Photo of the Week: Fernan Luna Photographs

[Man next to Puerto Rican flag], 1975, v1989.2.7.8; Photography collection, v1989.2.7; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Man next to Puerto Rican flag], 1975, v1989.2.7.8; Fernan Luna photographs of Williamsburg, v1989.2.7; Brooklyn Historical Society.

We recently digitized ten photographs by Fernan Luna that document the Puerto Rican neighborhoods of Brooklyn, particularly Williamsburg, during the mid-1970s. The photographs are primarily documentary-style and feature protests, religious ceremonies, and candid portraits of Puerto Rican residents of Williamsburg. The photo of the week depicts a man sitting on a ladder posing next to a Puerto Rican flag in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

New York City has the largest population of Puerto Rican Americans outsides of Puerto Rico, with large communities in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan,the South Bronx neighborhood of the Bronx, and the Bushwick and Williamsburg neighborhoods of Brooklyn. In 1973, Long Island Historical Society (now Brooklyn Historical Society) initiated the Puerto Rican Oral History Project conducting interviews that documented the experiences of Brooklyn residents who arrived from Puerto Rico. You can listen to them through our oral history portal  here.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

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Photo of the Week: Brooklyn Theatre Fire

Johnson St. as it appeared after the fire, 1876, V1972.1.923; Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Johnson St. as it appeared after the fire, 1876, V1972.1.923; Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The Brooklyn Theatre Fire—one of the deadliest theatre fires in history—occurred 141 years ago, on December 5, 1876. The tragic event occurred during the final act of the play “The Two Orphans.” The fire started when a gaslight ignited part of the show’s scenery. Acclaimed actress, Kate Claxton, who performed that night, reported to the New York Times in 1885 that she and her fellow actors continued the show in hopes of preventing a stampede. “We thought we were acting for the best in continuing the play as we did,” she stated, “with the hope that the fire would be put out without difficulty, or that the audience would leave gradually and quietly. But the result proved that it was not the right course.” The result was the death of nearly 300 people and the complete destruction of the theatre in less than an hour.

The photo of the week depicts the damage from the fire, as seen from Johnson Street in what is now the Downtown Brooklyn neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1876. The New York Supreme Court Building and a park now take up the space where the Theatre stood.  If you’re interested in learning more about the fire and its historical legacy, be sure to check out this recent episode of BHS’s podcast Flatbush + Main.. And don’t forget to rate and subscribe to the podcast!

The photo above comes from the Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection comprised of roughly 1,400 black-and-white photographs taken by various photographers from 1860 to 1920. The collection includes views of locations on Long island, which is comprised of Brooklyn and Queens, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. The majority of the photographs depict views of Brooklyn and Suffolk County, as well as many views of Coney Island and Prospect Park. To view more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

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Flatbush + Main Episode 20: Memories of Old Williamsburgh

In Episode 20 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia use one seemingly inconsequential manuscript collection to explore themes of memory and history-making over many generations. In 1915, Brooklynite Francis Morrell wrote a small tract called “Recollections of Old Williamsburgh.” This self-published work of genealogy reminds us that historical writing tells us just as much about the time that it was written as about the time period it purports to study.

Index
03:07 – Histories and Ideas
23:58 – Into the Archives
35:10 – Voices of Brooklyn

For complete show notes, go to brooklynhistory.org/flatbush-main.

We hope you’re enjoying our podcast! Please subscribe, rate, and review us at brooklynhistory.org/fm-itunes. And share the news of Flatbush + Main far and wide using the hashtag #FlatbushandMain.

Segment 1: Histories and Ideas

In segment 1, Zaheer and Julie introduce listeners to Francis Morrell, an amateur genealogy from an established family with deep roots in the neighborhood of Williamsburg. They give a brief history of that neighborhood, emphasizing the constancy of cultural, demographic, and economic change in Williamsburg. They also talk about how Morrell’s 1915 manuscript tells us just as much about the moment that he wrote it as it does about the period he writes about – the 1850s.

Here are some images of the manuscript:

And here’s a link to the finding aid, should you want to come into BHS and take a look yourself.

Segment 2: Into the Archives

Julie and Zaheer analyze segments of Morrell’s manuscript that describe African Americans living in Williamsburg in the 1850s. They contextualize Morrell’s racist portrayal of Black Brooklynites in the context of American race relations in 1915, when Morrell wrote “Recollections of Old Williamsburg,” tying the manuscript to everything from national advertising campaigns to the release of the D.W. Griffith film “Birth of a Nation.”

