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Presidents Don't Use Rain Delays

Feb 25, 2011 10:00 AM | 2 comments

President Roosevelt at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 1944

On October 21, 1944, as heavy rain and autumn winds pelted the five boroughs, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, approaching an election for an historic fourth term, toured through fifty-one miles of New York City streets in a large motorcade.  With his wife Eleanor at his side, the aging President defied terrible weather to greet his fellow Americans from an open car (and sometimes without a hat). "There was no doubt," the Times wrote, "that he wanted to be seen by as many New Yorkers as possible."  

President and Mrs. Roosevelt Touring Brooklyn in October 1944, Brooklyn Daily Eagle

For Brooklyn, considered one of FDR's strongholds, the highlight of the tour was an appearance at Ebbets field.  An estimated 10-15,000 Brooklynites waited for the President's arrival, "huddled under umbrellas or snuggled deep into their upturned coat collars." (NYT, Oct. 22, 1944).  First in line was Joseph Weissman, a 58-year old shoemaker, at 5am.  A 16-year old Fort Hamilton High School student named Frank Inciardi joined the line at 6:30, telling the Eagle, "I know I'm too young to vote, but he's my president too."  Johnny Haines, the chief usher for Ebbets Field stated, "Am I excited!  Holy smokes!"

Supporters at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1944Crowd Waves to the President from the Infield, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1944

The rally was first and foremost a platform for the re-election of Senator Robert F. Wagner and other New York Democrats.  Prior to the President's arrival, the crowd politely cheered for local policiticians and other speakers.  As the rain came down, the official Ebbets Field organist Gladys Gooding, who had wrapped herself in a woolen blanket to stay warm, entertained the crowd with baseball, patriotic and other well-known tunes.  The crowd even joined in a ironic rendition of Rogers and Hammerstein's "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" moments before the man of the hour appeared.   

"It was the President's a big open car accompanied by Mrs. Roosevelt...that really sparked the rally.  No sooner had the big gates in deep center field opened and the car came into view than the crowd rose to its feet thundering a welcome."  (NYT, Oct 22, 1944).

President Roosevelt at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 1944

The President's car drove across centerfield and onto a large platform specifically designed for his visit.  Microphones were positioned in such a way that the President could make his speech without leaving the car (and once again "hiding" his need for a wheelchair).  As the President hushed the crowd, an attendant tried to place a coat over his shoulders and a hat on his head.  But he quickly shrugged these off as he waved his arms and began to speak: 

"You know I come from the state of New York.  And I've got to make a terrible confession to you...I come from the State of New York and I practiced law in New York City," said the President, "But I've never been to Ebbets Field before.  I rooted for the Dodgers!  And I hope to come back here someday and see them play."

President Roosevelt at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1944

President Roosevelt's stoic performance in the rain was seen by his admirers as yet another great gesture by a great President.  But many historians believe there were other motivations at play.  As FDR eagerly drove through the city streets without any proper covering in the pouring rain, he was attempting to prove to his critics that he was healthy.  In truth, the President's health was failing quickly.  The attendant's attempt to cover the President at Ebbets Field and the President's defiant decision not to wear a coat and hat were subtle signs of his determination to overcome an illness that his staff greatly feared.  

Just six months later, on April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt died while vacationing in Warm Springs, Georgia.  Brooklyn's beloved President would never get his wish to come back and see the Dodgers play. 


Blogger's Note:  You can see President Roosevelt's visit to Ebbets Field and hear some excellent historian commentary in PBS' American Experience video online (fast forward about a 1/3 of the way through the linked video to the New York visit segment).  

Days of Wine and Onions: Garrett & Co and Virginia Dare

Feb 22, 2011 10:50 AM | 16 comments

Original Virginia Dare Extract Company invoice for flavorings dated Apr 15, 1936. Brooklyn Public Library--Brooklyn Collection.

One of the more interesting companies to have occupied premises in Bush Terminal is Garrett & Co, makers of Virginia Dare wine and flavoring extracts. Long-time readers of Brooklynology may remember a post called the Grapes of Brooklyn in which I drew attention to early efforts at viticulture and wine-making in Brooklyn. Garrett & Co kept the flag of Kings County oenology flying  for 45 years, from its quarters in Building 10 in the Sunset Park industrial complex.

