Photo of the Week: Happy 4th!

Sunset, Coney Island, 1966, V1988.12.92; Otto Dreschmeyer Brooklyn slides, v1988.12; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Sunset, Coney Island, 1966, V1988.12.92; Otto Dreschmeyer Brooklyn slides, v1988.12; Brooklyn Historical Society.

We hope you enjoyed a relaxing, safe, and happy July 4th holiday! With that in mind, the photo of the week is a double-exposure depicting the sunset at Coney Island as well as a fireworks display taken in August of 1966. A double-exposure is when two images are exposed on a single frame, creating a layered and unique visual effect.

This photograph comes from the Otto Dreschmeyer Brooklyn slides collection that comprises 157 color slides taken by amateur photographer, Otto Dreschmeyer, from 1965 to 1968. Dreschmeyer was a lifetime resident of the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens and photographed throughout Brooklyn, likely using a Hasselblad camera. The subjects of his photographs include beach scenes of Sheepshead Bay and Coney Island, scenes from the annual Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade in 1965 and the exhibitions or installations at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This collection is fully digitized and may be viewed online 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: Tintype

[Portrait of two women, one man and eight children on the beach], circa 1890, V1981.283.1.63; Burton family papers and photographs, ARC.217; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Portrait of two women, one man and eight children on the beach], circa 1890, V1981.283.1.63; Burton family papers and photographs, ARC.217; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Tintypes are hard to miss if you come across one in person. They are thin iron (not tin) plates typically with a blackish or brownish hue and crisp detail.  They were invented in 1854, and gained popularity in the 1860s as an inexpensive and accessible photographic method. Tintypes were less expensive and easier to make than their predecessor, daguerreotypes. For the first time, families could afford to have their portrait taken and to send the plates to friends and family. Tintype studios began as a formal process in photographic studios, but later were introduced as novelty items at fairs or amusement parks in mobile booths or open air (as depicted in this scene).

Tintypes lost popularity in the late 1860s as paper photographic methods were introduced, however, they continued as a novelty well into the early 20th century. In fact, our collections show that the novelty was quite popular at Coney Island, though its unclear where this photograph was taken. The photo of the week is a tintype depicting men, women, and children on the beach, sometime around 1890. The identities and location of the photograph are unknown.  Today, tintypes and other nineteenth century photographic methods are seeing a renaissance. You can get a tintype taken if you visit the Tintype Studio at the Penumbra Foundation.

This photograph comes from the Burton family papers and photographs collection that consists of papers and photographs of William W. Burton, his wife Virginia Baptista Burton, their son and daughter-in-law Percival Burton and Josie E Newcombe Burton, and the Newcombe family. The collection of 189 photographs from 1870-1949 range in photographic formats including cabinet cards, cartes-de-visite, tintypes, and prints and are mostly portraits of the Burton family. 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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Everett and Evelyn Ortner papers and photographs now open to the public!

Evelyn and Everett Ortner, circa 1980

Evelyn and Everett Ortner, circa 1980; Everett and Evelyn Ortner papers and photographs, ARC.306; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The papers of Everett and Evelyn Ortner, which date from 1873 to 2012 and consist of over 50 linear feet of manuscripts, photographs, organizational records, correspondence, posters, films, and digital files, are now open to researchers at Brooklyn Historical Society. The papers and photographs were processed with funding generously provided by the New York State Archives Documentary Heritage Program. Researchers interested in historic preservation, gentrification, and the changing character of Brooklyn neighborhoods from the mid-20th century to today will find a wealth of resources in the collection.

