Our Christmas Tides from Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church

My colleague John Zarillo, processing archivist here at BHS, recently announced the good news the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church records have been processed and made available to the public. He also surprised me with what can only be described as a cataloger’s bonus: at least 8 boxes of the Church’s book collection to be cataloged and placed in a special collections area in the library.

Upon opening the first box, I was immediately struck by the superb condition of the books, some more than 100 years old. At first glance, there are editions of the many books published by LAPC’s powerhouse first minister Theodore L. Cuyler, as well as books from his personal collection, including some school books. As I handled these books, I could feel the care they had been given over their lifetime, and the reverence they enjoyed. I will be sharing some of these books on the blog over the next weeks, and try to give a sense of some of the pleasures of working with a special collection.

Cover, Our Christmas Tides. Brooklyn Historical Society Library and Archives, LAPC BV45.C49 O87 1904.

Cover, Our Christmas Tides. Brooklyn Historical Society Library and Archives, LAPC BV45.C49 O87 1904.

I will start out light and seasonal, however, with a few snapshots of a beautifully produced Christmas  book, Our Christmas Tides. Published in 1904, toward the end of his life, this book collects Dr. Cuyler’s thoughts on the meaning of the Christmas celebration for many of his readers. The readings, in both prose and poetry, range from a meditation on a reading from Martin Luther, to carols for adults and children, and an essay entitled ‘Home-thoughts for Christmas-tide’ especially for homemakers. The decorative cover in dark green is stamped in gold and red, while every page of the book is printed with a wide decorative border, with the Star of David shining down from the upper right.  Photographs are occasionally pasted into the area normally reserved for text. Below is the title page and the portrait of Dr. Cuyler pasted in opposite the title page.

Photograph of Dr. Cuyler, opposite title page of Our Christmas Tides. Brooklyn Historical Society Library and Archives, LAPC BV45.C49 O87 1904.

Photograph of Dr. Cuyler, opposite title page of Our Christmas Tides. Brooklyn Historical Society Library and Archives, LAPC BV45.C49 O87 1904.

Title page, Our Christmas Tides. Brooklyn Historical Society Library and Archives, LAPC BV45.C49 O87 1904.

Title page, Our Christmas Tides. Brooklyn Historical Society Library and Archives, LAPC BV45.C49 O87 1904.

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Photo of the Week: Happy Holidays!

[Holidays view 18], circa 1956, 2006.001.1.128; Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building photographs and architectural drawings; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Holidays view 18], circa 1956, 2006.001.1.128; Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building photographs and architectural drawings; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts a holiday display above the Williamsburgh Savings Bank entrance at One Hanson Place, sometime around 1956. This photograph comes from the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building photograph and architectural drawings collection, which consists of photographs and architectural drawings spanning the years 1888 to 2001 that document the construction and daily life of the building, located in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The Williamsburgh Savings Bank building was built between 1927 and 1929 by architectural firm Halsey, McCormack, and Helmer. It stands 512 feet, and at its completion it was the tallest building in Brooklyn. The Brooklyner condominium surpassed it (516 feet) in 2009. For many years, it was a diversely occupied office building with dozens of dentists’ offices. The bank was converted to condominiums in 2009. To see more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery.

No other month offers such a range of festivity and celebrations as December. Whatever you’re celebrating this holiday season, we wish you a safe, happy, and festive December!

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: Charles (Karl) Blieffert photograph album

[Charles Blieffert and his parents, Helene and Charles], circa 1905, 2015.010.2.2; Charles (Karl) Blieffert photograph album; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Charles Blieffert and his parents, Helene and Charles], circa 1905, 2015.010.2.2; Charles (Karl) Blieffert photograph album; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts Charles Blieffert (at the wheel) with his parents, Helene and Charles, posing for a portrait at a Coney Island tintype studio sometime around 1905. Charles Blieffert was the only child of German immigrant parents. He grew up at the family home located at 18th Avenue near Gravesend Avenue in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. In an effort to Americanize his name, he changed his name from “Karl” to “Charlie” and pronounced his last name “Bly-furt” rather than “Blee-furt.” During the Great Depression, Charles moved out of Brooklyn to Milwaukee where he found work in the insurance business. He did not marry until his widowed mother died in 1940.