WINE MAKING First stage in the process at Garrett & Co. Inc, 882 3d Ave., showing the grapes receiving an initial crushing before they fall into the fermenting cask Left to right and bottom are Max Loewenstein of 119 W. 106th St., Manhattan; Lawrence Triolo of 102 Harrison Place, Ludwig Schniermacher of 618 Decatur St. and Mario Noto of 23 Moffatt St. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct 15, 1950

The firm was founded in 1835 in North Carolina. Around 1920 it moved to Brooklyn and the minute it arrived, New York State went dry and prohibition forced Virginia Dare to reconsider its business model. And they did reconsider, with a vengeance. An Eagle article dated June 26, 1920 describes what it calls one of the "Wonders of Brooklyn," the process by which Garrett & Co, wine makers, managed to survive and even prosper during the prohibition years. The company continued to make wine, but they took out the alcohol and did their best to retain the wine's flavor.  The extracted alchohol was used to make pure fruit and vegetable flavors ranging from vanilla to onion.  In this way the plant continued to turn out over 15 million quart bottles of Virginia Dare non-alcoholic "wine" a year, as well as 20,000,000 bottles of flavoring extract.  So rapidly did the flavoring business grow that Brooklyn became a leader in the field, and the company opened a new plant in St. Louis.

FERMENTATION--The portable crusher removed, juice and pulp in fermentation are shown above.

The company added another string to its bow in its efforts to survive the prohibition era. A lawsuit filed in 1928 accused Garrett & Co. of violating the Volstead Act by  selling concentrated grapes with instructions for making wine at home.  Government witnesses--with how much enthusiasm we are not told--followed the instructions to prove that a real, full-flavored wine could result from the process.  Judge Simon Adler  of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York ruled that  Section 29 specifically permitted wine making in the home and therefore Garrett & Co's activities were not illegal: they could carry on selling home-winemaking products and the temperance faction could take a hike.

...left to right, Julius Fiore of 1101 65th St. and Anthony Zinzi of 305 5th St. shovel out pulp after fermented juice has been drained.

One can only imagine the jubilation that must have erupted in South Brooklyn on repeal of prohibition in 1933. By 1941 the company was producing "champagnes" as well as its regular wines, and employing about 200 people. Grapes brought in from New Jersey were made into wine at the plant, and wine imported  from California and North Carolina  was bottled there. The sparkling wines were made from New York State vineyards at Penn Yan.  By 1945 the company held 10,000 acres of vineyards in New York, N.C. and California; that year it bought  the plant of the Italian Vineyard Co in Guasti California.

NO WASTE--Pulp, received from above and through chute at left, is layered in cloths and completely drained by hydraulic press at right, after which residual waste (poace) is barreled as refuse. Left to right: Patrick Porco of 1032 62nd St. and Vincent Manitta of 87 Madison St. make a layer, spreading the pulp, including skins, before enfolding with overhanging parts of cloth; John Mandato of 946 41st St. and Thomas Policastro of 760 3d Ave. empty pomace from a press cloth into barrel...

In 1965 the company's wine business was purchased in a royalty arrangement by Constellation Brands. However, the flavoring extract side of the business, conceived as a way to circumvent prohibition and incorporated in 1923 as an independent entity, continues to operate out of Brooklyn to this day. 

 Above, left to right, Angelo Poulos of 6211 5th Ave and Louis Calabrese of 262 12th St at filter through which all wine is passed to remove last traces of sediment.

FINISHED PRODUCT--Through glass piping the finished wine is fed to bottling machines at rear. Filled and stoppered, bottles are moved onto a conveyor belt carrying them to a succession of workers who affix labels and ornamental metalized caps over stoppers before bottles reach packers at end of conveyor. Packers package bottles in cartons of 6 and 12 and move them by floor truck to storeroom.

Dodger Babies

Feb 17, 2011 2:57 PM | 3 comments

Here at the Brooklyn Collection, we have a large collection of photographs of Brooklyn's much-missed local baseball team, the Dodgers.  These are mostly images snapped by Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographers, depicting the players on the field, at training camps, and in locker rooms -- their faces flushed and euphoric with victory, or grim with defeat.  Though these images are fascinating -- especially for a Brooklyn transplant like me, who never knew the borough's glory days of hometeam baseball -- I've become more engrossed by the photographs of the players' lives off the baseball diamond. 

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 23, 1952: "Dodger players had their hands full yesterday with no game scheduled at Ebbets Field." Left to right: Rube Walker and daughter Deborah, Clyde King and daughter Princy, and Ralph Branca with daughter Patty.

