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The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the Chicago World's Fair

May 30, 2009 12:11 PM | 2 comments

I just finished reading the book The Devil in the White City.  It's a really good read about an unimaginable task done well--the story of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.  What does this have to do with Brooklyn?  Well, Brooklyn was mentioned many times in the book and there were many famous historical names that I have frequently looked up in the collection that had some association with Brooklyn, and then I remembered, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle sent an entire team of reporters and about 200 Brooklynites to Chicago to cover the fair.  So, I decided to do a little digging and found that the Brooklyn Collection has some resources that would help any researcher look for information on the Chicago World's Fair particularly from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's point of view.  Two books come to mind from our collection:  The Brooklyn Eagle World Fair Excursion and a complete bound edition of the Handbook to the World Fair, from which these images are taken. 

The Handbook to the World Fair was published by the Eagle in seven editions, each edition growing as the fair went on.  Every handbook has itineraries, maps, and very helpful solutions to problems that may have weighed on the minds of Brooklynites when they visited the fair.  This included basic but tastefully crafted descriptions of the location and design of the Eagle bureau in Chicago.World's Fair Brochure   

 Some of the more interesting hints include:

Letters of Credit:  "It will doubtless happen many times during the summer that visitors to the World Fair will need to have checks cashed, and this would not be done at the Chicago banks without reliable identification, which it might oftentimes be impossible to obtain.  The Eagle has made provision for this perplexing contingency.  By calling at the Eagle office in Brooklyn before leaving for Chicago travelers will be given a letter of credit, and upon presentation of this to the Chicago Bureau it will be honored.  It is not wise to travel with too much money upon your person.  Leave part of your funds at home, and make drafts on the Eagle Bureau as necessity demands."  I take for granted that my driver's license and my credit card can help me out where ever I go.  Could any regular Joe or Jane looking to have fun at the fair just get a letter of credit?  Or did one have to be a prominent Brooklynite to do so?

Mineral Water:  "Hygeia Mineral Water has been placed in the office, and a supply of this well-known pure water is constantly on hand."  

Lady Assistant in Attendance:  "A lady assistant is in constant attendance at the office."

The handbook includes itineraries for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 days and 2 week itineraries (yes, this is how it is written in the handbook).  The author states that "A visit to the Fair grounds  is an occurrence replete with constant pleasure..." and "Of the Fair itself nothing but praiseworthy sentiments should be uttered.  It is the most stupendous tribute to modern advancement and civilization ever offered for the inspection of mankind."  Sounds breathtaking! 

The last few pages list all of the exhibitors in Chicago and include a list of Brooklyn Exhibitors.  One of the most famous names listed is Brooklyn-born Frederick Macmonnies, who designed the The Columbian Fountain for the World's Fair.  In Brooklyn, one of his most famous designs is the "Quadriga" that tops the Soldiers and Sailors Arch at Grand Army Plaza and on the south pedestals, the Army and Navy sculptures.  Other Brooklyn contributors at the fair included S. Liebmann & Sons Brewing Company (yay beer!), Pratt Institute, and the Brooklyn Orphan Asylum Society.

Brooklyn inspired aspects of the Fair and the Fair inspired designs for Brooklyn.  Daniel Burnham, the Director of Works of the Fair, saw the care that Frederick Law Olmsted took to design Central and Prospect Parks.  He was inspired by Olmsted's preference of a natural scene over planned flowerbeds and enlisted him to be the landscape architect of the Fair.  The Ferris Wheel, designed to rival the Eiffel tower at the Paris Exposition Universelle, was dreamed up and built by G.W.G. Ferris.  The wheel was named after him and made a significant amount of money for the fair (50¢ admission fee).  Coney Island's Wonder Wheel was inspired by Ferris' wheel.  According to the Landmarks Preservation Commision's report, the Wonder Wheel, built by Charles Herman of New York, sought to improve on the wheel invented by Ferris.  While the Wonder Wheel is significantly smaller than the colossal Ferris Wheel, Mr. Herman was clearly inspired by Ferris' ingenuity.

There is so much more that I could write about from the handbook, not to mention that I didn't even touch the other book that I mentioned earlier in this post, The Brooklyn Eagle World Fair Excursion.  I'll have to save that for the next post.  But before this ends, I'll mention one more Brooklyn related finding at the World's Fair:  The Women's Building.  The library in this building was stocked with collections chosen by a committee that was primarily made up by prominent Brooklyn Women. 

