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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 | 0 comments

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? 

Preservation and Progress at the Brooklyn Collection

Sep 10, 2015 9:35 AM | 0 comments

Brooklyn is in constant flux. Every day, it seems, someone comments that “the neighborhood is changing so quickly” or “five years ago none of this was here!” The Brooklyn Collection’s new exhibit, Preservation and Progress, explores those very statements. 

Pacific and Atlantic Photos, Inc. Municipal Building Under Construction, 1925. 

In conjunction with the Brooklyn Connections program, the exhibition looks at buildings that are long gone and buildings that have been landmarked by the Landmarks Preservation Commission; buildings that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Two Brooklyn Connections interns, Sydney Fearon and Austin Nguyen, led the charge by identifying buildings of interest for their architectural or historical value.

Brooklyn Connections Interns Austin Nguyen and Sydney Fearon 

With some digging, the archive revealed a diverse set of primary sources to support their interests. We've got some cool stuff, friends. 

The exhibition will be on view from now until December 4th. Come visit!

A Civil War of Our Very Own

Aug 6, 2015 11:00 AM | 0 comments

General Ulysses S. Grant is an American hero. He commanded the Union forces during the Civil War and is today lauded as a military genius. What's more, he served two terms as President of the United States - that’s quite a resume. (Yes, yes, he made some mistakes during his time in office, but show me a president who hasn’t.) 

Grant died in 1885 and was buried in his tomb (the aptly named Grant’s Tomb) on Manhattan’s Riverside Drive. It's big. 

Thomson, Edgar S. "Grant's Tomb." 1895. Print. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection. 

Brooklyn didn't have a body to bury, so we made one out of bronze and stuck it on the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch across from Lincoln in 1895. 

Memorial Arch. 1909. Print. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection.
- Grant and Lincoln are on the walls of the inner arch - 

The following year Brooklyn went one step further -- you can never have too many memorials. The Union League commissioned sculptor William Ordway Partridge to create a large bronze statue of General Grant riding quite the formidable stallion. The statue was placed at the corner of Bedford and Dean Streets in a square that was from then on named Grant Square. 

Thomson, Edgar S. "Dedication of Grant Monument." 1896. Print. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection. 

Grant Square was the perfect place for a fancy monument. The roads were wide and full of carriages carrying the wealthy residents of the up-and-coming neighborhood of Crown Heights. Grant Square was also the site of many a parade and celebration and Mr. Grant, surveying the area, added an extra dollop of patriotism to each and every one. 

And then came the automobile. Honk honk! Achooga achooga

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 1921.

As the streets began to fill with cars speeding past (well, speeding in early-twentieth-century terms) the statue began to acquire a layer of dust and grease. A general rumbling of discontent came from those who maintained Grant's Tomb, the Grant Monument Association.

"General Grant is dirty," they cried.

"General Grant is ignored," they moaned.

"General Grant should be moved to a place where he can be both clean and seen!" they demanded.

The committee claimed that the evolving traffic patterns could result in Grant being taken down and removed anyway, therefore it was in the statue’s best interest to be moved to Grant’s Tomb on Riverside Drive. In 1929 they began a capital campaign to raise $400,000 for that exact purpose.

And then came the Great Depression. The plan was scrapped. Grant and his horse stayed at the corner of Bedford and Dean uncontested until 1937, when the Grant Monument Association again attempted to relocate the statue to Manhattan. 

The proposed move hit a nerve with some Brooklynites. Members of the Brooklyn Council of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States were vehemently opposed, including Robert G. Summers. Mr. Summers had a special place in his heart for General Grant, as any 98-year old Civil War veteran inevitably would. 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 11 Oct 1938.

A Brooklynite was quoted in the Eagle: "There are too few statues in Brooklyn now to allow another to be taken away from us. It seems that every time someone wants to have a statue in Manhattan they run over to Brooklyn to find one that will serve the purpose. This statue was erected by the Union League Club of Brooklyn and it is fitting that it remain here." 

Even with some very powerful ex-officio members (Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and Mayor LaGuardia, to name two), the group only garnered $90,000 through fundraising and asset liquidation. All of the money went to the restoration of the tomb with none left over to relocate Mr. Grant.

When the ’37/'38 proposal failed, the Grant Monument Association regrouped and recruited more allies. In 1941, with the backing of the Arts Commission, they lobbied once again to move the statue to Grant’s Tomb. Herbert Livingston Satterlee, head of the Association, stated that he had the money to move Grant, just not the support from the community. Mr. Satterlee was a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and the son-in-law of one J.P. Morgan.  He hosted town meeting after town meeting and at town meeting after town meeting, Brooklyn was not having it. 

Eventually, Moses suggested that they just pull the plug to prevent "a petty local squabble." (Funny, Moses was usually the petty one starting all the squabbles.)

