Photo of the Week: Streetcar

Fulton Ferry in Horse Car Days, circa 1890, V1981.15.135; Ralph Irving Lloyd lantern slides, V1981.15; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Fulton Ferry in Horse Car Days, circa 1890, V1981.15.135; Ralph Irving Lloyd lantern slides, V1981.15; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently proposed a streetcar service that would connect Queens and Brooklyn. It’s been over 60 years since Brooklyn had a streetcar service; the last streetcar line discontinued in 1956. Brooklyn operated its first light rail line in 1854. Before there was an electric-powered streetcar, there were horsecars, which were horse-drawn cars pulled over embedded tracks. Pulling cars over rails was more efficient than horse-drawn carriages because the rails eliminated friction and allowed horses to pull more weight.

The late 1880s brought automobiles and electric technology which shifted light rail from horse-drawn and cable cars to electric streetcars. In 1890, the Coney Island Avenue line was the first to become fully electric, and the remaining lines followed shortly after. This eliminated the need for horsecars, and that service completely ended by 1917. The popularity of the automobile led to discontinuing streetcar lines to make room for car and bus transportation. To learn more about the history of streetcars in Brooklyn, check out the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association website and museum, as well as the book How we got to Coney Island: the development of mass transportation in Brooklyn and Kings County, available at the Othmer Library.

With that in mind, the photo of the week depicts a horsecar near the Fulton Ferry neighborhood of Brooklyn, around 1890. This photograph comes from the Ralph Irving Lloyd lantern slides collection which comprises roughly 400 black-and-white lantern slides depicting street scenes and buildings in Brooklyn from 1890 to 1920. 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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Photo of the Week: Lucille Fornasieri Gold Photographs

[Prospect Park trumpeter], circa 1975, V2008.013.81; Lucille Fornasieri Gold photographs, 2008.013; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Prospect Park trumpeter], circa 1975, V2008.013.81; Lucille Fornasieri Gold photographs, 2008.013; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Lucille Fornasieri Gold’s photographs are some of my favorites at Brooklyn Historical Society. Every photograph has an element of surprise, and genuine moments between photographer and subject. Gold began photographing street scenes with her Leica camera beginning in 1968 while her children were in school. She continued to photograph Brooklyn throughout her entire life. Her photographs are one of the highlights of our rich collections at BHS, and were most recently featured in the 2014 exhibition, She said, She said: Art and inspiration in the work of Nell Painter and Lucille Fornasieri Gold. It is with great sadness that we share that Lucille Fornasieri Gold recently passed away.

Gold was born in the Bay Ridge neighborhood in Brooklyn. When she began taking photographs in 1968, she would develop and print them in the kitchen darkroom of her Park Slope home. Her next apartment could not accommodate a darkroom and many of her photographs remained unprinted for years. In the 1990s, she and her second husband, Jack Gold, began scanning the old negatives. She soon moved from film to born-digital when she switched to a digital SLR while continuing to review film negatives.

About her photographs, Gold has said, “”There is always a movement, a gesture, an interesting or bizarre juxtaposition, a color or combination of colors that create a renewed impulse to see. I engage the social and moral questions, but I don’t try to answer them. Ultimately there are no answers. When I’m photographing I feel the weight of the antecedents, the spirals of time, the evolution of thought and science.”

Gold has received numerous accolades for her work, including first prize in a Con Edison contest “My Brooklyn.” She has exhibited her work throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan, and has had her work republished in various publications. Her photographs are also in the Brooklyn Museum collection.

The photo of the week depicts a man playing the trumpet in Prospect Park around 1975. The Lucille Fornasieri-Gold photographs collection comprises 93 color and black-and white photographs taken by Gold between 1968 and 2008. Gold’s work is primarily street photography in nature, with many posed and unposed portraits of people throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. This collection is fully digitized and can be viewed here. In time, we will make more of Gold’s photographs available online.

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 01: Histories of Waste in Brooklyn

Last Friday, April 22, was Earth Day, recognized since 1970 as a day to agitate for environmental consciousness and protection. In honor of that, Episode 01 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main tackles one of the most pressing topics shaping Brooklyn’s past and future: waste. With the help of guests historian Elizabeth Pillsbury and artist Barry Rosenthal, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia dive into the trash, sewage, and general yuckiness that is produced by a densely-populated urban center like Brooklyn.

Julie and Zaheer learn how Brooklyn’s sewer system prompted the demise of the oyster industry in Brooklyn, and discuss trash as a symbol of inequity for 1960s Civil Rights activists. Zaheer shares clips from BHS’s Pfizer Brooklyn Oral History collection. Finally, Julie checks in with photographer Barry Rosenthal to learn more about his process creating art out of found trash.

Got a great idea for an upcoming Flatbush + Main episode? Email us at flatbushandmain@brooklynhistory.org or leave a comment on this post. And don’t forget to subscribe to Flatbush + Main and to rate us on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever platform you use to listen to podcasts.


Explore documents, interviews, and pertinent links from Flatbush + Main Episode 01: Histories of Waste in Brooklyn.

