Photo of the Week: Cyclone

Thrills on the Cyclone, circa 1955, V1973.4.1456.11; Postcard collection, v1973.4; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Thrills on the Cyclone, circa 1955, V1973.4.1456.11; Postcard collection, v1973.4; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The Coney Island Cyclone is 90 years old! The wooden roller coaster opened to the public on June 26, 1927, costing twenty-five cents per ride. The Cyclone was declared a NYC landmark in 1988 and a National Historic Landmark in 1991. The photo of the week depicts the Cyclone around 1955 in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn.

This photograph comes from the Postcard collection consisting of hundreds of postcards depicting landmarks and street scenes throughout Brooklyn. This collection is not digitized, but we would love for you to explore the collection in person by making an appointment at the Othmer Library.

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: Pride

[70 Willow Street], 1922, V1974.32.99; Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, ARC.308; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[70 Willow Street], 1922, V1974.32.99; Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, ARC.308; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Every June, NYC Pride is a month long celebration commemorating and celebrating the LGBT community. The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project maps out historic sites associated with the LGBT community in all five boroughs, including Brooklyn.

The photo of the week depicts one of those historic sites: 70 Willow Street in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, pictured here in 1922. This home was purchased in 1953 by Tony Award-nominated theater designer Oliver Smith, whose work included original set designs for West Side Story and Hello Dolly! He was part of a large group of prominent gay writers, artists, and intellectuals, many of whom lived in the Heights at midcentury. One of those writers was Truman Capote, who rented Smith’s garden apartment from 1955 to 1965. To learn more about historic LGBT sites in NYC, check out this map, created by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. Also check out Brooklyn Historical Society’s exhibition Truman Capote’s Brooklyn: The Lost Photographs of David Attie, which features photographs of Truman Capote in Brooklyn, including inside the Willow Street home.

This photograph comes from the Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks collection comprised of photographs and scrapbooks documenting Brooklyn during the late 19th century and early 20th century in Brooklyn. Eugene Armbruster was an amateur photographer and historian, with particular interest in infrastructure.  Many of his photographs depicts buildings and street scenes through Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, and neighboring states. Brooklyn Historical Society is currently digitizing all seven scrapbooks from this collection. You can see some of those pages 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: Penny-farthing

[Boy with bicycle], 1886, V1974.7.49; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Boy with bicycle], 1886, V1974.7.49; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts Eddie Tepper posing with a penny-farthing bicycle in 1886. This is one of my favorite photographs in the BHS collections. I love the boy’s pose and how the circular wheels are echoed in the circle frame.

Penny-farthing is a type of bicycle that was popular from roughly the 1870s until the 1880s. They were faster and lighter than previous bicycles, but they were also very dangerous. The wheel height and location of the rider yielded frequent head-first falls. Any minor road obstruction could cause a rider to fall. The safety bicycle (what we consider bicycles today) became a safer alternative to the penny-farthing with wheels closer in size.

This photograph comes from the Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection comprised of lantern slides and photographs taken by Martense between 1872 and 1889. Adrian Vanderveer Martense was an amateur photographer and a descendent of early Dutch settlers in Brooklyn. He was a longtime resident of Flatbush, one of the original six towns in Brooklyn. The subject of Martense’s photography is primarily Flatbush, including street scenes, friends and neighbors, and homes. 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: Beach Season

[Group at the beach], 1909, v1981.283.3.88; Burton family papers and photographs, ARC.217; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Group at the beach], 1909, v1981.283.3.88; Burton family papers and photographs, ARC.217; Brooklyn Historical Society.

It’s officially beach season! All NYC beaches opened on Memorial Day, operating daily from 10am to 6pm until Labor Day. The NYC Parks Department maintains 14 miles of beaches, many of those miles in Brooklyn. To learn more about NYC beaches, and to find one closest to you, check out this page.

The photo of the week depicts a group at an unknown beach in 1909. This photograph comes from the Burton family papers and photographs collection comprised of materials related to the Burton family between 1870 and 1949. The Burton family lived at 436 Lafayette Avenue in what is now considered the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Manuscript materials in this collection include bonds, deeds, titles and mortgages related to the family home. There are also 189 photographs documenting the Burton family. 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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Through His Lens: The photographs of Theobald Wilson

wilson-portrait

Theobald Wilson self-portrait, 1974; Theobald Wilson photographs, 2013.005, Box 30 Folder 3; Brooklyn Historical Society.

In 2013, Brooklyn Historical Society acquired the photographs of Theobald Wilson, a commercial photographer who operated in Brooklyn from the late 20th to the early 21st centuries. These photographs, along with related records and photography equipment, are now open to researchers thanks to generous funding provided by the New York State Archives Documentary Heritage Program.

Wilson was born in the San Juan Hill neighborhood of Manhattan in 1923. His mother was a Jamaican immigrant. Wilson enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1941 and was invited to join the 99th Pursuit Squadron, which is popularly known as the Tuskegee Airmen. He served in North Africa and Italy as a parachute rigger and took up photography during his service to document his experiences. In the late 1940s he married Marie Dowell and they had two children, Sidney and Susannah. The family moved to Brooklyn in 1956, eventually settling in the neighborhood of Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

Congregation at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, 2010

Congregation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, 2010; Theobald Wilson photographs, 2013.005, Binder 11; Brooklyn Historical Society.

For decades he operated his commercial photography business out of his home. His clients included corporations such as AT&T and CBS, as well as numerous churches, fraternal organizations, and other organizations in Brooklyn, especially among West Indian communities. It is these photographs that we at BHS were particularly interested in.  While BHS does hold a robust collection of oral histories relating to the African-American and West Indian communities of Brooklyn, those communities are generally under-represented in our photographic collections. Wilson’s photographs are a significant addition to our holdings in this regard, and provide a photographic complement to the voices recorded as part of our oral history collection.

wilson-fish

Wilson’s catch, 1992; Theobald Wilson photographs, 2013.005, Box 30 Folder 2; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Additionally, the collection documents the life and work of Wilson himself. This includes numerous family photographs, many of which depict Wilson’s passion for outdoors. An avid angler, the photographs document fishing trips, including local outings to Sheepshead Bay and Jamaica Bay. Also included are photographs documenting the quilting of his wife, Marie, who was president of the New York Quilter’s Society and was selected to coordinate the “Weaver of Dreams” quilt displayed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta.

Finally, the collection also includes an assortment of cameras and equipment that Wilson personally used throughout his career.

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.

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