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Teacups, Frog Hopper and Cyclone

Jul 17, 2009 2:18 PM | 0 comments

Photographer Ron Meisel has donated one of his beautiful 40 x 15" prints to the Brooklyn Collection. Coney Island, Brooklyn--Astroland Park: Teacups, Frog Hopper and Cyclone (2007) now holds pride of place on the rear wall of the reading room to the right of the Reserve Room doors, with Bill Creevy's pastel drawing of the Central Library to the left. Ron Meisel is represented by Phyllis Stigliano at the Phyllis Stigliano Gallery, 62 Eighth Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217.  This is a panoramic photograph taken with a Hasselblad Xpan camera, Fuji Color negative film and scanned on an Epson scanner. It was printed on an Epson 4800 printer with Epson Ultrachrome K3 inks. The archival paper is Hahnemuble Photo Rag Bright White.

Unfortunately I was neither able to turn off the lights nor move the photograph to eliminate reflections. In reality it looks wonderful.

Beauty and the Beer

Jul 16, 2009 2:15 PM | 1 comment

Brooklyn and beer have a long history together, as do beautiful women and beer advertising.  These early advertisements from our collection illustrate that point: 

  Liebmann's Sons Brewing     Trommer's Beer

Consumers Brewing

 But no beauty was quite like Miss Rheingold: 

Miss Rheingold 1961 - surrounded by previous Miss Rheingolds

From 1942 to 1965, Liebmann Breweries of Bushwick, Brooklyn used an annual beauty contest to sell beer.  It was a clever marketing ploy that offered the general public the opportunity to choose Miss Rheingold.  Ballot boxes were placed in taverns, grocery stores and other locations and citizens could vote as many times as they liked. 

Liebmann took the contest seriously, hiring an outside company to handle the voting and providing each winner with various amounts of cash, modeling fees, and accommodation.  It was reported that their ballot count was second only to Presidential elections.  An ad announcing Miss Rheingold 1950 proclaims, "Yes - in a town full of pretty girl's there's only one Miss Rheingold.  She's a New York tradition that can't be matched."

Miss Rheingold 1950

Or could she?  For over twenty years the ads were almost identical.  Young blondes (and occasional brunettes) were seen picnicking, sailing, and skiing as they announced, "My beer is Rheingold - the DRY beer."

Miss Rheingold 1951

As a representative of a New York brand, Miss Rheingold was expected to attract New York customers.  But her "girl next door" appeal started to fade by the 60s.  Advertisers shot her dancing in the streets of Puerto Rico and hanging out with fishmongers in the Fulton Fish market.  But these new "candid" shots couldn't erase the fact that Rheingold wasn't selling. 

In 1965, the Times asked, "How does a white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Miss Rheingold sell Rheingold beer to Negroes?  Or Puerto Ricans?  Or to Italians, Greeks, Chinese or to the Irish for that matter?"  Times were changing.

After "many, many meetings at the brewery," Liebmann cancelled the election and put millions of dollars into new advertising campaigns that featured a new group of women: first generation Americans.  In radio, tv, and print ads Chinese dancers performed on Mott Street, African Americans sang the blues in Brooklyn, and Italians got married on the Lower East Side - all while enjoying Rheingold.

Miss Rheingold was out. Although she had become a legendary Brooklyn figure (Brooklynites still remember her to this day), her failure to boost sales made her obsolete from a business perspective.  Rheingold revived the competition in 2004, but the young, scantily clad participants just weren't the same.  The new contest lasted a year, allowing Miss Rheingold to become a permanent part of Brooklyn's past.

Photograph inventory July 13-24, 2009

Jul 10, 2009 12:07 PM | 0 comments

Brooklyn Collection staff will be carrying out an inventory of our photograph collections from July 13 to 24, 2009. The physical photograph collections will be closed to researchers during that time and no photograph orders will be processed, although images will still be available through our digital files.

