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May Queens and Cherry Blossoms

Apr 29, 2010 3:00 PM | 0 comments

Cherry Blossom, Brooklyn NY, April 21, 2010

The delicate cherry blossom is so ephemeral! This poor blossom wilted as I walked from the park to my office, and the trees bloom for just a few short weeks in early spring. In my previous post, I wrote about Brooklyn's official flower, the Forsythia.  I like to think that the cherry blossom is one of Brooklyn's unofficial flowers because Brooklynites have celebrated this symbol of spring for many, many years.

The cherry trees of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden have been celebrated since their planting, some as early as 1912.  The garden boasts around 42 varieties of flowering cherry trees including weeping varieties.  The trees have a lifespan of 25-30 years.  The New York Times once described the blossoms as "frothy and bouffant as whipped cream tinted from white to shocking pink". 

Cherry Blossoms, Brooklyn Eagle, April 29, 1942

Visitors have been flocking to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for years and in 1942, the garden in the springtime became a refuge for Brooklynites.  As one reporter described the above scene at the garden, "unaffected by priorities, rationing or the other results of war, the eternal cycle of nature brings the early cherry trees to bloom in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden".

Rite of Spring, Brooklyn Eagle, May 1, 1954

Prospect Heights High School and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden began hosting May Day acitivities at the garden starting in 1947 with the first annual Brooklyn Botanic Garden Week.  The school held an annual pagent to crown the May Queen.  The ceremony, which included the singing of madrigals, choral singing, and maypole dances, was one of the few observances of May Day in New York City. 

Blossom Queen, Lambert for the Brooklyn Eagle, May 2, 1954

May Queen Mucinieks "smiles through a lush frame of colorful cherry blossoms before being crowned as May Queen".  In 1954, Mucinieks was the 6th May Queen for Brooklyn Botanic Garden Week.  May Queens were often crowned by celebrities and Mucinieks' crowning was officiated by Alfred Drake and Doretta Morrow who starred in the Broadway musical "Kismet".  

As far as I can tell, the last mention of May Queens and Brooklyn Botanic Garden Week appears in the 1955 Annual Report of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  Spring festivals made a comeback when BBG began celebrating the Japanese Rite of Spring in May of 1982, the first official Sakura Matsuri festival. 

Sakura Matsuri celebrations lasted for a week, similar to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Week of years past.  Events focus on traditional and contemporary Japanese arts and culture.  The festival has moved from a week long celebration to a weekend event, usually the last weekend of April or the first weekend of May. 

Blooming cherry blossoms signal the beginning of spring.  The Brooklyn Botanic Garden's website has a beautifully illustrated page that shows the great variety of cherry blossoms from their trees and their various stages of beauty, from birth to death.  They last for such a short period of time and by now, the blossoms are already past their peak.  Below is a lovely time lapse video for those readers who cannot make it to Brooklyn to see our fleeting treasures.   

2008 Cherry Blossom Time-lapse at Brooklyn Botanic Garden from Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Vimeo.

Brooklyn Goes to the Movies. A talk by Theater Historian Cezar Del Valle. Wednesday, April 28, 7 PM, Brooklyn Collection, 2nd floor Central Library

Apr 27, 2010 10:52 AM | 0 comments

Bushwick Theatre, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1911

During the Golden Age of cinema, Brooklyn had over 200 movie houses. Many of these theaters, originally used for vaudeville acts, found new lives with the advent of moving pictures.  Theater historian Cezar Del Valle willl host a lively lecture about these movie houses of yesteryear. Please come early as seating is limited. Wine and cheese social from 6:30-7:00 and the talk begins promptly at 7:00. The Brooklyn Collection is located at the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza on the second floor. Come and join us for this free and fascinating program!

In addition to the program, the Brooklyn Collection is happy to announce that the digitization of our Brooklyn theater photographs is complete. The collection consists of over 100 photographs taken by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographers showing the interiors and exteriors of theaters both in their glory and in their decay.  Browse through our photos and come to the program on Wednesday April 28th to learn more about Brooklyn's theatrical history.

