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WHAT DID SHE MEAN? -- MR DE BOER: Miss Emma, perhaps I ought not to call during Lent, for I understand you deny yourself all amusement. MISS E: Yes, I do Mr. de Boer. Come as often as you like.
Genealogists and others who come to the Brooklyn Collection are often familiar with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in its various forms--online, microfilm, morgue. But the Brooklyn Collection carries many other serials on microfilm, including 63 local newspapers. Lacking an index, these are of little use unless researchers know the date of the article they are seeking. But Brooklyn Life magazine, which chronicled the activities of Brooklyn's upper crust from 1890 to 1931, exists in hard copy and on microfilm; and thanks to the devoted work of a retired librarian named Gunther Pohl we do have an index to Brooklyn Life magazine. According to Mr. Pohl, who completed this enormous task in 1996, it is a "very selective" index, but it runs to 465 closely typed pages, and it is often used here to good effect.
The pages of Brooklyn Life will be of interest to those who believe themselves to be related to blue-blooded old Brooklynites, as well as those interested in social and cultural life of a small sliver of Brooklyn society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Weekly features include "Society" pages, where we learn, for example, that "Miss Mamie Stearns, formerly of Pierrpont Street, is now residing at 76 Madison Avenue New York, where she will be pleased to meet her Brooklyn friends;" or "Conversation did not flag at the breakfast of eighty, given by Miss Polhemus of Remsen street on Monday." More interesting for the real estate obsessed, are articles such as this:
"The big Farmer house on Pierrepont Street opposite Monroe Place, for which Mr. Condit, the well-known New York wholesale grocer, paid $90,000, is again for sale. It seems that Mr. Condit, wishing to give his daughter what he thought would be a pleasant surprise, purchased the house without her knowledge. Then when the title deeds were his, he informed Miss Condit. I understand that the lady was not overjoyed at the information, but like a dutiful daughter she started in her carriage to visit her new Brooklyn domain, coming by way of the Bridge. On her arrival at the Brooklyn side, Miss Condit was so disgusted with the filth and crowded condition of Fulton street that, without visiting the new house, she ordered her coachman to turn about.....When she saw her father she vowed to him that she would never, no never live in such a horrid dirty place as Brooklyn, and so the Farmer house is again for sale at a much lower price than Mr Condit paid for it. Pity Miss Condit didn't take the Wall street route or have waited until the Women's Street Cleaning Bureau had begun its fine work."
Some people are never satisfied.
Other weekly features include Club Notes, Amateur Sports, Music and Musicians, and Plays and Players; "Our Portrait Gallery" presented ink sketches, mainly of young club men such as Mr Rodney Allen Ward who came from "good stock on both sides of his family," and belonged to " The Brooklyn Club, Brooklyn Riding and Driving Club, Oak Bluffs Club...and the Westhampton Country Club."
A BUICK MODEL '34' 32 HORSE-POWER RUNABOUT. Going over a part of the bank at 188th Street, East of Broadway, that no other motor-car has ever climbed. If you doubt this picture is accurate drop in at the Buick salesroom, Broadway and 55th Street, and A.L. Newton, the retail sales manager, will see that you get a demonstration over this very spot.
Vintage car enthusiasts will find plenty in Brooklyn Life to feed their passion. The Motoring section contains images of early motor cars and earnest discussions of the value of "self-starters" and other innovations, the virtues of new models such as the Peerless Standard 48 h.p. six-cylinder touring car, or the Buick Colonial Coupe. The magazine notes outstanding drivers such as Mrs Pauline Stern of New York, as of 1911 "the only woman in America who was ever able to control a Transcontinental 'Big Benz 50.'" Mrs Stern, her son and her chauffeur drove across America "From Hell Gate to the Golden Gate" on a single set of tires.
In later years the magazine ran photographs of attractive young debutantes and brides, such as the lady above whose hair surely breaks some kind of record for bulk in relation to head. Such fantastic coiffures were not sufficient to keep Brooklyn Life in business. By 1931 the magazine had grown thinner and thinner--in keeping perhaps with lean economic times--until it entirely withered away.
Venison, anyone? How about some wild pheasant?
No, this ghastly tableau doesn't depict a horrible roadkill incident but, rather, an invitation to dinner. Decades ahead of the current trends of locally-sourced food and organic meats, Alfred Foffe was serving wild game in his tony Brooklyn Heights restaurant, Maison Foffe. These suspended carcasses signal to those in the know that Foffe is back from his annual hunting trip with a menu of fresh-from-the-wild animals to serve his customers.
