There are a lot of serious and solid information sources in the Brooklyn Collection, but over the years we have certainly allowed great amounts of trivia to accumulate in our files. The pursuit of the trivial, it has been argued, can actually lead to profound insights; and you just never know whether a matter that seems trivial today might turn out to be of immense importance tomorrow. At least, that is my excuse for digging into one of our so-called "Brooklyn Archive Files" or "BAFs" labeled Brooklyn (Non-New York). Under this cryptic heading we find articles on towns and villages named after our own Brooklyn, or on occasion sharing our name and denying any relationship. We have BAF files under about 8000 different subject headings holding newspaper clippings from approximately the 1950s to the present. Often they provide us with the only information we can find on subjects of interest to our patrons.
Back in my English home town recently I happened upon a "Brooklyn Street, " right next to "Vermont Street." We take it for granted that the US is crammed with transplanted European place names, but of course there is also a traffic in the other direction. There are Brooklyn Streets in Crewe, Leeds, Bradford, St. Helier, Oldham, Bolton and Seaham; the towns and cities of Cheltenham, Nottingham, Woking, Brentwood, Cleckheaton, London, Harwich and Bristol all boast a Brooklyn Road; while Brooklyn Avenues can be found in Manchester, Loughton, Blackpool, Rochdale, Worthing, Birmingham, Huddersfield, Bangor and London. There are also at least eight Brooklyn Drives and five Brooklyn Places, including one in Portrush, County Antrim. Since the origins of the names of British towns and villages are mostly wreathed in the mists of antiquity, it makes sense that streets erected in the 19th century and onwards should reflect the fame of New York's most populous borough.
It is mainly to points of the compass other than East of here that we must turn to find towns being founded bearing the name of Brooklyn. Articles in the BAF file tell me that Cleveland Ohio has a suburb named Brooklyn; there is a Brooklyn in Oakland CA, and Brooklyn MD was annexed to the city of Baltimore in 1919. According to a 1985 New York Times article, the town of Brooklyn CT owes its name not to our Brooklyn but to a variant 18th century spelling of the phrase "Brook line." Brooklyn PA is also in denial, claiming that it was named for a town in Holland, not for one in New York. There is a Brooklyn in Michigan and one in Wisconsin that is located 90 miles west of Milwaukee. Other Brooklyns can be found in Oregon, Mississippi, and Iowa. No doubt I've missed a few, but we're not done yet.
Brooklyn, Australia lies about 30 miles from Sydney; there are Brooklyns in South Africa and New Zealand too according to an article in the World Telegram of 1952. Another yellowing scrap from 1956 states confidently that "Brooklyn, Brazil is on the railroad. It is a whistle stop for a big iron mine where the ore assays 67 percent..." Just in case you plan on making a visit, Brooklyn Brazil lies about 600 miles from the coast in the Itabira Mountains. Skipping quickly to another continent, there was talk of a Brooklyn Village in Israel back in 1968, but if it actually exists today it is keeping rather quiet.
The gem in this little compilation refers to the daddy of all the Brooklyns, Breuckelen in the Netherlands. An undated flyer that probably comes down to us from the late 1940s was issued by the Brooklyn Heights Garden Club, which sponsored a project called "Brooklyn Adopts Breuckelen." The flyer explains that the shortages of the war and the German occupiers have stripped the town of even the necessities of life, leaving the population completely impoverished. It requests gifts of all manner of everyday items and food, including:
"Knitted underwear for men, women and children--about 5100 units; sheets and pillows for maternity cases--approximately 300 of each; outing flannel for babies; 300 diapers; 1000 crib sheets; 3000 safety pins...cotton thread, darning cotton, rubber bands, elastic pins, snappers, buttons etc...send meat spreads, luncheon meats, peanut butter, jams, marmalade, cheese spreads, hard candies...corsets, sanitary napkins, rubbers, wash cloths, towels, soap, youth handicrafts materials..."
I have no doubt whatever that Brooklyn came through for Breuckelen.
Well, maybe there is nothing profound in this BAF file after all, just a meandering journey that touches on iron mines and post-war scarcity, the popularity of a name, and the peculiar connections a name can make between people--and that will have to be enough.