Eagle photograph files

Some Brooklyn Hats

Jul 7, 2009 4:32 PM | 0 comments

As a "friend" once memorably put it, you can always count on me to find the cloud behind every silver lining. The rain has held off for a few days now, but can the miserably hot and humid days of summer be far behind? There was a time when head protection on sunny days was de rigueur, and a baseball cap was considered the appropriate headgear only for playing baseball. For the rest of life, other types of summer hat gave Brooklyn heads their special pizzazz.

In the late 19th century you could still wear a straw boater without a hint of irony, in fact every member of this well-dressed family sports some kind of headgear. Family on Coney Island Beach

By the 1930s and 40s the boater seems to have gone out of fashion. Maybe it was considered inadequately masculine.

 Eagle writer and broadcaster H.V. Kaltenborn poses in a hat that Hemingway might not have been ashamed of:


But sheer fashion sense, I would have to go for this little number noted by Irving I. Herzberg on a subway trip circa 1960.


Sham Warfare in Prospect Park

Jul 2, 2009 3:25 PM | 1 comment

  George Brainerd - Sham Battle in Prospect Park

On a frigid February afternoon in 1885, the Third Brigade of Brooklyn's Second Division of the National Guard marched onto the frozen, snow covered fields of Prospect Park.  Dressed in full winter uniforms, carrying muskets and bayonettes and waving their American flags, they were prepared for an elaborate exercise in mock warfare - a sham battle. 

In the 19th century, sham battles were used for either commemorative or practical reasons.  Although the National Guard had scheduled the event on a holiday, Washington's birthday, the sham battle was first and foremost a training exercise.  The commanding officers had carefully orchestrated battle plans: "skirmishing, advancing and retreating in line, relieving lines of battle, attack and defense posts" and more.  The soldiers were to arrive prepared for a full day's work, but if a few civilians wanted to come by and watch the event, that was fine by them. 

No one expected that 30,000 viewers would show up:

George Brainerd - Sham Battle in Prospect Park

Brooklynites and New Yorkers came to the park in droves to see the excitement and enjoy the freshly fallen snow.  The Times described the scene: "...a rushing, turbulent current of human beings out for a holiday...the people who flocked in droves on the battlefiled had mixed themselves up with the soliders were a positive nuisanceGeorge Brainerd - Sham Battle in Prospect Park...Small boys roosted high in the trees like crows.  Visitors came on foot, in carriages, on bicycles, and in omnibuses.  Handsome girls nodded to their friends from fancy dog carts."  What was supposed to be an organized exercise in military disipline quickly became a struggle to overcome chaos.  Crowds of people surrounded the brigades and took over useful battleground.  Frustrated soldiers tried to continue their work, but the enthusiastic crowd treated the day like a parade, checking to see if the "dead and wounded" were actually dead and wounded and talking to officers who were in the middle of an order.  The Eagle reported that "When the firing commenced none of the regiments could see any of the others, for a crowd of ten thousand people being between them and a crowd of ten thousand more immediately behind."

Sham Battle at Prospect Park - Harper's Weekly, March 7, 1885

The few police officers on hand did their best to move the masses out of the soliders' way.  The Times described the scene well: "The efforts of a dozen policemen on horseback to The Grand Sham Battle of the Second Division - Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, March 7, 1885keep the vast crowd within the flag-staked limits were thoroughly amusing, and about as ineffectual as a motionless scarecrow in a seven-acre cornfield."  As people were herded in various directions, some injuries occurred.  Mr. B.Y. Conklin, principal of P.S. 3 broke his leg; a young boy fell from a tree, suffering a sprained ankle; and a young woman was lightly injured after a carriage rolled over her back.  The Eagle later reported that Mr. Conklin was still confined to his home two months later.  

In the aftermath, the event stirred up various opinions on the matter. The Times saw humor in the crowd's attendance and seriously critiqued the militia's overall battle performance.  The Eagle defended its local Brooklyn brigade, blaming the crowds for the militia's "failure in their immediate intent and purpose."  The newspaper even went as far as to suggest that a sham battle should be planned between the New York and the Brooklyn militias, as an opportunity to prove their superiority while making up for the last event. 

But the most blunt perspective came from a soldier who was interviewed by the Eagle immediately following the affair: "The general public behaved like an ass." The Grand Sham Battle of the Second Division - Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, March 7, 1885