Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Brooklyn Heights: An Industrial History


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brooklyn heights book coverRobert Furman’s book Brooklyn Heights: the Rise, Fall and Rebirth of America’s First Suburb (The History Press, 2015) is a substantial illustrated history of Brooklyn. The book takes a look at the moving forces of history, and shows that technology is the great creator and destroyer, especially in the rise and fall of cities.

Brooklyn was once a great industrial city, like many others. It was enabled by transportation technology: steam ferries, railroads, canals. It was once the largest freight port in the world, in particular in Red Hook’s Atlantic and Erie Basins. They were the discharging end of the Erie Canal, and later expanded into international shipping. Continue reading

Sumner Lark’s Putnam County African-American Projects


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sumner h larkAlthough his father was said to have been born as a slave, and was later a junk dealer in the Augusta, Georgia area,  Sumner H. Lark came to be a trend-breaking black leader in New York State who worked to establish an African-American community in Putnam County.

Sumner Lark was born in in 1874 to a father later described as “a pioneer race business man in his home town and accumulated a considerable fortune at one time.” He grew up in the Augusta area, and attended the Haines Institute before attending Howard University, graduating in 1897. He then returned to Georgia, taught Chemistry and Physics at Haines and ran a local newspaper for about a year, having edited a student-run newspaper in college.  After marrying he relocated to Brooklyn, New York just after the start of the 20th century. There, he ran his own printing business, and started The Eye, a newspaper which reported information of interest to African Americans. Continue reading

Joseph Thoms: Defending America’s Chinese


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Old Fulton NY Post Cards   By Tom TryniskiThe first Western-trained Chinese physician to practice in the U.S. lived most of his life in Brooklyn, where he established America’s first modern hospital for Chinese patients. A strong civil rights advocate at a time when his community could boast few of them, he spoke out frequently and forcefully against the injustices to which Chinese in America were subjected.

China-born Joseph Chak Thoms (1862-1929), known in his native Cantonese dialect as Tom Ah Jo, arrived in California as a teenager in the mid-1870s. He had a gift for language and soon mastered English with hardly an accent. After being baptized by a Presbyterian missionary – which earned him a beating from his uncle – he took a job as a cabin boy and sailed around the world on a steamer, visiting Japan and India before returning to America. Continue reading

Major Coney Island Exhibit Planned In Brooklyn


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unnamed(1)The spirit of Coney Island will be the focus of Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008, a new exhibit opening at the Brooklyn Museum on November 20, 2015.

The exhibition will trace the evolution of the Coney Island phenomenon from tourist destination during the Civil War to a site of nostalgia. Covering a period of 150 years, the exhibition will feature 140 objects, including paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, posters, artifacts, carousel animals, ephemera, and film clips. Also on view will be Forever Coney, 42 photographs from the Brooklyn Museum collection. Continue reading

New Basquiat Exhibit In Brooklyn


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HollywoodAfricans.Basquiat.1983.WhitneyThe tragically short career of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) has created a penumbra of martyred glory around his work. This must give him a chuckle wherever his spirit looks down on the shuffling hordes trekking to view his work reverently installed at the Brooklyn Museum.

Basquiat was born as a spray-can wielding street artist who liked mess, disorder and chaos. How different was he, when beatified by art gallery recognition and patron purchases? In his art world heyday he got his fine new designer clothes just as stained as his thrift shop threads from his early days. Continue reading

From Brooklyn Two Men Fought Against Slavery


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Motto_henry_highland_garnet_originalOne hundred fifty years ago this week, in an elaborate ceremony, the American flag was raised over Fort Sumter in South Carolina marking a milestone in the Union victory in the Civil War. Two months earlier the U.S. Congress had adopted the 13th Amendment forever abolishing slavery.

Two longtime Brooklyn clergymen – Henry Ward Beecher and Henry Highland Garnet – were central to the ceremonies marking these events. Beecher (1813-1887) is described as the most famous man in America at the time of the Civil War, while Garnet (1815-1882) was well-known in the free blacks, but prior to the Civil War, was known to relatively few outside that community. Continue reading

Brooklyn Museum Exhibit Highlights Retiring Director


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Brooklyn Museum ExhibitA selection of 100 works from the nearly 10,000 acquired during the tenure of the Director of the Brooklyn Museum Arnold Lehman will be presented in his honor on the occasion of his retirement in the summer of 2015.

Diverse Works: Director’s Choice, 1997-2015, will be on view from April 15 through August 2, 2015, and includes works in a wide range of media from every corner of the globe. Spanning many centuries, the exhibition brings together important objects from all of the Museum’s collecting areas. Continue reading

Three Graces Of Raymond Street, Brooklyn


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Three GRaces of Raymond StreetA compelling story about three murders in Brooklyn between 1872 and 1873 and the young women charged with the crimes is told in a new book by Robert E. Murphy, Three Graces Of Raymond Street: Murder, Madness, Sex, and Politics in 1870s Brooklyn (SUNY Press, 2015).

Between January 1872 and September 1873, the city of Brooklyn was gripped by accounts of three murders allegedly committed by young women: a factory girl shot her employer and seducer, an evidently peculiar woman shot a philandering member of a prominent Brooklyn family, and a former nun was arrested on suspicion of having hanged her best friend and onetime convent mate. Continue reading

Brooklyn Museum Plans New Entryway Experience


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unnamed(35)The Brooklyn-based design firm SITU Studio has been selected by the Brooklyn Museum to create a new environment in the entry Pavilion and Lobby to transform the Museum’s entry. Taking a cue from retail and the hospitality sector, the new SITU-designed entry experience will focus on an assemblage of reconfigurable modular furniture designed to connect staff with visitors, while improving traffic and way-finding. Continue reading