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Information for Busy People: The Brooklyn Eagle Library

Jul 8, 2011 10:07 AM | 0 comments

The Proposed Constitution of the State of New York; Full Report of the Proceedings of the 80th Annual Meeting of the American Board; The New Primary Law; Brooklyn Church Semi Centennial; Directory of Educational Institutions; Mortgage Tax Law; Life Insurance; The War Revenue Bill.

Not exactly beach reading, is it?

And yet I can see him now, our anthropomorphized Brooklyn eagle, from whose library these titles come, under a parasol on Jones Beach, zinc on his beak, poring over the new Sanitary Code of the Board of Health, totally absorbed, waves lapping his talons, a cold soda wrapped in his feathery wing.

Oh to dream....Granted, our dry bird's dry library may not be the most exciting collection on our shelves, but it has its own sort of charm. To be fair, not all of the titles are so dull (though informative!) and more often than not the cover art, as well as the illustrations inside, surprise with their design.

Hard facts and good looks aside, the Brooklyn Eagle Library was massively popular in its day (10,000 copies of the Raines Law pamphlet sold within 48 hours) and provided Brooklynites with an easy reference resource where they could find out...well...whether or not they could sell beverages in a cemetery (they could not: Section 171 of the 1900 Sanitary Code). 

A 1922 edition of the Eagle summed up the Eagle Library's mission this way: "for giving authentically all the information which busy people need, and find so difficult to obtain."

So without any further ado, here are some selections from this library within the library.

The Eagle Library commonly published political pamphlets which typically included bios of candidates, guides for voters, and all manner of law relating to elections and primaries. The above pertains to local elections in 1895.

In addition to these handy guidebooks, the Eagle Library also turned its attention to more controversial political topics: class conflict, socialism, corruption.

And below, a photo of one of the Trappist monks -- "The Oldest Monk" -- written about in the above issue.

Published in a pocket-sized format the Eagle Library also included guidebooks to different cities -- namely Washington DC and Paris, both of which were home to Eagle bureaus.

And a photo from the above guidebook showing the exterior of the Washington bureau.

A guidebook to New York City was also included in a year's subscription.

Small red map of Central Park.

The Eagle Library also specialized in how-to manuals. Three indispensable titles are: How to Play Baseball, Poultry Raising for Profit, and Practical Notes on Photography.

 This volume includes a number of illustrations, like this one of a pair of handsome French Houdans.

Incredibly informative and accompanied by numerous photographs, this manual could teach any novice the best techniques for capturing smoking toddlers on film.

For the kids themselves, the Eagle Library provided special childrens' supplements.

Herein children could spend hours lost in puzzles and riddles. Here are two for you.

"'I Don't Jes' 'Zackly Like the Way Them Two Chicken Hawks is Hoverin' 'Round Here.' Can You See Them?"

"Find the Other Two Hod Carriers."

Adult cartoons were decidedly more political. In 1912 the Eagle Library put out a collection of political cartoons by staff artist Nelson Harding.


And since I began this post imagining an eagle reading on the beach, I suppose it's only fitting to end it with a donkey and his gun.

But before I go, here is something in the Eagle Library no Brooklynite could have done without in the summertime: the annual summer resort directory. This colorful cover is typical of these supplements, so if you like what you see, come visit us for more; we'll be happy to show you our library within the library!