Flatbush + Main Episode 09: Food and Identity, Brooklyn Style

Flatbush and Main Episode 9

In Episode 09 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia dig into their most delicious topic yet: food and identity in Brooklyn. They speak to historical gastronomist Sarah Lohman to find out exactly what a historical gastronomist is, and to learn about some ingredients that have shaped the course of American history. In “Into the Archives,” they explore a 19th-century recipe book created by two generations of Brooklyn women and think about gender roles, the politics of food preparation, and the preservation of Dutch culture in Flatbush. Finally, they listen to a clip from the oral history of Ericka Basile, a Brooklynite of African, French and Taíno ancestry. Basile reflects on the ways that Creole food informed her childhood, her relationships, and her identity. In their endorsements, Julie and Zaheer share some of the foods that have shaped who they are today. We’d love to hear about how food has shaped your identity. Share your food memories by using the hashtag #flatbushandmain.

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

Index

02:53 – Histories and Ideas: Interview with Sarah Lohman
16:51 – Into the Archives: Mrs. Lefferts’s Book
29:23 – Voices of Brooklyn: Ericka Basile
36:02 – Preview of January 11, 2017 Flatbush + Main Live Event
39:31 – Julie’s and Zaheer’s Favorite Foods

Segment 1: Histories and Ideas

Sarah Lohman is a historical gastronomist. Her book, Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, was published by Simon and Schuster this month. Buy it here.

You should also follow her terrific blog, Four Pounds Flour and check out this recent profile of her in the New York Times.

Segment 2: Into the Archives

You can peruse all of Mrs. Lefferts’s Book here. If you want to come into the BHS archives to examine it and other Lefferts related documents, start with the finding aid for the Lefferts family papers.

To learn more about the Lefferts family and their impact on Brooklyn, explore BHS’s digital exhibition, An American Family Grows in Brooklyn: The Lefferts Family Papers.

Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn

Listen to Ericka Basile’s full oral history and access more information about the interview here.

Basile was interviewed as part of a 2011-2014 oral history and public programming project called Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations, which examined the history and experiences of mixed-heritage people and families, cultural hybridity, race, ethnicity, and identity in Brooklyn.

Explore the finding aid for the CBBG oral history collection here.
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Segment 4: Endorsements

On Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 6:30pm, Zaheer and Julie will co-host “Civic Responsibility Then and Now: A View from the Archives,” an event at BHS. Tickets are $5 for non-members (free for members!) Purchase tickets here. The event will be recorded live for our January episode. We hope to see a lot of our listeners there!

On Tuesday, January 17, 2017, BHS will welcome Michael Woodsworth to talk about his new book, Battle for Bed-Stuy: The Long War on Poverty in New York City. The event is at 6:30, and tickets are $10 (free for members). Purchase tickets here.

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Bushwick and Her Neighbors, Vol. 1 is now online!

Brooklyn Historical Society received a generous grant from Gerry Charitable Trust in 2015 to digitize and catalog seven scrapbooks from Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbook collection. Eugene Armbruster was an amateur photographer and historian during the late 19th century and early 20th century in Brooklyn. Following retirement from The H. Henkel Cigar Box Manufacturing Company, he became interested in local history and took thousands of photographs depicting buildings and street scenes throughout Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. His scrapbooks are organized by subject and include a combination of photographs, clippings, hand-drawn maps, drawings, and writings. With the help of project cataloger Regina Carra, we are working to get all seven scrapbooks published online. Today, we announce that the first scrapbook, “Bushwick and Her Neighbors, Vol. 1,” is digitized, cataloged, and available online.

Regina cataloged 254 scrapbook pages from “Bushwick and Her Neighbors, Vol. 1.” Bushwick was home for Armbruster, so it’s fitting that this is the first complete scrapbook. Below, Regina reflects on her experience working so closely with this scrapbook:

When I began cataloging “Bushwick and Her Neighbors, Vol.1” I was not sure what to expect. When we think of what scrapbooks look like today, we typically think of them as books with photographs or newspaper clippings that are pasted on pages in a collage-like fashion. Armbruster’s scrapbooks, however, are not like this. Each page has only one image, drawing or block of text. They look very casual, as if Armbruster never meant to spend a lot of time worrying about the aesthetics of the pages. Furthermore, for a guy who was known for his photographs, there are very few photographic materials in “Bushwick and her Neighbors, Vol.1.” Most of the images are from mass-produced publications or items like magazines, newspapers, and postcards. There are paragraphs of text written on some of the pages, but most of it appears to have been transcribed directly from, or heavily inspired by, secondary sources published in the late-19th century. The scrapbook does include some lovely original drawings of maps, historic buildings, landscapes, and cityscapes.

[Map of landholding in Bushwick after "Indian Deed of Bushwick"], 1907, v1974.022.1.015; Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, V1974.022, Brooklyn Historical Society

[Map of landholding in Bushwick after “Indian Deed of Bushwick”], 1907, v1974.022.1.015; Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, V1974.022, Brooklyn Historical Society

[Early Settlement in Bushwick], 1907, v1974.022.1.018; Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, V1974.022, Brooklyn Historical Society

[Early Settlement in Bushwick], 1907, v1974.022.1.018; Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, V1974.022, Brooklyn Historical Society

So these observations beg the question: Why did Armbruster create these scrapbooks?

After cataloging “Bushwick and Her Neighbors, Vol. 1” I would say that what we are preserving at BHS is not just product (the pages of the scrapbook), but process. Armbruster was an amateur historian, photographer, and published author interested in historic infrastructure, particularly infrastructure that he perceived was at risk of being destroyed or had already been destroyed in early-20th century urbanizing NYC. For example often times the description Armbruster attaches to his visual material alludes to when a building was built but sometimes when it was torn down or relocated as well.