Park Slope brownstones, circa 1973

Park Slope brownstones, circa 1973; Everett and Evelyn Ortner papers and photographs, ARC.306; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Longtime residents of Brooklyn may already be familiar with the couple, who were intimately involved with the “Brownstone Revival” movement and supporters of numerous Brooklyn cultural institutions. The couple married in 1953 and resided in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn through the early 1960s. In 1963 the couple purchased an 1882 four-story brownstone at 272 Berkeley Place in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. This would be the catalyst for their involvement in the “Brownstone Revival” movement. The Ortners soon became active in a variety of community organizations, including the Brownstone Revival Committee and the Park Slope Civic Council. They lobbied local banks to provide mortgages to prospective Park Slope home-buyers at a time when lenders had “red-lined” the neighborhood. According to the Park Slope Civic Council, “they also encouraged the Brooklyn Union Gas Co. (now National Grid) to purchase and transform a dilapidated brownstone on Berkeley Place into a modern two-family home featuring a variety of gas appliances.”[i] These buildings became known as “Cinderella homes” and were used in advertising to entice new residents to the neighborhood. The couple were also a leading force in the designation of the Park Slope Historic District in 1973.

Draft of a speech delivered by Everett Ortner to the City Planning Commission, circa 1970

Draft of a speech delivered by Everett Ortner to the City Planning Commission, circa 1970; Everett and Evelyn Ortner papers and photographs, ARC.306, box 26, folder 12; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The collection includes organizational records of both the Brownstone Revival Committee (later the Brownstone Revival Coalition) and the Back to the City Conference, as well as the St. Ann Center for Restoration and the Arts, of which Evelyn was a founding member and chairman of the board. Other organizations represented in the collection include the Park Slope Betterment Committee, Park Slope Block Association, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Brooklyn Museum, Long Island Historical Society/Brooklyn Historical Society, and Preservation Volunteers. BHS holds additional records related to the Brownstone Revival Coalition and the Back to the City Conference, as well as other community organizations, such as the Eastern Parkway Coalition and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.

Restored Brooklyn townhouses, circa 1980

Restored Brooklyn townhouses, circa 1980; Everett and Evelyn Ortner papers and photographs, ARC.306; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Of particular note are the collection’s photographs. Everett was an amateur photographer and he extensively documented 19th century architecture throughout the city. In addition to documenting the city’s built environment, the collection includes photographs of community activities, such as block parties, the Atlantic Antic street festival, and the Giglio Feast in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. Many of these photographs were featured in lectures the Ortners delivered on Brownstone architecture and preservation. The photographs complement our other photography collections that document borough’s architecture, such as the John D. Morrell Photograph collection and the Morris Slotkin collection of Eugene L. Armbruster photographs of Williamsburg.

A guide to the collection is available to researchers online via our finding aid portal. Our library is open Wednesday through Saturday, from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. To make an appointment to view the collection, please contact us at: library@brooklynhistory.org.

[i] Park Slope Civic Council. “Remembering Everett Ortner,” last modified July 13, 2012. http://parkslopeciviccouncil.org/remembering-everett-ortner/

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Photo of the Week: Summer

 [Summer, Circa 1891, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, N.Y.], circa 1897, v1973.4.1081a,b; Postcard collection, v1973.4; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Summer, Circa 1891, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, N.Y.], circa 1897, v1973.4.1081a,b; Postcard collection, v1973.4; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Monday marked the first official day of summer and the longest day of the year. One of my favorite ways to enjoy the long summer evenings is by visiting Prospect Park. Whether it’s jogging, hiking, reading a book, or going to a concert, there are endless ways to make the most of summer in the park.

With that in mind, the photo of the week depicts people in Prospect Park, near Music Island on the southeastern portion of the lake, sometime around 1897. Music Island got its name from a time when musicians would row out to the island to play concerts to park visitors. One Brooklyn Daily Eagle article from 1887 described a concert on Music Island: “If yesterday’s favorable conditions of breeze and sunshine could be assured for every concert no more delightful place for a band stand could be desired than Music Island. Sunlight, sighing trees, bright dresses and fair forms: sweet strains unmolested by the winds and the soft splash of paddles and graceful glide of boats—all formed a symphony of delights for the senses that were little short of enchantment.”

In 1959, Music Island was removed to make space for Wollman Rink. In 2012, the Lakeside Project was developed to restore the southeast corner of the lake to its original state, as imagined by the park’s designers Olmstead and Vaux. That project included restoring Music Island to a nature preserve.