Revisiting a Lost World: The Past, Present and Future of Brooklyn's Dutch Farms. A Talk by Dr Sean Sawyer. Weds May 27th, 2009, 7 p.m.

May 26, 2009 12:12 PM | 0 comments

This illustrated talk will revisit the lost world of Brooklyn's Dutch farms--from their 17th century origins through their heyday in the mid-19th century when Long Island was the center of American agriculture, to their rapid extinction in the 20th century and the precious but precarious survival of their remnants on the streets of Brooklyn today.

Wyckoff Farmhouse

Dr Sean Sawyer has taught at Harvard, Columbia and Fordham universities and the New School. He was Director of the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum from 2001-2007, and is currently an organizer of 5 Dutch Days 5 Boroughs" and the Administrator of the Department of History at Columbia University.

Miss Doggett's Masterpiece

May 14, 2009 2:43 PM | 0 comments

If this post is about anything at all, it is about the places you can end up when you don't quite know where you are going.

DoggettThere is a book in our collection that no one ever asks for, even though it is an excellent example of its kind and a work of solid scholarship. The book I have in mind is Marguerite V. Doggett's, Long Island Printing 1791-1830. This bibliography of all the earliest printed works produced on Long Island inspired me some years ago to search the decks of the Library for neglected examples of early Brooklyn printing. [Some people are unaware of the fact that, beneath the three upper floors of the Central Library lie four levels of "decks" holding a reference collection that hides jewels among the long rows of library buckram.  It was there that, some years ago, a former Brooklyn Collection archivist found a copy of Thomas Wharton's History of English Poetry that had been annotated by Herman Melville.  This book went to Harvard University where I am sure it is being very well cared for.] My finds were not exactly jewels, but the search did have something of the feeling of a treasure hunt, and our Early Brooklyn Printing Collection now comprises 24 volumes.  That little hunt was nothing compared to that of Miss Doggett, who visited over 60 libraries and corresponded with scores of librarians in her search.

Born in Massachusetts in 1887, Marguerite Verity Doggett spent some years as librarian of Clemson University in the 1920s; in 1947 she took the position of Chief Librarian of the Long Island Division of Queensborough Public Library, where she served until 1956.  She died in Greenville S.C. in 1985 at the age of 97. 

Early Brooklyn Printing

Published in 1979 by the Long Island Historical Society, her bibliography owes a debt to the Collections of New York Public Library and the Long Island Division as well as upwards of sixty other collections, but not, alas, our own. No matter, our role will be to celebrate Ms Doggett's achievement.  She identifies 385 items printed during the period, of which 259 or 67% emanated from Kings County. 

The well-known Alden Spooner was probably the most prolific of Brooklyn's printers, but Thomas Kirk was the first, and others include John Pray and Josiah Bowen, Erastus Worthington, and George L. Birch.

As I surveyed the little row of books I had collected, (and in particular, those produced by Thomas Kirk), I asked myself, what was it about these titles that made them, in the mind of the first printer in Brooklyn, more worthy of reproduction than any others?   A few picked at random include: An act to incorporate the society of the lying-in hospital; Articles of agreement between the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; A brief concordance to the Holy Scriptures;  An elegy on the death of the late Rev. John Wesley; The Discarded Son, or Haunt of the Banditti; The Schoolmaster's Assistant.

As Miss Doggett notes, there is "a spirit of humanitarianism" in Kirk's activities. I would go further and say that, besides the "job printing" titles produced for other publishers (like the Historical and Geographical Account of Algiers and the Young Misses magazine), Kirk's choices were largely governed by his adherence to Methodism. Religion and self-improvement were the staples of his trade.

The most terrifying of his publications by far is Dillworth's Schoolmaster's Assistant.

Q: What is the amount of 63l sterling, in Pieces of Eight, at 56d per piece? Answ. 270 Pieces of Eight.

Q: What is Alligation Alternate? A: Alligation Alternate is, when the rates of several things are given to find such quantities of them as are necessary to make a mixture, which may bear a certain rate propounded.

Q: What is the neat weight of 38 hogsheads of Tobacco, weighing gross 201C sqrs 12ib tare in the whole 3140lb?

A: 173C 3qrs 7lb.