Segment 1: Histories and Ideas

BHS’s amazing map collection includes several depicting the building of sewerage lines. Here is one of Julie (and Beth Pillsbury’s) favorites. You can see two outflow lines (in brown) emptying right into Jamaica Bay (on the right side of the map).

Map of the borough of Brooklyn, city of New York: showing all sewers completed up to January first, 1902; BA 1902.Fl; Brooklyn Historical Society

Looking for a good read on the history of oysters in New York City? Check out Mark Kurlansky’s classic The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. It’s available in the BHS library.

Segment 2: Into the Archives

Here are images of the Civil Rights-era documents and images that Zaheer and Julie discussed. All are from the Arnie Goldwag Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality collection (ARC.002). Learn more about visiting BHS’s Othmer Library and researching in this collection here.

Garbage in Bedford Stuyvesant, circa 1962

Garbage in Bedford Stuyvesant, circa 1962

Garbage on Gates Avenue, circa 1962

Garbage on Gates Avenue, circa 1962

“Operation Cleansweep is On!” circa 1962

Bonus for educators: here’s a great classroom exercise using the “Operation Cleansweep” flyer.

Zaheer and Julie recommend Brian Purnell’s book Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn. It’s also available in the BHS library.

Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn

Here are the full oral histories of Mike Palisoc and Roslyn Sheer. Both are from the Pfizer Brooklyn Oral History collection.

Below are two of Julie and Zaheer’s favorite pieces from Barry Rosenthal’s “Found in Nature” series. Check out all of Barry’s work at barryrosenthal.com.

Barry Rosenthal, "The Wall"

Barry Rosenthal, “The Wall”

Barry Rosenthal, "Soles"

Barry Rosenthal, “Soles”

Did you know that a judge struck down New York City’s ban on polystyrene containers (featured prominently in Barry’s piece, “The Wall”) only a few months ago? Read about it here.

Segment 4: At Brooklyn Historical Society

Julie endorsed “If These Walls Could Talk: A House History Primer” (at BHS on Sunday, May 15 at 2pm). Librarian Elizabeth Call (formerly BHS’s Head of Reference) leads an intensive workshop on how to unlock the history of your home.

Zaheer endorsed “Book Talk: Democracy Now!” featuring Amy Goodman, independent media icon and host of the radio show, “Democracy Now!” She’s joined by co-author David Goodman (at BHS on Tuesday, May 24 at 6:30pm).

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Flatbush + Main Episode 00: Welcome to Flatbush + Main, a podcast from Brooklyn Historical Society

Brooklyn Historical Society is excited to launch Flatbush + Main, a monthly podcast dedicated to Brooklyn’s many-layered history and its dynamic present. Each week you’ll hear co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia dig into some of the most compelling stories that we come across everyday in our work as historians at BHS.

Primary sources are the bread and butter of what we historians do, so we’ll be featuring documents, images, artifacts, and more from BHS’s rich archives – pictures of which we’ll post to the Brooklyn Historical Society blog. As BHS’s Oral Historian, Zaheer will share clips from our oral history collection, which includes over 1,200 interviews from narrators born as early as the 1890s.

Over the next couple of months, new episodes will tackle topics from raw sewage to hip hop to pioneering female political leaders – all through the lens of Brooklyn. In the meantime, check out this introductory episode, in which Zaheer and I talk about our vision for the podcast – and how we landed upon the name “Flatbush + Main.”

We’ll be posting show notes for each episode on the BHS blog, so check back each month to explore full oral history interviews, images of original documents, links to relevant commentary, and more.

Got a great idea for an upcoming Flatbush + Main episode? Email us at flatbushandmain@brooklynhistory.org or leave a comment on this post. And don’t forget to subscribe to Flatbush + Main and to rate us on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever platform you use to listen to podcasts.

We’re looking forward to meeting you each month at the intersection of Brooklyn’s past and present.

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Photo of the Week: Traffic

[Traffic congestion], circa 1920, v1973.5.1950; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC.202; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Traffic congestion], circa 1920, v1973.5.1950; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC.202; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The U.S. Census Bureau revealed some not-so-surprising news recently that New York City is growing, particularly the outer boroughs. This past year alone, Brooklyn grew by 16,000 inhabitants. City planners are estimating that New York City will reach the nine million mark by 2040. This is largely due to more people moving to the city and fewer people leaving. Mayor de Blasio has said of this growth, “The long-term prosperity of New York City hinges on our ability to keep pace with the housing and infrastructure demands of an ever-growing population throughout the five boroughs.”

With that in mind, the photo of the week depicts traffic congestion from around 1920 at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue. On the back of the photograph the caption reads, “Traffic Congestion such as here shown is the inevitable result of crowding of industry and population.” The period in Brooklyn between 1915 and 1920 experienced a similar surge in population when city centers attracted tens of thousands of people from more rural communities. The 1925 Census of New York pointed to “modern conveniences such as an ever increasing number of automobiles, bus and transportation lines, an important factor.”

This photograph comes from the Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection. This collection contains over 7,000 items spanning from the early to mid-20th century in Brooklyn. This collections provides a comprehensive visual documentation of Brooklyn, with over 30 Brooklyn neighborhoods documented. To view more images 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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