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Our Streets, Our Stories Community Scanning Update

Oct 30, 2015 12:00 PM | 0 comments

The Our Streets, Our Stories introduction post found me preparing for my kick-off event at the Leonard library and putting finishing touches on the mobile digitization kit. Four months later I’m now preparing for my fifth community scanning event at the Clinton Hill library and working toward scheduling more spring events. 

Our Streets, Our Stories has been well received by the library community and public interest is steadily growing. As we host more scanning events in different neighborhoods, I'm adjusting my outreach efforts to reflect what I've learned along the way. Among the most important lessons is to reach the library’s most frequent patrons, whom I rely on the branch librarians to help me identify. Leaving a sign-up sheet at the front desk has been a great way for the librarians to collect the contact information of interested patrons, allowing me to reach out to them with a reminder a few days before the event. 

Photo album with photographs of Lois Degenhardt at a fair in Kutztown, Pennsylvania (left) and Iris Sheber on the promenade at Manhattan Beach (right), 1970. 

The support of the library’s friends group is key to successfully promoting an event. These volunteers are living in the communities I’m trying to reach, working hard to advocate for their branch; it’s a natural alliance. The friends of New Lots library suggested adjustments that led to my most successful event to date! In the coming weeks I’m looking forward to meeting with groups at the Clinton Hill, Greenpoint and Dyker libraries. 

Pasta Association annual meeting, c1950      

Employees inside of the I. Defrancisci & Son Macaroni Machines factory at 219 Morgan Avenue, 1917.

Starting in early November Our Streets, Our Stories will be taking on a new challenge by partnering with Brooklyn Connections to bring digitization to classrooms. By taking my mobile digitization kit to Brooklyn schools, children will have the opportunity to not only learn about Brooklyn’s history, but to contribute to it. Each student will be asked to bring in one item they believe best represents Brooklyn and will assist me in creating a digital copy. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the students interpret the assignment!

Senior pin from Junior High School 218 James P. Sinnott, 1973.             

Eric Lafontant holding his daughter Farrah Lafontant in Flatbush, 1979. 

The project reached an exciting milestone earlier this week when the majority of our collected images were uploaded to the Brooklyn Public Library catalog. I received an enthusiastic response from our donors, some of whom have been waiting since August to see their images online. In the spring these images will be migrated to the library’s new digital collections website, but in the meantime you can take a look at some examples here and here

I hope to see you this winter at our upcoming events: 

November 17th and 21st: Clinton Hill Library

December 16th and 19th: Greenpoint Library

January 29th and 30th: Dyker Library

Double Header -- two programs on Brooklyn's baseball history!

Oct 23, 2015 2:00 PM | 0 comments

All of New York is buzzing about the Mets' impressive waltz into the World Series -- their first appearance in the championship since 2000 (their last World Series win was in 1986). If you're anything like us, your glee at their success is mediated by the pangs of loss still felt from when Brooklyn's beloved Dodgers decamped for Los Angeles. As it happens, October 4th was the 60th anniversary of the Dodger's World Series win against the Yankees in Game 7 -- the only championship the team won during its tenure in Brooklyn.

If that paragraph got your heart beating a bit faster, you're in luck, because we're offering two programs on the history of our Dodgers next week! Note that the Monday, October 26th program will be held in Central Library's first floor Info Commons Lab, and the second event on Wednesday, October 28th will be held in the Brooklyn Collection.

Monday, October 26th
Author Talk with Andy McCue
Two out of three ain’t bad: Branch Rickey, Walter O’Malley and the Man in the Middle of the Dodger Owners' Partnership. Join author Andy McCue (author of Mover and Shaker: Walter O'Malley, the Dodgers, and Baseball's Westward Expansion) as he discusses the fascinating life of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley. One of the most influential and controversial team owners in professional sports history, O’Malley (1903–1979) is best remembered—and still reviled by many—for moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Yet much of the O’Malley story leading up to the Dodgers’ move is unknown or created from myth, and there is substantially more to the man.
7:00pm in the Info Commons Lab

Wednesday, October 28th 
Author Talk with Andy Mele
Tearin’ Up the Pea Patch; the 1953 Dodgers. What made the ’53 Brooklyn Dodger’s so good? What issues on and off the field did they need to address on their way to the World Series against the Yankees? Mele takes us back to that extraordinary baseball season, and shares his insight into relationships between teammates, managers, and fans.
7:00pm in the Brooklyn Collection
Reception precedes this talk at 6:30pm

Copies of the authors’ books will be available for purchase and signing at both events.

What's wrong with your tongue?

Oct 8, 2015 12:00 PM | 2 comments

Our colleague recently left for a new gig in Staten Island. We here at the Collection wanted to give her something to remember us by. We settled on a photo of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s eagle, the one who sat perched over the main entrance to the Eagle Building in Downtown Brooklyn from 1892 until the building was demolished in 1955.  

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Building, 192-?. 

The eagle is special partly because the bulk of the Brooklyn Collection is comprised of holdings from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper, which folded shortly before the building came down. What’s more, the eagle is now perched atop the entrance to the Central Branch, so we see a lot of each other. 

We had a few images to choose from, finally narrowing it down to the following two: 

Dismantling of the Eagle, 1955.