Judging by the abundance of these images in our files, it became a routine matter for Eagle photographers in the 1950s to visit the most popular players at their Brooklyn homes, documenting their everyday lives in their surprisingly modest living rooms and backyards.  Some of the photographs were never even published in the paper, but luckily they've survived the past sixty-odd years to give us a glimpse into the private lives of baseball legends like Pee-Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson.  The images are a testimony to the fullness of these men's characters, as these heroes on the field were, simultaneously, fathers in the home.  And the photographs are full of adorable Dodger babies!  Let the gawking begin!

Bobby Morgan, Jr., son of infielder Bobby Morgan, at 6 months old.

Our first stop is the Hodges home, where man-of-the-house (and, incidentally, Dodger first baseman) Gil assists in changing his son, Gil Jr.'s, diaper.  Hodges says it's more difficult than making a "first-to-second-to-first double play."


Indeed, little Gillie Hodges proves to be the real star of the show, as he later demonstrates his burgeoning baseball abilities.  He's profiled in a May 2, 1952 article as, "a husky little fellow, and described by other players as the only two-year-old with muscles."

Here's Gillie flexing those famous pipes, winding up for a pitch:





At bat:

And finally, sliding home:

A telling discrepancy that emerges as one looks through these images is that despite being "intimate" portrayals of the players at home, the photographs are often obviously staged.  This becomes most apparent in the photos of players' sons, who are almost always made to mug for the camera in stances mimicking their fathers' profession.  Bewildered expressions abound here -- what do three-year-olds know about baseball?

Carl Furillo Jr., 3 years old, son of right-fielder Carl Furillo.

Kevin Snider, 2 1/2 years old, son of center-fielder Duke Snider.

Dan Erskine, 3 1/2 years old, son of pitcher Carl Erskine.

The folder of photos depicting Jackie Robinson's home life inadvertently provides a kind of meta-commentary on this artificiality of the Dodger family photographs.  First we get a heart-warming look at Robinson's interactions with his children...

Jackie Robinson with wife Rachel and five-month-old son, Jack Jr., in 1947.

Jackie cleaning Jackie Jr.'s ears in 1949.

...followed by this image of a "candid" photoshoot in Jackie Robinson's home.  Note the wary look his son gives the camera.

Not all of the photos are so obviously posed.  One of my favorites is this shot of Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe -- who, in 1949, became the first black pitcher to start a World Series game.  The child guzzling his soda pop is identified as "Normie", although it's unclear if he's Newcombe's son or some other relative.  

 The real prize of the Dodger family photo files, though, relates to catcher Roy Campanella.  In the weeks leading up to the 1953 World Series, in which the Dodgers would battle their rivals from across the river, the Yankees, the Eagle asked Campanella's 10-year-old son David to describe "how it feels to be the son of a hero."  Young David wrote a brief essay in response, which was printed in the Eagle on September 30, 1953, along with this photo.

I was amazed to discover that we have David's actual essay, the piece of paper he's pictured with here, written on the same flimsy brown writing paper with light blue lines that is still ubiquitous in grammar schools.

While David's penmanship is laudable, here's a transcription of his essay, just in case.

"How I feel to be the son of a baseball hero.

I don't feel any different from anybody else. I go to the Queens School and I'm the 5th grade.  I have a lot of friends there. I do my studies after school. I like to play punchball and basketball with my friends. Sometimes, I watch the ballgames to see Daddy play. When Daddy comes home we talk about the game. I don't like it when the other players get angry because daddy gets so many hits. One thing I do like is that little Jackie Robinson and I always know a lot about the baseball games.  I like it when daddy gets a home run. I always mark it on the calendar.  I'm proud of him."

Black News

Feb 14, 2011 10:00 AM | 4 comments

I floated a Twitter balloon the other week looking for feedback from our followers regarding topics they might like to see us cover here on Brooklynology. Of our 754 devotees (and I use that word loosely) only three responded; but their suggestions were all excellent and deserving of our attention.

Of the three which you can see above I decided to address @brooklynhistory's request for more 20th century posts first -- and not merely because we are kindred cultural institutions (@brooklynhistory is the Twitter account for the Brooklyn Historical Society) but mainly because I could address two topics at once: 20th century life in Brooklyn and -- this being February -- Black History Month.

