Photo of the Week: A.I. Namm & Son Department Store

[Namm Store interior], 1898, V1972.1.743; Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Namm Store interior], 1898, V1972.1.743; Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts the A.I. Namm & Son department store interior, located at 450 – 458 Fulton Street in the Downtown Brooklyn neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1898. Adolph I. Namm was a Polish immigrant with an embroidery and upholstery business in Manhattan. In 1885, he moved his business in Brooklyn, and by 1891 he opened a new store at 452 Fulton. At the time, that stretch of Fulton Street was emerging as a popular commercial shopping destination. His son, Benjamin Harrison Namm, eventually took over the business. During its heyday, the store was enormously successful. It was also one of the largest cash-only enterprises in Brooklyn, competing with other large department stores like Abraham & Straus.

The A.I. Namm & Son flagship store was closed in 1957, and the business moved to the suburbs. The building has since been sold and purchased several times. The store once covered an entire city block, but the 450-458 is the last remaining portion today. Fulton Street is still a commercial district today. To learn more about the history of Fulton Street, check out My Brooklyn, a documentary film by Kelly Anderson.

This photograph comes from the Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection. This collection comprises roughly 1,400 black-and-white photographs taken by various photographers between 1860 and 1920. The majority of the photographs in this collection depict views of Brooklyn and Suffolk County. 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: Bob Adelman photographs

[Operation Clean Sweep Demonstration on Sidewalk], 1962, v1989.22.17; Bob Adelman photographs of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) demonstrations, v1989.22; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Operation Clean Sweep Demonstration on Sidewalk], 1962, v1989.22.17; Bob Adelman photographs of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) demonstrations, v1989.22; Brooklyn Historical Society.

We were sad to hear about the recent passing of photographer and activist Bob Adelman, who extensively documented the civil rights movement in Brooklyn and the southern United States, as well as pivotal historical moments like the 1963 March on Washington. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Far Rockaway, Queens, Mr. Adelman was a member of and photographer for Brooklyn CORE during the early 1960s when the chapter focused on many issues of racism and inequity, including the living conditions of African Americans living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. About his approach to photography, he has said, “I shot with one eye on the lens, one eye on history, and my heart with the movement.”

The photo of the week depicts demonstrators during “Operation Clean Sweep,” a 1962 protest movement addressing discriminatory sanitation policies in New York City. This photograph comes from the Bob Adelman photographs of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) demonstrations collection. This collection is comprised of 17 black-and-white photographs depicting several civil rights demonstrations organized by the Brooklyn chapter of CORE. This collection is not fully digitized, but you can still view the photographs by making an appointment at the Othmer Library.  To learn more about Mr. Adelman, and to see additional photographs, check out this gallery and interview at the New York Times. And to read more about Brooklyn CORE and Operation Clean Sweep, check out Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings, a terrific book by historian Brian Purnell.

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: Scouts

[Scouts at Campsite], 1912, V1981.284.636; Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, ARC.136; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Scouts at Campsite], 1912, V1981.284.636; Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, ARC.136; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts a group of scouts at a campsite in Forest Park in Queens, during the spring of 1912. A Brooklyn Daily Eagle article printed a week before this photograph was taken describes Forest Park as the site for a scout rally, skills test, and program. “Next Saturday, the individual scouts who are ready for their firebuilding test will be examined by the scout masters on some features of actual camp life, such as cooking, lighting fires, etc., at Forest Park. This is part of the examination toward the grade of second class scout, a comprehensive test which includes as well a certain amount of first aid work.”

The scout movement began in England around 1908, inspired by the publication of Scouting for Boys, which emphasized the support and development of young people through outdoor and survival skills. By 1910, several youth organizations in New York formed scout troops based on this model, and the Boy Scouts of America was established. What began with roughly 2,000 U.S.- based scouts has grown to millions today.

This photograph comes from the Emmanuel House lantern slide collection. This collection contains 87 slides dating from 1900 to 1914 that depict children at the Emmanuel House, their activities and interior and exterior shots of the building. The Emmanuel House was located at 131 Steuben Street in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was run by the Young Men’s League of the Emmanuel Baptist Church as a civic center and place of outreach, offering kindergarten classes and recreational classes to children in the 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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Photo of the Week: Early Spring

[Brooklyn Photographs: Prospect Park-lake], ca. 1975, V1990.2.176; Donald L. Nowlan Brooklyn collection, ARC.120; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Brooklyn Photographs: Prospect Park-lake], ca. 1975, V1990.2.176; Donald L. Nowlan Brooklyn collection, ARC.120; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Spring is my favorite season in Brooklyn, so the early spring-like temperatures lately make me excited for the warmer months ahead. What excites you about springtime in Brooklyn? Personally, I can’t wait to spend time in Prospect Park, reading and riding my bike. With that in mind, the photo of the week depicts the reservoir in Prospect Park in early spring, sometime around 1975.

