to the man himself talk about why our neighbor, Prospect Park, has been so important to him throughout his life.

Both of our exhibits, the one here in the Brooklyn Collection and the online gallery, will be up through February, as will the library-wide Jamel Shabazz exhibit, entitled Represent. We hope you can stop by for a visit!