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Celebrating another year of Connections!

May 28, 2010 2:00 PM | 0 comments

This morning, 150 students, teachers and parents filled the Library's Dweck Auditorium for our annual Brooklyn Connections Recognition Ceremony and Celebration.  On stage, outstanding students presented their final Brooklyn History projects and received certificates of achievement from the Library.  In our lobby, students and their guests enjoyed a catered reception while viewing presentation boards and other materials representing the hard work of students from 10 middle schools across the borough.

Although the event has quickly come and gone (without a single leftover cookie in sight!), we are still celebrating the students' accomplishments here in the Brooklyn Collection with an exhibit highlighting their work. 

Brooklyn Collection visitors will have the opportunity to learn a little more about our program and how we help students grow from special collection novices to experts on researching Brooklyn's history.  The exhibit includes photographs, documents and excerpts from projects, as well as quotes from the students themselves.  We are proud of all of our students' accomplishments this year and hope that you will stop by this summer to view their work.  Their thoughts are truly inspiring. 

And who knows?....Perhaps after visiting our exhibit, you'll be ready to take on your own Brooklyn research project this summer! 

Hard Times Revisited by Guest Blogger Rich Reyes-Gavilan

May 24, 2010 12:30 PM | 1 comment

It's been one year since the appearance of the blog post detailing the sorrowful history of budget cuts to Brooklyn Public Library. Sadly, the recurring theme has become a recurring nightmare as we once again find ourselves threatened with deep cuts that will devastate our ability to provide service. This year's proposed budget could result in a $20 million reduction to BPL, meaning the closure of 16 branch libraries, fewer books, fewer programs, fewer computer sessions, and massive layoffs. We continue to ask our supporters to write their elected officials and advocate on behalf of the Library. Let's hope that by next year we'll be able to retire this post to the archives for good. 

The Brooklyn ???

May 20, 2010 3:38 PM | 10 comments

When the Dodgers left Brooklyn 53 years ago they not only ripped out our hearts and guts they also took away the borough's only major league sports franchise. We all know this sad story, so let's not dwell on it here; better for Brooklyn sports fans to turn their attentions to the hardwood machinations of a spindly Russian billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, majority owner of the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets. Or, I should say, the Brooklyn Somethingelses.

At a recent press conference Prokhorov hinted that the nickname Nets might stay behind in Newark when the team moves to the Barclays Center in a few years, leaving me to wonder just what kind of name would be appropriate for a bunch of dunking, spin-moving, alley-ooping colossi flexing their muscles in the land of Junior's cheesecakes.

There are a number of options open to any owner looking to rename a team: one could call on history -- like football's San Francisco 49ers; or look to industry -- the Detroit Pistons, the Green Bay Packers, the Pittsburgh Steelers; or one could even make a crafty literary allusion -- after all, football's Baltimore Ravens are named for Poe's famous bird. In each case, the owner needs to think about the place where the team plays and what it is about that place that makes it special. And we all know there's a lot that makes Brooklyn special -- so what to call our future basketball team?

Here's my suggestion.


Think about it. We would be the most mystical team in the entire league! Freely espousing and freely dunking all over the place. Plus there's a built in nickname for all diehard fans -- the Whitmaniacs. We could have beautiful green uniforms -- Leaves of Grass -- with lines of poetry embroidered along the trim. And even if kids would be a little frightened at first by the bearded mascot who riles up the crowd with poems read in a booming voice over the arena PA, in time they would love him and come to think of him as a kind of Naismithian Santa Claus. Finally, and most importantly, when LeBron James gets here he could invent a new dunk and name it something like The Body Electric or The Deathbed Edition. Even if Mikhail Prokhorov doesn't go for it, I'm sure that other Brooklyn poet and minority owner, Jay-Z, is in my corner.

But what do you think? What would be a good name for this new team? We're curious to know!

Little-Known Brooklyn Residents: Elizabeth Hughes

May 18, 2010 11:41 AM | 2 comments

On October 31, 1950, the front page of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran an article including a startling action photograph of 65 year-old Mrs. Elizabeth Hughes.

"I just went swoooosh!" - Elizabeth Hughes

Mrs. Elizabeth Hughes, a B.M.T. subway ticket agent, "scared the daylights out of a husky six-foot-tall bandit who thrust an automatic pistol in her face and sent him packing", the Eagle reported. She re-enacted her quick response for the Eagle photographer, illustrating how she swooshed a nearby pan of water on the would-be-bandit and chased him away from her ticket booth. Elizabeth Hughes had worked for 24 years with the B.M.T., and told police that she had subdued holdup men at least three times before in the course of her career -- even though this was not the recommended hold-up response from her B.M.T. staff training.

Lost children and leeches.

May 14, 2010 7:55 AM | 2 comments

The recent announcement by Verizon that they will no longer be distributing telephone directories in print form made me think about how the directory has evolved or--some might say--regressed--over the course of the last 200 years.

We recently acquired a group of four Brooklyn City Directories, all in wonderful condition, from 1839-1840, 1840-41, 1842-43 and 1844-45. Yes, they all exist on microfilm, but the convenience of a print directory is equaled only by its ability to conjure the atmosphere of an era. Aside from the listed occupations that no longer exist, the addresses that lack street numbers because there weren't any, the impression of the letterpress--it is the advertisements in old directories that provide endless fascination.

In the 1844-5 volume a gorgeous foldout announces confectioner George W. Mumby's Ladies Saloon, with delicate artwork printed by R. Butt, Lithographer, of 158 Fulton Street, Brooklyn.

Mumby advertisement

Our visiting middle schoolers might blench, though, at an advertisement to be found at the rear of the directory, suggesting a solution for the problem of lost children:

Lost children

Mr Oakes evidently had a gallows sense of humor. Or worse, perhaps not.  

1842-3 gives us information that must have gladdened the heart of many a Brooklyn resident wondering what to do with the birds and rabbits dispatched on his last hunting trip:

Akhurst advertisement

Readers of this blog may remember a post some time ago that touched on the swill-milk trade in Brooklyn. Those wishing to avoid the scourge of milk from cows fed on distillery slops would, we learn, be well advised to buy their milk from the Mount Prospect Milk Dairy.  As you may know, Mount Prospect lies right behind this library building, so I am particularly glad to know that wholesome milk was available in this immediate neighborhood.  In fact, we are told that "The cows are fed upon NATURAL FOOD,  such as grass, hay, meal, roots and without anything artificial, such as distillery slops, or Brewers Grain, or other unwholesome food."

My favorite advertisements, though, come from the volume for 1840-41. First of all as a student of the history of printing in Brooklyn I am happy to see Alden Spooner touting his services as "Book and Letter Press Printers. Office Long Island Star."  But better yet, that small, slimy and indispensible element of the 19th century pharmacopeia, without which no physician could properly ply his trade, is handsomely represented:

Leeches advertisement

It must have been comforting to know that one's leeches would be carefully applied; but there were surely times when, no matter how skillful the hands of a male attendant, a lady needed another lady to apply her leeches. She need look no further than the City Directory!


Mrs Hall was clearly not a woman who wasted words. Really, the advertisement tells you all you need to know.