This photograph comes from the Charles (Karl) Blieffert photograph album collection. Brooklyn Historical Society recently acquired and processed this collection, which includes one photograph album dating from 1908 to 1917 and four tintype photographs of Charles with relatives. The photograph album is particularly noteworthy because it includes 249 black and white photographs taken by Blieffert of young friends and family members in the Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, and Brighton Beach neighborhoods of Brooklyn during the early 20th-century. Photographs depicting Knickerbocker Field Club, fishing in Sheepshead Bay, and a clam bake at Felton’s are standouts in the album. You can view this collection 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: Horse-drawn cart

[Horse-drawn cart], circa 1875, V1974.7.12; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Horse-drawn cart], circa 1875, V1974.7.12; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Over the last several years, food trucks have been popping up all over Brooklyn, reflecting a nationwide trend. The photo of the week takes us back to around 1875, long before food truck rallies existed. In this photograph, a man is driving Flatbush Parlor Bakery’s horse-drawn food cart hawking breads, cakes and pies at Caton and Ocean Avenue in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The origins of today’s food trucks can be traced back to pushcarts and chuck wagons in the mid-19th century. Out west, chuck wagons, founded by Texas Rancher Charles Goodnight, served meals to cowhands moving herds across the plains to markets in the North and East. Pushcarts served the urban workers with simple lunches in New York and Chicago. Closer to home, oyster carts could be found along 19th-century Fulton Street near the ferry.

The invention of the automobile led to significant changes in the history of food trucks. In the 1950s, ice cream trucks became omnipresent. Then, in the 1960s, mobile food trucks known as “roach coaches” appeared in an effort to serve blue-collar workers at construction sites and factories. You can view a photograph of a “mobile canteen” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard here.

A combination of factors led to the modern gourmet food truck movement. Some view the culinary success from Chef Roy Choi’s gourmet Korean taco truck, Kogi, as playing part in inspiring the food truck movement. The economic slump in the early 2000s was also a likely contributor to this phenomenon. Food trucks are a far less expensive opportunity for chefs to experiment and innovate. Since then, food trucks have taken on a whole new meaning with gourmet chefs and Zagat ratings.

The sign on the side of the cart in this photograph, as well as the handwritten text on the back stating that the man is “hawking breads, cakes, and pies,” indicates that this was likely an early food truck.  Like many of Adrian Vandereer Martense’s photographs, this photograph offers a unique, informal perspective of street scenes in Brooklyn during the last quarter of the 19th century.  The Adrian Vanderveer Martense photographs collection contains lantern slides and photographs taken by Martense, an amateur photographer, from 1872-1889. 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: Happy Thanksgiving

[Thanksgiving dinner tables], 1910, V1981.284.53; Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, ARC.136; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Thanksgiving dinner tables], 1910, V1981.284.53; Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, ARC.136; Brooklyn Historical Society.

In light of the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, the photo of the week depicts a Thanksgiving dinner table at the Emmanuel House in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, sometime around 1910. Emmanuel House was a civic center and place of outreach run by the Young Men’s League of the Emmanuel Baptist Church. They offered Sunday school, kindergarten, and recreational classes to neighborhood children.

This photograph comes from the Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, which includes 87 slides from 1900-1914. The majority of the images in the collection are group portraits of clubs and classes at the Emmanuel House, but also included are interior and exterior photographs of the building. To see more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery.

Before the holiday begins, I leave you with these final thoughts from a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article from 1910, published the week before Thanksgiving: “So, take it all in all, the Brooklynite has much for which to give thanks next Thursday. Now, let us give these thanks heartily, sincerely in acknowledgement of the blessing of the past year and for the blessing that are to come.” Have a safe, relaxing, and enjoyable holiday!

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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