The story of the Foffe family's establishment as Brooklyn restaurant royalty reads like a classic example of the American dream. The widowed head of the family, Maria Foffe, brought her brood of nine fatherless Foffes to the United States from Italy around 1915, first opening a restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After that enterprise failed, the family moved to Brooklyn in 1929. There the floundering Foffes had better luck with the opening of Maison Foffe in 1932, at 155 Montague Street. Alfred ran Maison Foffe with his brother, John, and lived in the apartment above the restaurant with his mother until her death in 1949. The spot started out as a tea room, but expanded to become, according to one Brooklyn Daily Eagle article, "the equivalent of many of the Eastside Manhattan class spots" by 1948. Other Foffe offspring prospered in the restaurant business as well, setting up a satellite kingdom in Bay Ridge with Foffe's Restaurant and the Vanity Fair nightclub and banquet hall.
Hunter/restaurateur Alfred Foffe
The tradition of the annual venison dinner at Maison Foffe dates back to 1938, when Alfred and John enjoyed an autumnal hunting expedition in Putnam County and brought back enough meat to serve more than 200 "lovers of game." Although the feast was suspended during World War II when Alfred enlisted in the army, the Foffes were again bagging winged and hoofed delicacies for their patrons by 1949. Aside from this special feast, the restaurant maintained an adventurous menu including "Scotch grouse, mallard duck, pheasant, frog legs, pompano, Canadian brook trout, chateaubriand, and the like. Appetizers include such delicacies as eel in wine, and in the dessert field there are crepes suzette and cherries jubilee."
This breathless account came from Al Salerno, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's "Night Life" columnist and a personal friend and ardent fan of the Foffe family. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Salerno devoted countless lines of copy to praising the various Foffe enterprises. Salerno even accompanied Alfred on one of his famed hunting trips, lamenting in one column that "for a few days, I gave up night life for wild life."
Sadly--or happily, depending on your point of view--Maison Foffe no longer graces Montague Street with the fresh corpses of New York's bestiary. Alfred Foffe died in 1984 and the restaurant closed its doors in the years following. The spot is now occupied by a hair salon, which provides a handy segue to this Eagle clipping from 1940, further testament to the local celebrity and quirky nature of Alfred Foffe:
When I began to write this post, it was going to be just about bagels. It will still be about bagels, dear reader, however, I've added something very special to the end. It's worth the wait, I promise!
The Brooklyn Collection must be thinking about food lately -- specifically round breads with a hole in the middle. Tara wrote a fantastic post about the doughnut and now I'm writing about the bagel. While the bagel was not an original Brooklyn creation, we're close enough to the Lower East Side to practically have a mirrored history. Immigrants who moved across the East River to Brooklyn brought the recipe and lore of this delicious style of bread with them.
According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, few people outside of New York City knew what bagels were, at least during the mid 20th century. Bagels have definitely changed since 1953, when an article described them as a "... gustatory delight, ... large doughnut-shaped rolls with the consistency of battleship armor." Purists consider the water-boiled then baked bagel to be the only true bagel, but a new process involving steam-injection, producing a fluffier dough, is now used in the mass-produced product.
"All kinds of bread are included in international array of Brooklyn-baked products as Miss Ovenkrust, Irmgard Paul, Queen of International Bread Week, smiles."
In 1948, and then again in 1951 and 1953, Brooklyn suffered bagel deprivation. Strikes kept bagels out of the city as the Teamsters Union and the Bagel Bakers Association failed to reach an agreement about pay raises. A similar strike took place in 1951, in which a slow-down and then a strike were initiated by the bagel bakers. Ten bagel bakeries in Brooklyn closed and Brooklynites were left to eat mass-produced bagels--not the water-boiled bagels they knew and loved.
In an article written in 1954, an Eagle writer profiles Israel Hershman, owner of the Coney Island Bagel Bakery. Mr. Hersman's bagels were works of art, perfect circles created in dough.
Interested in making bagels? Here is a great step by step recipe - with Photos!
Or even better--and this is the new step--a film, transfered from our 16mm film collection, entitled Hot Bagels:
Your blogger today has personal experience of the bagel trade as a worker in a bagel shop on Long Beach Island. The shop was called Begeleddie's and to make the bagels, Eddie, the owner, would drop hand rolled bagels in boiling water and then bake them. How many times did I burn my hands reaching in the metal baskets to get a bagel for a customer? Too many. Now my hands barely feel heat. But I remember the smell: warm, yeasty bread, rich, earthy onions and garlic, warm cinnamon, sweet rasins. There is nothing quite like the smell of slightly overtoasted seeds on the everything bagel.