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The Longest List

Mar 6, 2012 1:07 PM | 0 comments

Tommy Senko, 4, of 1622 New York Ave., yesterday's summer heat and humidity, cooling off under a shower. June 26, 1949

It is well known among people who care about these things, that the Brooklyn Collection is Brooklyn's premier center for historic photographs of the borough, with over 20,000 of them digitized, catalogued and available for reproduction and use.  Less well known are our photographs of everywhere else--and everyone else--deposited in the library's basement in 1957 after the auction of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's assets. 

Al Schacht, "Clown Prince of Baseball." no date

Although it excelled in covering local news, the Eagle also covered national and international stories, keeping bureaus in Washington D.C., London and Paris for many years. And in order to illustrate these stories, of course it used photographs, many of them from wire services such as Wide World Photos, Pacific & Atlantic photos, Associated Press, United Press and so on. It used thousands and thousands of photographs, of people, places, things and events from all over the world.

And among the morgue files many unprocessed images of Brooklyn and Brooklynites also await discovery.

When the guys from Schenley Import Corporation visited Atlantic City, Piper Jock Penman welcomed them with the ditty "McTavish had very close veins."...Oct 3, 1953

We estimate that the morgue files hold around 200,000 images, in folders arranged in file drawers in alphabetical order, as you would expect in a well-kept library. Over the past few years, originally thanks to a grant from the Bay Foundation, we have been replacing the original Eagle folders, now over 60 years old and of poor quality, with  acid-free folders, and in so doing we have created a list of the subject headings covered down in the basement morgue. So far, we are up to Rome--St. Peter's, and we estimate that we have created over 33,000 new labels. That is, 33,000 subject headings, each heading (or folder, or group of folders) containing anything from one to hundreds of photographs. 

Brushing up on their reading are Richard J. Moran, seated, and Fireman Lawrence Kennedy, in the library of the home of Major and Mrs Kermit Roosevelt, Oyster Bay, which has now become a convalescent home for torpedoed merchant seamen. Sept 13, 1942 [Downton Abbey, L.I. style!]

Now you can actually search the list here with headings transcribed exactly as they appear on the original folders (or you can reach it in the "Brooklyn Collection" area of the library's web site, under Our Collections--Finding Aids.)  It is 692 pages long and we still have eight letters of the alphabet to go! 


Brooklyn Public Library story teller Spencer G. Shaw reads from Mother Goose....Nov 17, 1949

One day last week I delved into the 'S' Files, soon to be refoldered, and you can see here a tiny sampling of the images I found.

Rudolf Serkin--Pianist, appearing with N.Y. Philharmonic-Symphony at Carnegie Hall next Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Apr 28, 1940.

Like the images in the catalog, the morgue photographs in the Longest List are available for reproduction and use. As always, responsibility for copyright issues lies with the user. If you would like to look at any of the folders, you can email us at, or call 718 230 2762 during our open hours.