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Cooking for Brooklyn

By Maggie Schreiner

Posted on April 2, 2020

Pilgrim Laundry Cook
Pilgrim Laundry Cook Pilgrim Laundry cook, circa 1910, v1989.003.3; Pilgrim Laundry photographs, v1989.003, Brooklyn Historical Society.

For the next several weeks we will be honoring Brooklyn’s essential workers: the people who keep us fed, provide us with groceries and other essentials, clean our homes and workplaces, and take care of us when we’re sick.

This week we’re honoring our borough’s hard-working food service workers, who are cooking meals for delivery-only restaurants, providing grab-and-go lunches for school children, and sustaining our frontline medical workers at hospital cafeterias.

This week’s image shows a cook in the company kitchen preparing meals for Pilgrim Laundry workers, circa 1910. Pilgrim Laundry opened in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1894. The founders, James Edwin Dann and Edward Huff Bancker, believed their business would flourish if workers were given fair labor standards. Following a fire which destroyed the original building, Pilgrim Laundry opened a new plant in 1913. The Windsor Terrace facility included recreation facilities and a vacation clubhouse for employees.

In 1921, the company began allowing employees to buy stock in the company and by 1937, over 50% of the company was employee-owned. When Bancker died in 1939, employees bought his stock shares, giving them 75% ownership. By the 1950s, Pilgrim Laundry was entirely employee-owned with their services reaching across New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County. Pilgrim Laundry was later acquired by another firm. Under the practices of the new ownership, Pilgrim Laundry went out of business in the 1960s.

This image comes from the Pilgrim Laundry photograph collection (v1989.003). For more information please see our finding aid here and for more photographs from this collection please visit our image gallery here.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. We look forward inviting you back to BHS is the future to research in our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections. In the meantime, please visit our digital collections, available here. Our reference staff are still available to help with your research! You can reach us at [email protected]

Thank you to everyone who is cooking for us right now, and everyone working to keep us safe and healthy!

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