Since the archive of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle constitutes the bulk of our collection, it's easy to see in going over the blog that most of our posts detailing 20th century life do not cover events beyond 1955, the year the Eagle ceased publication. However, we are by no means bereft of post-1950s materials. So in response to the Brooklyn Historical Society's suggestion, I'd like to highlight the Black News of Bedford Stuyvesant, a newsletter which ran from 1969 to 1984.

Consisting of 123 issues Black News began in October 1969 and ended in March 1984, appearing on a regular monthly basis. Written, illustrated, designed, typed, edited, and distributed by volunteers, Black News reached a circulation of 1,200 issues a month at the nominal price of 10c a copy, which eventually rose to 25c in order to keep pace with production costs.

The aim of Black News was unequivocally spelled out on the front page of the first newsletter (above). And since that type is probably too small to read, here's what they said:

"Black News is a new community publication. It was formed in order to encourage a new awareness and involvement among our people. We hope to attain wide circulation among all segments of the Afro-American community. It's not enough that the young militant reads Black News. Black people can't afford to have an In Crowd, who are the only ones hip on what's happening. If the Young Blood raps about Malcolm, grandma should be able to give her rap on Huey.

We're choosey about ads. If they don't satisfy Black Dignity, they don't satisfy Black News. Therefore we forward all peddlers of bleach creams, goofy dust, and wigs to the Amsterdam.

Our main concern is to agitate, educate, organize. If we don't do these things then we ain't doin nothin!"

With articles on police brutality, racist government policies, corrupt politicians, and the "P.O.W. Forum" -- a series on blacks in prisons -- Black News did indeed live by those three words. On the last page of this first issue the editors issued a call to all students to skip school on October 15, 1969 in order to protest injustices and to attend a teach-in at Prospect Park.

Many articles in Black News also focused on health and well-being, covering such topics as alcoholism, nutrition, illnesses like heart disease and Sickle Cell anemia, and the scourge of the drug trade in the African-American community.

Poetry also appeared in every issue of Black News. Here is a poem entitled "The Beast" by Reginald Monroe.

In addition to the poems and articles -- many of which dealt with the lives of such African-Americans as Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Amiri Baraka, and Louis Farrakhan -- one of the defining characteristics of Black News is its visual design.

Always in black and white, and usually done by artist Jim Dyson, the art in Black News covered a wide array of styles -- photorealistic renderings, photo collage, bold expressive drawings -- and always provided a potent visual analog to the provocative content of the writing.

Aside from the covers, each article was also illustrated, but sometimes, instead of an article about, say, police brutality -- a full-page brutal image was often article enough.

From the Ephemera Files: an Imperfect Paradise in Brooklyn

Feb 9, 2011 11:25 AM | 3 comments

Walking into work today, I overheard the plaintive cry of a cabin-fevered fellow Brooklynite, "Ah, why can't it be just be warm outside?!"  Grimly, inwardly, I had to agree with her helpless complaint.  Facing the icy depths of February, the mind can't help but wonder if there's a happier place.  A warm, welcoming place, with bright sunshine, sandy beaches, luxury accommodations, and maybe even world-class entertainment to round out a glorious day in paradise.  A place like... Manhattan Beach!

Browsing through our ephemera files, I found this promotional brochure from the Manhattan Beach and Oriental Beach Baths, published in 1935.  The front and back covers offered this handy visual comparison to remind potential guests what bathing looked like in the business's early years, specifically, 1885.  The 20th century seems to have brought beach-goers a long overdue liberation from cumbersome swim pantaloons and bonnets.


Boasting that it was the "Largest Privately-Owned Oceanfront Playground in the World", the resort occupied the eastern spit of land on Coney Island.  According to Brooklyn's Gold Coast: the Sheepshead Bay Communities by Brian Merlis, Lee A. Rosenzweig, and I. Stephen Miller, that land was first known as Sedge Bank, an unused and uninviting swamp.  It might have stayed that way, if it weren't for First National Bank founder Austin Corbin, who visited the site with his convalescing son in 1873.  He saw potential for play and profit in the virgin sand dunes, and set out to buy the tracts of land that made up Sedge Bank, which he renamed Manhattan Beach.  Corbin quickly went to work developing his oceanfront playground, complete with two railroad lines to bring in daytrippers from New York and Brooklyn.  By the summer of 1877, Corbin's seaside paradise was realized--the Manhattan Beach Hotel was in business. 