Q: How is the neat weight found, when trett is allowed with tare?

A:Divide the pounds suttle by 26, the quotient is the trett, which subtract from the suttle, the remainder is neat.

Who knew that early 19th century Brooklyn was peopled by math geniuses?

An enquiry concerning....

The early Methodists in the North East were firmly anti-slavery, condemning slave ownership as sinful. So Kirk's publication in 1810, of Baptiste Henri Gregoire's Enquiry concerning the intellectual and moral faculties, and literature of negroes... is entirely of a piece with his religious convictions.  This trenchant condemnation of slavery is followed by brief biographical sketches of outstanding individuals such as Phyllis Wheatley, Benjamin Benneker, and others less well known--Amo, L'Islet Geoffroy, and Thomas Fuller.  Fuller, a mathematical prodigy, would have had no trouble with Dillworth's problems. 

Leaving Kirk aside for a second, we have Erastus Worthington to thank for the  Catalogue of Books in the Brooklyn Circulating library kept at the office of the Long Island Star, Fulton-Street (1821) which, being a bibliography within a bibliography, just about makes my day.  Brooklynites in 1821 could borrow all manner of fiction, as well as books on history, biography and travel, and "miscellaneous" works. These include works on the Art of Thinking and the Art of Swimming, the Flight to the Moon, a Lecture on Heads, and an Essay on Irish Bulls. Not a single one of Thomas Kirks' publications is listed, which suggests to me that Brooklyn was heading in an altogether more secular direction than Kirk would have liked.

I Knight Thee, Sir Hot Dog

May 13, 2009 6:29 PM | 0 comments

In 1939, for the first time in American history, the King of England set foot on U.S. soil.  After a whirlwind tour of Washington, President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor invited King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to an informal picnic at their "country home" in Hyde Park, New York.  In true American fashion, Mrs. Roosevelt decided that no picnic would be complete without hot dogsSnobs everywhere, including the President's mother, balked at the thought of a hot dog being presented to His Majesty.  But, when the King enjoyed his picnic dinner and then asked for seconds, hot dog enthusiasts everywhere rejoiced.

The National Sausage Casing Dealers' Association immediately saw a marketing opportunity and sent free posters (above and left) to their vendors highlighting the connection between royalty and hot dogs: "Paste enclosed posters in your window... it's news!"





Indeed, it was news.  The picnic made headlines in papers across the coutry:

"First Lady Triumphant; Royalty Eats Hot Dogs"

"The Lowly Hot Dog Has Become Ennobled"

"With Mustard is Royal Order"

"Hot Dog Found 'Fit for King'"

"King Bites Dog"

The Times magazine even published a piece on the history of hot dogs - going back to the age of Homer. 

Coney Island, the undisputed home of the hot dog, wanted in on the action as well.  A month later, in July 1939, they hosted national "Hot Dog Day."  The event was announced under the premise that it was the golden anniversary of the hot dog and bun combination, although no one could be certain that the first hot dog "sandwich" had actually been served fifty years prior.  It seems likely that the event was an opportunity to capitalize on recent hot dog mania.

Sticking with the royal theme, an official coat of arms was designed for the "birthday."  For those of you (like me) who aren't Latin literate, it reads "Hot Dog," and yes, the mustard is also properly labeled.

The National Retail Meat Dealers Association, which was helping to organize the event, appealed to the King himself to confer the title of "Sir Hot Dog" upon the food.  In the end, King George didn't show up to knight the dog, so comedian Milton Berle stepped in.

Happy Mother's Day

May 11, 2009 12:36 PM | 0 comments

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I would highlight some photographs from our Herzberg Collection. Irving I. Herzberg was an amateur photographer who took thousands of pictures of the people of Brooklyn.  His photographs captured everyday life throughout the borough, but he excelled at informal portraits - on the bus, subway, at the beach, people usually lost in thought. 

In these closeups of mothers and children, Herzberg, through superb composition, conveys a quiet moment, where the mother at least for the time being is at rest. 


Each is reflective and still, each within her own world.  But instead of depicting isolation, the connection with her child is unmistakable.  


Like a modern day Mary Cassatt, Herzberg uses the arm around the shoulder, the head on a lap, to convey the intimacy, support, and love that exist between these mothers and their children.  


He provides us a window to look into the lives of these Brooklyn mothers, if only for a moment.