Eagle Moved to Brooklyn Public Library, 1997. 

The first image is a picture of him coming down from the Eagle building in 1955 and the second from his arrival here at Central in 1997. He was at the Brooklyn Historical Society for the better part of the interim years. 

But wait. 

Hold the phone.

What’s up with the eagle’s beak? It’s open in one of the photos, tongue lolling out, and closed in the second. 

And the feet? And the wings? 

Naturally, our first thought was that we had a fake eagle. We’d be duped. Tears, outrage, etc. 

I started digging through the Brooklyn Archival Files (BAF) held in the collection. We needed answers. The files contain clippings from local newspapers on all sorts of topics. I found four folders about the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and, within the hundred or so articles, one article that gave me the solace I was looking for. 

“The cast zinc eagle was the biggest of the four that adorned the newspaper's eight story building at the corner of Johnson and Washington Sts. (now Cadman Plaza East). The whereabouts of the other three are unknown. Its dramatic 10 ft. wingspan has sagged a little since it was made by Hecla Iron Works of Williamsburg in 1892. Some repairs were needed on its beak and feet” (New York Daily News 2 June 1997).  

This explanation eased my concerns. With that said, some of my colleagues remain unconvinced. 

30 September 2015. 

Regardless, we’re happy he’s here. Whoever he is. 

A Whale's Tale

Oct 2, 2015 1:00 PM | 1 comment

Don’t you love a heartwarming animal story? You know, the ones where dogs and cats put aside their instinctual differences to find their way home or children risk it all to rescue baby pandas? Those are excellent stories.

This is not one of those stories. 

I found a photo of a large whale on a flatbed truck in a folder appropriately named “Animals.” The 1953 photo’s caption told of a seven year old, 75 foot, 70 ton fin whale named Mrs. Haroy. Naturally, I had some questions.

"Where's Jonah?" Brooklyn Daily Eagle 30 Mar 1953. Print. 

With a bit of research, I found some answers. But, boy howdy, they aren’t pretty. Here we go.

In 1951, a group of Danish fishermen were sailing off the coast of the Norwegian island of Haroy when they spotted a fantastically huge fin whale. They then shot harpoons into said fantastically huge whale and lugged it to shore. She was quickly embalmed and given the name of Mrs. Haroy. 

Over the next year her owner, a Mr. Lief Soegaard, exhibited her in over 60 cities across Europe. Reports say that she was seen by over 6,000,000 during that year.

If you feel like it, you can actually watch a video of Mrs. Haroy’s last hours on EUScreen, Europe’s version of the Digital Public Library of America. It isn’t pretty. With that said, there is a horribly hilarious and slightly disturbing image of young children gawking at the marine behemoth, one going so far as to climb inside the mouth (it comes at 0:51). 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 30 Mar 1953. 

In early 1953, Mrs. Haroy was returned to her ocean home, though this time above the water, not in it. She arrived in Brooklyn on March 30th, 1953. Mr. Soegaard’s intention was to wow Americans with a whale extravaganza just as he'd done in Europe. Coney Island was to be her home base while in New York City. 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 30 Mar 1953. Print. 

When she arrived, Brooklynites reacted variably. As reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle: “Some sneered at publicity statements that it was the largest leviathan ever caught in North Atlantic waters, saying they had seen larger. Others bemoaned the slaughtering of whales" (1 April 1953).

Another agitated onlooker was quoted saying, “Pretty soon we won’t see any more whales in the Artic. In the Antarctic they’ll soon be gone, too” (1 April 1953). This guy might have been on to something. 

Mrs. Haroy hung around Coney Island for months (as if she had a choice). And then, tragedy struck! 

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “The whale was already harpooned and her body was desecrated by tiny feet. What more could happen?!

I’ll tell you what. She caught fire.

Yes, early in 1954 the structure that protected Mrs. Haroy from the sun caught fire, badly burning the whale. I assume she was quite flammable considering the chemicals inside her incredibly large veins. 

She had already begun to smell, but within days of the fire she began to really smell. 

Keep in mind, Mrs. Hoary was still sitting at 3222 Stillwell Avenue, right smack dab in the middle of Coney Island's tourist hub. 

Desk Atlas of the Borough of Brooklyn. New York: E. Belcher & Hyde 1929. Print. 

She remained on her half-burned funeral pyre for weeks. Local business owners claimed the whale was driving away customers. Residents, naturally, were equally unpleased. 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 20 July 1954.

On July 21st, 1954, the Eagle reported that the threat of fines and imprisonment had finally convinced Mr. Soegaard to remove the whale that “wafted unladylike odors through Coney Island for some weeks” (21 July 1954).

You totally want her to go to a museum or a place where she can promote conservation or something, right? 

Sorry. As reported in the Eagle: “In court the owner promised they would begin dissecting the whale today, and that, within a week, it would be deposited below three feet of dirt in a Staten Island dump. ‘You had better stick to minnows.’ Justice Thompson told the whale owner” (21 July 1954).  

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 21 July 1954.

Her heart, which was exhibited alongside her during her days as an entertainer, was 1,100 pounds. I assume it went to the dump as well. 

And so ends the tale of Mrs. Haroy. 

...I know, right?