This photograph has a pink tone which can occur from older photographic prints. Color photographs are naturally unstable and impermanent, with the color dyes fading at different rates. While largely unavoidable, the deterioration and discoloration of photographs can be delayed by proper storage and care. General guidelines for the storage of photographs includes a relatively dry (30-40% relative humidity), cool (room temperature or below), stable environment. To learn more about the care of photographs, check out this useful resource, created by the Library of Congress.

This photograph comes from the Donald L. Nowlan Brooklyn collection. Donald L. Nowlan grew up at 470 3rd Street in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. He attended Brooklyn schools from elementary through college. The photographs in this collection include 122 color photographic prints, 165 color slides, and three black-and-white photographic prints taken by Nowlan that document Brooklyn in the 1960s and 1970s. The primary subject-matter of the photographs are Coney Island, Brooklyn Botantic Garden, Prospect Park, and the Reenactment of the Battle of Brooklyn in Prospect Park (circa 1979). 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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New to the Library Collection: Tauranac New York City Subway Maps

New York City Subway Map,

New York City Subway Map, Tauranac Maps, 2014. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

This special edition of the Map of the Month celebrates a recent donation to the library: a set of New York City transit maps designed and published by Tauranac Maps. Pictured above is a portion of the latest Tauranac New York City Subway map and guide, published in 2014. I have long wished to have a version of this map in our collection as it represents an alternate lineage of the modern New York subway map. It is a refinement of the map published in the 1960s, a map deemed so visually confusing it prompted a major redesign in 1972. While the current MTA map is clearly an improvement on the austere and abstract Vignelli map that was the result of the 1972 redesign, the Tauranac map develops a different set of design elements from the 1960s maps.

The Map of the Month for July 2014 featured the famed 1972 Massimo Vignelli diagram of the New York City subway system and outlined in brief the objections to the map. Among the complaints were its distortion of geographic features and its lack of detail about routes and schedules. A committee was formed in response and charged with the creation of a more geographically representative map with more complete information for riders. That committee was headed by John Tauranac, a freelance writer and map designer, who had recently published Seeing New York: The Official MTA Travel Guide (1976). The result of the committee’s work was the adoption in 1979 of the Michael Hertz Associates map as the official map of the MTA, which is still in use today (with frequent updates). By 1992, Tauranac thought he could improve on the official MTA map and began publishing his own map of the New York City subway system. Tauranac has published several versions of this map through 2014, incorporating system updates and sometimes refining design elements along the way.

Noteworthy in the latest edition is Tauranac’s inclusion of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway line scheduled to open at the end of 2016. (Click on the image of the map to zoom in and see the new line.) This line is not yet depicted in the MTA map. What you will not find on Tauranac maps are Long Island Railroad or the Staten Island surface rail routes, as you will on the official subway map. Tauranac maps are subway only maps.

Clearly there are similarities between the Tauranac and MTA maps. Compare the two segments of the latest version of both maps below. Both are diagrammatic, in that clarity is favored above geographic accuracy. Both rely on color-coded trunklines to depict the different subway lines (a technique borrowed early on from the London Underground maps). Both identify station stops outside the trunk lines.

Detail, The map, 2015. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Detail, The map, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 2015. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Detail, New York City Subway Map, Tauranac Maps, 2014. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Yet notice how the Tauranac map has created clarity by using only 45 or 90 degree angles to depict the subway lines. The same alignment is also used for the station identifications. The MTA map is clearly trying to depict the actual, more curving lines of the subway lines and shows the stations stops at the various distances. In terms of visual impact, the two maps are very different, with the Tauranac map clearly emphasizing visual clarify and uniformity.

Another element not found on a Tauranac map are the text bubbles that ‘float’ over the less busy parts of New York and point to stations to clarify multiple transfers. Instead, Mr. Tauranac has repurposed the text boxes found in the 1967 map published by the NYCTA, the very map that prompted the redesign by Vignelli. You can see clearly how Mr. Tauranac has been inspired by this earlier map by following this link.

Although the Tauranac map has preserved the simple geometry of the lines and the boxes identifying the lines within the trunk lines, there have been significant improvements. The Tauranac map shows transfers much more simply and clearly by connecting the white station identification boxes. Mr. Tauranac has also opted to eliminate the redundant red areas indicating transfer stations and the circular line identification labels that made the 1967 map so visually overwhelming.

With just this brief look at these few features, it is clear the Tauranac map represents a parallel vision sprung from the NYC transit map designs of the 1960s and 1970s. Tracing the design revisions of the Tauranac maps themselves as they were published from 1992 to 2014 would make an interesting study as well. You can do this for yourself anytime during the library’s open hours, Wed.-Sat., from 1-5 p.m. No appointment is necessary to view these maps.

These maps were added to the collection of the Brooklyn Historical Society Library and Archives through donation by John Tauranac in 2015.

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