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So Long, Brooklyn.....Hello, Brooklyn. A Farewell post from Tara.

Oct 28, 2010 6:40 AM | 0 comments

It feels bittersweet that my time in Brooklyn is coming to an end, as I am moving to Australia with my husband to have a child and begin a new life chapter. I will certainly miss my job as the Research Assistant in the Brooklyn Collection, and the pleasures of discovering fascinating Little-Known Brooklyn Residents in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Morgue. My days of unearthing photos of cats dressed up in princess outfits, pipe-organs in apartments, and youthful treasure hunters are behind me, and I will remember these days fondly. 

Happy days working in the morgue 

Although there is some regret about leaving the borough I love and have called home for many years, there is one small reassuring factor -- that is, the place I am moving to in Australia happens to be right up the road from a small Australian town -- also named Brooklyn. Admittedly it is not a great idea to compare the town with the borough, as Australia's Brooklyn has fewer than 700 residents, and the local pizza is far, far less divine. But some general comparisons are fair enough for those moments of nostalgia, as Australia's Brooklyn is also surrounded by water, has a locally renowned bridge, and coincidentally is just a stone's throw from a "Long Island."

View of Brooklyn, NSW, from Hawkesbury River station bridge by Adam J.W.C. 

There are varying reports as to why Australia's Brooklyn was named as such; folklore attributes the name to the locally renowned bridge that was built by the Union Bridge Company of New York, in 1889. However, local historians have uncovered records that show that Brooklyn was named by the Fagan brothers--area landowners who were thought to have had relatives living in Brooklyn, New York--well before the building of the bridge. 

View of Brooklyn's bridge, aka Hawkesbury Bridge. Image from Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

So for now it is time for me to say "So Long" to the borough of Brooklyn, so that I may say "Hello" to the town of Brooklyn. I fondly bid farewell to the Brooklyn Public Library and the terrific Brooklyn Collection -- a trove of endless fascinating stuff. Thanks for the memories, Brooklyn Collection -- you will indeed be missed. 

So Long...




Editor's note: Tara Cuthbert and Stuart Solzberg are creators and curators of the Bushwick Farms conceptual art project, which will now enter a new phase in a new land. We wish them every happiness.

Little-Known Brooklyn Residents: Birthday Dancers Joseph Notarfrancesco and Laura Louise Ottomanelli

Oct 4, 2010 2:41 PM | 0 comments

On October 12, 1951, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that the family of 89 year-old Joseph Notarfrancesco caught him climbing onto his garage roof with the intent of making repairs with a hammer. His family urged him down in a hurry, concerned that he should not be doing such activities at his age. "Pop can't stand still," his granddaughter said, "...he always has a hammer in his hand." The Eagle reported "...for a nonagenarian the elderly man is indeed active. He reads avidly, writes letters, goes to church every Sunday, and even dances the rhumba." Just two days later on his 90th birthday, Mr. Notarfrancesco's family relented, and allowed him to celebrate this milestone by climbing back onto his garage roof -- to dance the rhumba with his granddaughter.

Turning 90 is a great reason to dance the rhumba

In 1954, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on another senior borough dancer, Mrs. Laura Louise Otomanelli, who celebrated her 103rd birthday by dancing the tarantella at an Italian restaurant in Bath Beach. Witnessing her celebratory dance were multiple generations of her family -- including children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and one great great-grandchild who sat watching wide-eyed in appreciation. The secret of her longevity, the Eagle reported, was "good clean living and hard work. One should never sit back and take it easy" she said.

Turning 103 is a great reason to dance the tarantella

Found in the Morgue: Efforts to Elevate the Humble Doughnut

Sep 30, 2010 2:30 PM | 1 comment

The humble doughnut is often considered lowly food in the landscape of American snacks. During the 1940s and 1950s several efforts were made to elevate the status of the doughnut, and the Morgue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle records these efforts well. Following are three examples found in the Morgue photo files.

In 1955, Miss America's Wanda Jennings was the spokesperson for a nationwide campaign to "encourage housewives to serve families more nutritious snacks." Doughnuts and milk were promoted as "Wholesome Pals" -- "a good nutritious food and all important mid-morning or midday snack."

Socialite and entertainer, Elsa Maxwell, world famous for her high-class parties, was pictured in the act of "dunking a doughnut thereby removing the social stigma in her select circle and changing the art of dunking from a secret vice to an advertised art." Her public doughnut dunking was one of the highlights of the 1941 meeting of the National Dunking Association.

Brooklyn's own Janice Gilman was selected as the National Doughnut Party Queen in 1954 at the Hotel Roosevelt. The National Party Committee launched a nationwide campaign to "cement home ties and keep children off the streets by promoting home doughnut parties." The National Doughnut Party Queen planned to tour the nation, urging the public to hold more and better home parties. "Doughnut dunking," she said, "is better than street fighting." 


Little-Known Brooklyn Residents: Parrot Fanciers Jeremiah O'Shea and William Musella

Sep 20, 2010 10:14 AM | 0 comments

Jeremiah O'Shea, a 1950 Red Hook resident, owned a parrot with a special talent -- the ability to swear in four languages. When Jeremiah made a trip to the pet store for birdseed one morning, he returned to find his front door open and his parrot Polly missing from her cage. He searched the neighborhood and the police investigated too, with no success. Almost a month later two teens were pulled up for causing a disturbance and after police questioning, the teens admitted that they had broken into Jeremiah's home and sold Polly to another local bird fancier. To O'Shea's delight Polly was reunited with her owner by two policemen who reported that when Polly was set down on her kitchen table she "breathed a deep sigh and croaked 'Good Night' in four languages."

Jeremiah O'Shea reunited with his parrot Polly

William Musella's parrot named Doris also had a special talent -- riding on the hood of his old green Packard. Doris did this by holding on tightly to the radiator with her claws and was not chained at any time. "I trained her on Sunrise Highway" Musella announced, "...a woman stopped me one day and said 'I have toured the 48 states and never saw such a thing in my life.'" Musella raised money for the Red Cross and the Kingsbridge Road Veterans Hospital by exhibiting Doris and her talent outside local bars and grills. During her time with Musella she toured Brooklyn, Long Island and the state of New Jersey.

William Musella and Doris exhibiting her talent outside a local bar

Little-Known Brooklyn Residents: Charles M. Murphy

Aug 20, 2010 1:52 PM | 0 comments

Charles M. Murphy was one of the greatest riders in bicycle history. On June 30th, 1899, he completed a famous bicycle ride behind a Long Island Railroad train, covering an entire mile in the record-breaking time of 57 4/5 seconds. This record earned him the nickname of "Mile-a-Minute Murphy."

Mile-a-Minute Murphy

The event took place at Maywood, Long Island, where board track was placed over the railroad tracks, and visitors piled in by the hundreds to watch the event. On the following day, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported "the ride was thrilling and exciting beyond in the car behind which the ride was made, cried like children, while other men old in years of spirits and railroad life were as babies...the scene was terrible in its intensity and to those who rode the memorable trip from the rear platform of the car, it will live while memory lasts."

Crowds gathering in preparation for the record breaking ride

After his famous mile-a-minute ride, Mr. Murphy mastered many other feats according to the Eagle, including joining the police force, organizing a police bicycle club, rescuing a woman from a burning building, taking up motor cycling and aviation; was promoted to sergeant, and even saved a man from quicksand. In his later years he also found time to teach youngsters how to ride bicycles.

Mile-a-Minute Murphy giving bicycle lessons in 1934