Greenpoint Theater, Brooklyn Eagle, 1954

Little Known Brooklyn Residents: Emil Kulik

Apr 21, 2010 11:33 AM | 0 comments

From his workshop at 240 Bedford Ave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Emil Kulik spent more than three years and a decade worth of savings to realize his dream -- inventing a diving apparatus like no other, seen in this image below.

His invention, completed in 1932, resulted in a 3 1/2 ton device -- a cross between a diving bell and a solo submarine. The chief feature of his invention was that the diving apparatus operator would be able to work inside the diving bell for long periods of time, at normal air pressure with little or no help from the surface. The robot arms protruding from the front were operated by foot pedals, and were described in his patent as follows: "...this metallic member...has a plurality of fingers bent so that the entire construction very closely simulates a human hand in the act of clutching something." The diving apparatus could move at speeds of up to two miles per hour.

Emil Kulik, a former sea captain and naval officer, was born in Europe and worked in the sheet metal industry after arriving in the US, gaining fabrication skills and saving money to realize his invention. On February 23, 1932, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that he planned to take his self navigating diving bell "into the harbor and descend near the Statue of Liberty" in May of that year. This trial would test the diving bell to about 60 feet; however it was designed to work at up to 400 feet below surface.

Emil Kulik created the vessel to search for shipwreck treasures, and also suggested that his invention could be used for pearl fishing, submarine rescues, and underwater ship repairs. The 14 foot diving bell was exhibited at the International Patents Exhibition at the Grand Central Palace in May 1932. More details and drawings can be found in the patent for his invention.

Julius Wilcox Cyanotypes: Exhibit in the Brooklyn Collection

Apr 19, 2010 4:55 PM | 0 comments

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the name of Julius Wilcox, one of several late 19th century photographers in our collection.  Wilcox was interested in architecture, engineering and celebrations as well as the seamier side of New York Life--the world of Mulberry Bend, the Tombs, and Silver Dollar Smith's Saloon. In this exhibit we have chosen to focus on the compelling social commentary that makes Wilcox's work a worthy counterpoint to that of his better known contemporary, Jacob Riis.  These new digital prints from the original cyanotypes will be on display in the Brooklyn Collection during our open hours until May 26th, 2010.

Found in the Morgue: Six Special Canines

Apr 19, 2010 10:17 AM | 4 comments

There are many wonderful photographs and stories hiding in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle clippings and photographs morgue, silently waiting to be rediscovered. I've been keeping an eye out for interesting photos and stories on dogs, as a follow up to Olivia's charming post on cats in the Long Island Cat Club.

We have two folders filled with images of Dogs at War, from which these first two images were found. Below is an image of Mike, guarding the weapons of Marine Corps recruits in training at Parris Island, S.C. recruit depot.

Sinbad, a Coast Guard pup, sailed more than one million miles during his eight years on the sea. Here he can be seen taking a break from the oceans, and enjoying a moment in a welcoming service band.

A general folder of dogs contains the following images. The first image is Salty, who saved the lives of twelve men by barking a warning of an approaching flying bomb.

Next up is Spot, an Ohio born pooch who was kicked out of his home by a raccoon squatter.

Here is the talented Silver, riding his scooter down Flatbush Avenue after receiving lessons at Stacy Hall's Training School for Dogs.

Lastly, here is my favorite of the lot, with an unbeatable (and unbearable) story to tell. After Tina was critically injured when struck by a car, she was shot three times in an effort to end her suffering. Her family said their farewells as they buried her in a grave in Saugus, Massachusetts. Imagine their surprise, when, eleven days after her burial, Tina turned up at her family's doorstep -- 15 miles away, with her wounds partially healed. How she freed herself from the grave and found her way home remains a mystery.