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle waxed ecstatic at the resort's opening, breathlessly praising the speed at which the railroads and hotel were built (less than a year, by their reckoning) and predicting great benefits to the leisure and business prospects of the people of Brooklyn--nay, the entire region!  To top it all off, the Eagle enthused, due to the particular formation of the coastline at Manhattan Beach, there would be "no danger to be apprehended from the undertow."

A rendering of the Manhattan Beach Hotel grounds, from the 1880s.  No undertow!

Eager to live up to the Eagle's praise as "the best hotel on the Atlantic Ocean," Corbin brought in first-class entertainment for his guests, including the march master John Philip Sousa.  We are lucky to have a copy of a tune he penned to honor the hotel, the "Manhattan Beach March", in our sheet music collection.

But why settle for just one beachfront resort when you can have two?  The Oriental Hotel was opened next door in 1880, to provide even more accommodation for elite crowds.  And they were elite.  A Brooklyn Daily Eagle article from the summer of 1899 gushes that four direct descendents of American presidents were staying at the Oriental at once, along with the "usual quota of barons, dukes, counts, and foreign attaches, in addition to many other notables from all quarters of the globe." 

From the outset, Corbin and the resorts' investors aimed to bring patrons of the "highest social element" to Coney Island.  To Corbin, this could only be gained by excluding unwanted populations from the sandy expanses and luxury facilities--in this case, Jewish people.  Corbin's racist viewpoint came to light in the summer of 1879, two years after Jewish patrons were banned from the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga, when Corbin announced that he would do the same.  A revelatory article in the July 22, 1879 Eagle reprinted an interview Corbin gave to the New York Herald, in which he explained in no uncertain terms that Jewish people "are contemptible as a class" and "are not wanted at the Beach, and that settles it."

This set off a flurry of debate, with no less a personage than the Reverand Henry Ward Beecher (who, the Eagle cryptically notes, "rarely gives his views on any subject without 'saying something'") weighing in on the matter, suggesting rather limply that Corbin's stance was, "not very wise" and that the proper course for Jewish beachgoers would be to, "simply assert their rights."  


The Eagle also sent a reporter down to the site of the controversy, the Manhattan Beach Hotel itself, to collect the common man's views on the issue, reporting that, "everybody appeared to be talking about it, from the proprietor of the hotel down to the humblest employee of the place, and the humblest visitor on the grounds, and it is safe to say that nine tenths of them all sided with Mr. Corbin."  However, the same article went on to report "either Mr. Corbin's remarks touching the Hebrews had failed of the effect anticipated by many, or they had not been very extensively read.  For there were as many Hebrews in the throng there yesterday as have been seen on any day save Wednesday during the week."  Take that, Mr. Corbin!

Despite the bigotry of its founder, the Manhattan Beach and Oriental Hotels attracted visitors through the rest of the 19th century.  After Corbin's death in 1896, the company operating the hotels met with financial trouble, and plans to redevelop the site as a residential community were put into motion.  The Manhattan Beach Hotel was demolished in 1911, with the Oriental Hotel to follow in 1916. 

Partial demolition of the Oriental Hotel, May 27, 1916.

Under the guidance of a new leader, Joseph P. Day, the site was redeveloped into the bungalow and bathhouse community depicted in our 1935 brochure.  The 20th century revamp of the site included 82 handball courts, 4 swimming pools, 20 volleyball courts, 6 baseball fields, 15 basketball courts, 30 clock golf courts, 13 tennis courts and 67 hand tennis courts.

If by some bizarre chance these athletic facilities were fully occupied, there were other pleasures to be pursued.  The resort maintained its tradition of top-notch entertainment through the 1930s, offering daily concerts from the likes of Rudy Vallee and Paul Whiteman.  


Daily "tea dances" were held in the Oriental Cafeteria, "where patrons in street attire may dance FREE in a colorful setting."  And as this photograph of bathing beauties from the summer of 1933 shows, visitors could--as a last resort--relax and enjoy Manhattan Beach's abundance of sun and sand. 


Alas, as with any sunny day at the beach, the fun was all too fleeting.  The heyday of the Manhattan Beach and Oriental Beach Baths came to a close in 1942, when Day sold the property to the federal goverment, which would use the site as a military training base through World War II.  In the 1950s, after some property transfers among the federal, state, and municipal governments, the city gained ownership of about forty acres of the oceanfront property, turning it into the public beach we know today.  The easternmost edge of Manhattan Beach was also used to establish Kingsborough Community College, where classes were held in repurposed military barracks and offices well into the 1960s.