This photograph is a photographic postcard and is part of the Postcard collection. Brooklyn Historical Society has hundreds of postcards that are organized by neighborhood and subject. Most of our postcards are not currently digitized, but a selection are available online 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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Flatbush + Main Episode 03: Queering Brooklyn Spaces

In episode 03 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, Zaheer and I tackle the history of queer spaces in Brooklyn. We sit down with curator and writer Hugh Ryan, who helps us define “queer” as a historical construct and shares some amazing hidden queer histories that he has uncovered. We also visit Lesbian Herstory Archives in the neighborhood of Park Slope to talk with co-founder Deborah Edel, and listen to the reflections of one Brooklynite who shared his life and experiences in our oral history collections.

We usually plan each episode a month or two in advance, and we knew we wanted to do an episode honoring Pride for the month of June. But on Sunday, June 12, the episode took on new and heartbreaking meaning for us when we learned of the mass shooting of 49 people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. This tragedy and this unthinkable loss of life makes examination of Brooklyn’s complex and layered queer history all the more imperative. Zaheer and I dedicate this podcast to the victims of the Pulse massacre, and those who have lost partners, family members, friends, and loved ones.

As always, you can email us at flatbushandmain@brooklynhistory.org or leave a comment on this post with questions or suggestions. 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 03: Queering Brooklyn Spaces

Segment 1: Histories and Ideas

To learn more about Hugh Ryan’s work, visit his website.

For more info about the house at 7 Middagh Street (also known as “February House” because so many of its tenants shared February birthdays), check out “Brooklyn Bohemia” on the Brooklyn Waterfront History project website, developed in partnership between Brooklyn Historical Society and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

In addition, Ryan recommends the following titles: George Chauncey’s Gay New York, Joan Nestle’s Persistent Desire, Sherrill Tippins’s February House, and Marcy Adelman’s Long Time Passing: The Lives of Older Lesbians.

Segment 2: Into the Archives

Below are images of the materials we explored when we visited the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Selections from Dyketionary, date unknown

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Hard hat with lambda, date unknown
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A glimpse at the LHA’s amazing button collection:
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Listen to the oral history of Mabel Hampton here.

Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn

Below is the full oral history of Philip Coleman, part of BHS’s 1992 AIDS-Brooklyn Oral History Project, undertaken as part of a 1993 exhibition on AIDS at Brooklyn Historical Society, the first exhibition of its kind at a public history institution. This interview is being made available online for the first time in a digital format, thanks to a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Segment 4: Endorsements

There’s still time to get tickets for “Refined and Redesigned: Defying Gender Norms in Fashion,” a public program at BHS at 6:30 on Thursday, June 23.

Finally, below are some context and resources related to the Orlando mass shooting:

The Pulse nightclub shooting was the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in American history. Before that, the largest massacre of gay people in America took place in 1973 with an arson attack on New Orleans’ UpStairs lounge that led to the death of 32 people. Historian Jim Downs explores the politics of fear, community, and advocacy in relation to these two tragedies.

In this moving video, Anderson Cooper reads aloud the names of those who died at Pulse nightclub.

As the investigation into the shooter’s motives continue, several advocacy groups have stood strongly against any attempt to use the Pulse massacre to promote xenophobia of any kind, whether it be homophobia or Islamophobia. This article touches on some of those efforts.

Additionally, a group of librarians and educators have begun a crowd-sourced living document, #PulseOrlandoSyllabus that contains a rich listing of resources on, about, and for LGBTQ life.

Lastly, here are some organizations mobilizing support and continued advocacy for the communities affected:

The One Orlando Fund: Established by the non-profit Strengthen Orlando and backed by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, the fund is intended to “provide a way to help respond to the needs of our community, now and in the time to come, after the effects of the Pulse tragedy.”

Equality Florida’s Pulse Victim Fund: Established by Florida’s LGBTQ civil rights organization for the victims and their families.

The New York City Anti-Violence Project: Founded in Chelsea in 1980 in reaction to violence in the neighborhood against gay residents, the AVP serves the city’s LGBTQ and HIV-positive communities with direct client aid, community organizing and public advocacy.

Latino Pride Center: Launched by the New York City-based Hispanic AIDS Forum in 2013, the Latino Pride Center initially served gay and bisexual Latino men.

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