Dutch Reformed Church at Jamaica, 1907, v1974.022.1.229; Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, V1974.022, Brooklyn Historical Society

Dutch Reformed Church at Jamaica, 1907, v1974.022.1.229; Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, V1974.022, Brooklyn Historical Society

This scrapbook includes material about churches, businesses, early settlements (Dutch and English), and historical events, like the Battle of Brooklyn, that occurred in Bushwick and its surrounding neighborhoods in Kings and Queens Counties. I think “Bushwick and Her Neighbors, Vol.1” is Armbruster’s attempt to compile sources for future reference and for his various publications, which included his books, pamphlets, and articles in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. This is much like how a historian today would compile a list of sources, quotes, and notes on a digital file.

As we mentioned, this is the first of seven posts regarding the Eugene Armbruster scrapbooks. You can stay up to date with our project via Instagram and the hashtag #armbruster or searching our online image gallery for more frequent additions here. 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.

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Photo of the Week: Electrification of Long Island Rail Road

[Electrification of Long Island Rail Road at Washington Avenue], 1903, v1984.1463.3; Long Island Rail Road construction photographs, V1984.1463; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Electrification of Long Island Rail Road at Washington Avenue], 1903, v1984.1463.3; Long Island Rail Road construction photographs, V1984.1463; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts the excavation during the electrification of the Long Island Rail Road on Washington Avenue in Brooklyn in 1903. A crew of men can be seen using shovels and picks to manually complete the arduous excavation work during winter. This photograph sticks out to because of the view of men and women and horse-drawn carriages at street level contrasting with the view of the men working in the tunnel below. Can you image how hard this job must have been during the winter and entirely by hand?

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) began offering passenger service in 1836, and expanded to Kings, Queens, Suffolk, and Nassau counties. It was a steam-powered train service up until 1905 when electrification began due to public outcry from the pollution produced by the steam-engines. The Brooklyn portion of the Long Island Rail Road was the first part to be electrified, and continued east to Belmont Park. The Long Island Rail Road is one of the oldest railroads in the country. To learn more about this fascinating history, check out The Long Island Rail Road: a comprehensive history by Vincent F. Seyfried, available at the Othmer Library.

This photograph comes from the Long Island Rail Road construction photographs collection comprised of Long Island Rail Road construction photographs dating from 1903 to 1910. The photographs document the construction of LIRR tracks from Brooklyn to Nassau and Suffolk Counties to Long Island. This collection is not digitized, but we’d love for you to visit the Othmer Library to see them in person.

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: Prospect Park Sea Lions

Sea Lion Pool, Prospect Park Zoo, 1987, v1990.62.2; Jerome Frank photographs, V1990.62; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Sea Lion Pool, Prospect Park Zoo, 1987, v1990.62.2; Jerome Frank photographs, V1990.62; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Have you visited the sea lions at the Prospect Park Zoo? The photo of the week depicts the Sea Lion Pool on October 15, 1987. The zoo is located on the east side of Prospect Park, along Flatbush Avenue. The zoo opened in 1935 as part of a city-wide revitalization project initiated by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. The Sea Lion Court is one of the most popular exhibits and is also a unique architectural focal point of the zoo.

Shortly after the zoo’s opening, sea lion stories began popping up in New York Times and Brooklyn Daily Eagle articles. In 1935, one notable sea lion named Joe was moved from the Central Park Zoo to Prospect Park Zoo because his barking was disrupting Fifth Avenue residents. As reported in the New York Times, “Joe, the imperious male sea lions at the Central Park Zoo, was banished to Brooklyn yesterday.” A few years later in 1938, two young sea lions, Amos and Andy, snuck out of their enclosure and made it as far as Flatbush Avenue. A higher fence was built to prevent any future escape attempts.

This photograph comes from the Jerome Frank photographs collections comprised of 25 photographs documenting areas of Brooklyn during the 1980s. Frank was born in the Bronx and grew up in Brooklyn. He studied art at Brooklyn College. Today, Frank is a painter and photographer based in Brooklyn, and has been exhibited in galleries throughout New York City. 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: Brooklyn Storefronts

Katy’s Candy Store, 2005, 2009.004.31; James and Karla Murray Counter Culture exhibition photographs, 2009.004; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Katy’s Candy Store, 2005, 2009.004.31; James and Karla Murray Counter Culture exhibition photographs, 2009.004; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts the exterior of Katy’s Candy Store, a specialty candy shop located at 125 Tompkins Avenue in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. The family-owned shop opened in 1969 and closed permanently in 2007. This photograph is part of an ongoing project by photographers James and Karla Murray to document storefronts in Brooklyn and New York City. A limited set of images from this project is part of the James and Karla Murray Counter Culture exhibition photographs collection at BHS, and was recently catalogued and published on our online image gallery here.

Katy’s Candy Store was the last remaining penny candy store in New York, and the sign and storefront were original to the 1969 store opening.  Catherine Keyzer, the owner of Katy’s Candy Store, was born and raised in the neighborhood. She spoke about her experience closing the store in the Murray’s book Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York: “I sell penny candy and I can’t afford to pay $2,350 a month plus electric and everything. The landlord wants to convert the whole building into luxury-type apartments and have something more upscale in the space.”  Many of the stories in the book reflect a similar experience of being priced out due to gentrification. Mom-and-pop stores are part of the fabric and charm of Brooklyn, and this work speaks to how communities and businesses are affected by structural forces that push them out. To learn more, be sure to check out Murray’s book at the Othmer Library and their website that includes images throughout New York City.

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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