For an engaging examination of the Lost Cause and American popular culture, check out Gary Gallagher’s book Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know About the Civil War.

Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn

Zaheer and Julie listen to the recollections of Elizabeth Guanill. Guanill was born in 1924 to Puerto Rican migrants who moved moved to the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1915. When she was ten, her family moved to Williamsburg, where she spent the remainder of her youth.

You can listen to the full interview on BHS’s Oral History Portal here.

Segment 4: Endorsements

As a special holiday treat, Julie and Zaheer endorsed two BHS events each. All the events take place at BHS’s Brooklyn Heights location.

Julie endorsed an upcoming book talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan on Thursday, November 7, at 6:30pm. Egan’s most recent book, Manhattan Beach, takes place on Brooklyn’s waterfront, and she did much of her historical research at BHS. Egan sits down with historian and author Alexis Coe to discuss her extensive research and the process of building the book’s vibrant characters. Tickets are $5 and free for members. Sign up here.

In keeping with the waterfront theme, Julie also endorsed another book talk with historian Robert Watson about his new book, The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn. The talk is on Wednesday, December 13 at 6:30pm. Watson shares tales of the thousands of Americans who suffered on the HMS Jersey, a British prison ship moored in Wallabout Bay off the coast of Brooklyn, during the Revolutionary War. Tickets are $5 and free for members. Sign up here.

Zaheer endorsed a book talk with historian Leigh Fought, author of Women in the World of Frederick Douglass, on Monday, December 11, at 6:30pm. Fought discusses Douglass’s relationships to his mother, grandmother, slave mistresses, wives Anna Murray and Helen Pitts, and many other women who nurtured, challenged, and united with him in shared struggles for emancipation, the right to vote, and equality. Tickets are $5 and free for members. Sign up here.

Zaheer also endorsed “Unlocking Public Space: Placemaking in Brownsville,” on Monday December 18 at 6:30pm. Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times moderates a conversation with Erica Mateo and Deron Johnston from the Brownsville Community Justice Center and David Burney, Director of Pratt’s Urban Placemaking and Management program, about ways that Brownsville residents and grassroots institutions have leveraged urban planning tools to transform neglected spaces into safe, vibrant public hubs. Tickets are $5 and free for members. Sign up here.

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Photo of the Week: Packer Collegiate Institute Records

Gym class on roof, 1911 ca, 2014.019.17.05.039b; Packer Collegiate Institute records, 2014.019; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Gym class on roof, 1911 ca, 2014.019.17.05.039b; Packer Collegiate Institute records, 2014.019; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Packer Collegiate Institute is an independent school for preschool through Grade 12, located on Joralemon Street in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, just a few blocks from BHS Pierrepont.  Thanks to funding from Packer Collegiate Institute and the Leon Levy Foundation, the Packer records have been processed, described, and accessible via a digital humanities website dedicated to the history of Packer Collegiate Institute. The photo of the week depicts students at gym class on the roof at Packer Collegiate Institute, around 1911. Some of my favorite photographs form this collection include students participating in school activities, like the one pictured above.

The Packer Collegiate Institute records includes administrative records, financial records, architectural records, Board of Trustee records, student and faculty records, publications, photographs, audiovisual media, event ephemera, and memorabilia, dating from around 1780 through 2016. The records primarily document the history of women’s education in Brooklyn, New York, and the community’s rich cultural heritage. We hope you will take a look at the new website to learn more about Packer Collegiate Institute’s history, and to explore this rich collection. You can view additional photographs on our online image gallery here.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

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Photo of the Week: Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday School Thanksgiving/Collection, 1910 ca, v1981.284.20; Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, v1981.284; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Sunday School Thanksgiving/Collection, 1910 ca, v1981.284.20; Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, v1981.284; Brooklyn Historical Society.

All of us at Brooklyn Historical Society wish you a relaxing and joyful Thanksgiving holiday! With that in mind, the photo of the week is a view of a Sunday School Thanksgiving collection around 1910 in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.

This photograph is from the Emmanuel House lantern slide collection comprised of 87 photographs dating from 1900 to 1914 depicting children at the Emmanuel House, their activities, and interior and exterior shots of the building. The Emmanuel House was located at 141 Steuben Street in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was a civic center and place of outreach run by the Young Men’s League of the Emmanuel Baptist Church offering Sunday School, Kindergarten and recreational classes to children of the church and neighborhood. To see more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

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