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 10 June 1941.

"I said then and repeat now that nothing could be more unfortunate from the point of view of the memory of General Grant and the good opinion of the rest of the country than to have a petty squabble over the gift of this statue by the people of Brooklyn to Grant's Tomb to complete this national monument," stated Moses.  

The squabble continued anyway. 


Brooklyn Daily Eagle 15 July 1947.

In 1943, Satterlee and the Arts Commission lobbied one last time.

Satterlee said that the statue was neglected, dirty, greasy, and often vandalized (with chalk).  Discussion of the traffic pattern came up again, with references to Brooklyn’s future and possible infrastructural changes (*ahem* Robert Moses *ahem*). 

And then it got personal. Satterlee and the Arts Commission argued that Crown Heights’ population was shifting from one comprised of wealthy whites. Immigrants and African-Americans from the South had begun to move in and the cry from the upper crust was that it was disrespectful to keep Grant in a “slum.” Oof.

The debate came to a head in the fall of 1943, when Brooklynites from all walks of life weighed in. A contingent of residents wanted the statue to remain in the borough but be moved to Grand Army Plaza.  “If we have not the gumption to move it there we deserve to lose it,” one man stated.

The Eagle floated the idea that Grant should replace General Slocum on the Plaza. They even photoshoped (1940s photoshop = scissors and whiteout) Grant’s statue into Slocum’s place.

"How Do You Like It?" Brooklyn Daily Eagle 1934. Print. 

Poor Henry Slocum. First, he was given the nickname of "Slow Come" since he took so long to get to Gettysburg, then his name became synonymous with a horrible tragedy, and then they try to replace him. Can’t a guy catch a break?

"Slocum Statue." 1905. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection. 

Today, Slocum still sits to the right of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch. He is often overlooked because his hill could use some serious pruning. 

Rev. Stanley T. Olsen spoke on behalf of the Swedish Hospital, located at Bedford and Dean Street. He rejected that the statue “ought to be removed from a slum area . . . It has always been the policy of American cities to diffuse beauty, not concentrate it,” he asserted. Furthermore, he went on, the patients found the statue calming.

(Someone apparently retorted that you could only see the statue from a small fraction of the hundreds of windows on the hospital.  I don’t know. Google Maps tells a different story.)

Google Maps. 22 July 2015. Web. 
- The hospital was the white building with the rounded corner - 

The Eagle took a straw poll of Brooklynites, some from the neighborhood and some from elsewhere in the borough, asking them to weigh in on the issue. A few folks didn’t know the statue existed (which isn’t all that surprising – I walk past things every day that I didn’t know existed), but in the end support for keeping the statue in its current place was 3 to 1. 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 5 Nov 1943.

One woman smartly asked if they’d have to rename Grant Square if Grant left. (Three cheers for logic.) That would have been a nightmare for businesses, as many claimed that they used the statue as a marker to help customers find their shops.

The town hall in which a final decision was to be made was held on November 4th, 1943. Robert Moses sent an intermediary to speak on behalf of the Parks Commission. In his professional opinion, he felt the statue should stay in Brooklyn but be moved to Grand Army Plaza across from Slocum. (Slocum breathed a sigh of relief.) 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 5 Nov 1943. 

The next morning the Eagle reported: “The sturdy bronze horse upon which General Grant rides serenely on Bedford Ave. seemed to hold its head a little higher as its heroic flanks glinted in the morning sun today. A meeting of Brooklynites held in the best traditions of the American town hall had set at rest any idea of leading him across the river.” Manhattan was out and, even if Grand Army Plaza was to be Grant’s future home, the move was postponed until the war’s end.

Though the matter of Grant’s home was temporarily settled, the debate over it only further exacerbated the rivalry between Manhattan and Brooklyn. An editorial in the Eagle accused Manhattan of trying to steal the statue:  “Our piratical neighbor across the River [attempted to] rob us of the Grant statue,” it read.

Another reader retorted a few days later saying that the whole town meeting was just another place for Brooklynites to show their animosity for Manhattan: “They’d rather see the statue thrown into the river than moved across it.”

One reported claimed that the statue had morphed into “a symbol of the spirit of Old Brooklyn struggling to reassert itself against the domination of Manhattan.”

After years of hooplah, Grant was left alone. Traffic continued in its original pattern. Hospital patients kept their cheerful reminder of the bloodiest war in American history. The seasons passed by. 

"Snapshot of Equestrian Statue of Ulysses S. Grant." 1966. Print. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection. 

In the end, Grant still stands at the corner of Bedford and Dean Streets and most likely always will. Next time you drive past, slow down a bit (not too much, someone will honk) and give him a little wave. I’m sure he’d appreciate it.