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20 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Brooklyn

Apr 7, 2014 12:00 PM | 0 comments

We've become a monoculture of list readers. With the advent of Buzzfeed and the like, we've grown accustomed to sifting though these monotonous lists to identify if we saw that movie or had that toy as a child. Admit it, you totally read these articles. Did you see the one about the 58 worst things that happen on social media? Or the 19 questions people with moustaches are tired of hearing? And don't get me started on all the quizzes. 

Recently, while scrolling through my newsfeed, I came across a Buzzfeed article about the 60 things you probably didn't know about New York City. I figured since we're all accustomed to list-reading, why not copy the idea and share some things you probably didn't know about Brooklyn (with pictures!)          

1. 12-year-old Clarence D. McKenzie was Brooklyn's first casualty in the Civil War. He was killed in friendly fire when a member of his regiment fired his gun while cleaning it. 


Clarence D. McKenzie, July 1861

2. Shortly after the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, there was a panic on the bridge when a woman's heel got caught in the wooden planks.  She screamed and those around her thought the bridge was collapsing, causing a rush off the bridge. 12 people died in the stampede.

 Panic on the bridge. May 30, 1883

3. Steeplechase Park held an annual "Most Beautiful Grandmother Contest", beginning in 1932.

4. Brooklyn had its very own ice hockey team named the Brooklyn Americans (although they weren't very good).

5. Borough President John Cashmore wrote Dodgers star Jackie Robinson a heartwarming letter in 1949 after reading a story about him in the Brooklyn Eagle.

 Letter to Jackie Robinson from John Cashmore.  August 15, 1949.

6. The Brooklyn Public Library offered classes for women entering or re-entering the workforce including, "Make-up and Hair Design for the Working Woman" and "Capsule Dressing" in 1983.


7. To demonstrate against unfair sanitation practices, residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant organized a "cleansweep" of their streets, bringing all the uncollected garbage to the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall on September 15, 1962.


"Bernard Hall Telling It Like It Is"

8. FDR visited Ebbets Field while campaigning for his 4th term as president.

9. Erasmus Hall High School was established in 1787.

10. Brooklyn Borough Hall had WPA murals which depicted the history of Brooklyn from 1609 to 1898.  The project took two years to complete and covered 900 square feet.  


"GI of '18--These are soldiers of the last war, as represented on the wall at Borough Hall." Brooklyn Eagle, July 26, 1945

11. And in 1946, they were torn down.

12. In 1942, the Brooklyn Navy Yard made a call for women to apply for work as mechanics, painters and welders for the first time in their 141-year history.  20,000 women applied.

 Women on their first day of work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. September 14, 1942.

13. The Howard Colored Orphan Asylum was located on Troy and Dean Avenues.

Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, ca 1910

14. Dreamland Park in Coney Island had a "midget" fire department.     


15. A portion of Long Island University is housed in the former Paramount Theatre.

 Paramount Theatre, January 17, 1955

16.  Mickey Rooney was born in Brooklyn on September 23, 1920.  He began his acting career in his parents' vaudeville act at 17 months old.  He died yesterday (April 6, 2014) at the ripe old age of 93.

            Mickey Rooney and Sally Forrest at Loew's Metropolitan Theatre, October 13, 1951 

17. Before talkies, Midwood was a center of movie making and home to the Vitagraph Studio.

  Vitagraph Studio's dressing rooms under construction, 1926.

18. Parking was a problem even in 1954!

 Brooklyn Eagle, May 27, 1954

19. In 1914, the Brooklyn Public Library opened the first library in the world devoted exclusively to children in Brownsville.  It is now the Stone Avenue branch

 Brownsville Interior, 1914

20. 1 in every 7 people can trace their roots back to Brooklyn. (Well, this is a "fact" that we've all heard before, or perhaps you heard a better ratio like 1:4 or 1:5. Recently the Urban Omnibus did their due diligence to debunk said statistic.)

Want to know more about Brooklyn?  Leave a comment.  Maybe we'll write another list.