Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Correction History Society: NYS’s Last Hanging Exhibit

By on


At the Raymond Street Jail in the City of Brooklyn, New York State’s last execution by hanging took place 120 years ago last week. German immigrant John Greenwall, a tailor by trade and a thief by rap sheet and reputation, was hanged for the murder of Manhattan hat firm senior staffer Lyman Smith Weeks during a burglary of the victim’s DeKalb Avenue home on March 15, 1887. After Greenwall’s hanging Dec. 6, 1889, all capital sentences in the state were carried out by electrocution.

To note that date marking the transition from “the noose” to “the chair” in capital punishment history, the New York Correction History Society (NYCHS) has unveiled a two-part online presentation entitled “Brooklyn Jail Scene of NYS’ Last Hanging Execution 120 Years Ago Dec. 6th” that examines the case in detail. The study raises questions about the prosecutorial conduct and judicial rulings that resulted, after two trials, in the condemned man’s state-implemented death.

The presentation also relates how Greenwall’s jail staff friend, an African-American porter, attempted to prove the convict innocent in a most bizarre way. Also, how the jail’s Catholic chaplain purchased a burial plot for Greenwall in East Flatbush’s Holy Cross Cemetery where 27 years later the priest himself was buried, having died a few days after being victimized by a anarchist’s attempt to poison hundreds at a Chicago dinner to honor a newly-named archbishop.

Photo: The Raymond Street Jail which closed July 20, 1963. Photo from Page 36 of NYC Dept. of Correction 1956 annual report, courtesy New York Correction History Society.

Who Shot Rock And Roll Photography Exhibit Opens

By on


Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present, which will run from October 30, 2009–January 31, 2010 at the Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 5th Floor of the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway) features more than 175 works by 105 photographers, including many rare and never-before-exhibited photographs, that gave the music its visual identity. The exhibit is being billed as the first major museum exhibition on rock and roll to put photographers in the foreground, acknowledging their creative and collaborative role in the history of rock music. From its earliest days, rock and roll was captured in photographs that personalized, and frequently eroticized, the musicians, creating a visual identity for the genre.

The photographers were handmaidens to the rock-and-roll revolution, and their images communicate the social and cultural transformations that rock has fostered since the1950s. The exhibition is in six sections: rare and revealing images taken behind the scenes; tender snapshots of young musicians at the beginnings of their careers; exhilarating photographs of live performances that display the energy, passion, style, and sex appeal of the band on stage; powerful images of the crowds and fans that are often evocative of historic paintings; portraits revealing the soul and creativity, rather than the surface and celebrity, of the musicians; and conceptual images and album covers highlighting the collaborative efforts between the image makers and the musicians.

Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present is organized by the Brooklyn Museum with guest curator Gail Buckland.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated book by Gail Buckland titled Who Shot Rock and Roll: A Photographic History, 1955-Present, published by Alfred A. Knopf, with support from the Universal Music Group.

Photo: Henry Diltz (American, b. 1938). Tina Turner, Universal Amphitheater, Los Angeles (detail), October 1985. Chromogenic print. © Henry Diltz

James Tissot’s Life of Christ Watercolors Exhibit

By on


The exhibition James Tissot: “The Life of Christ” will include 124 watercolors selected from a set of 350 that depict detailed scenes from the New Testament, from before the birth of Jesus through the Resurrection, in a chronological narrative. On view from October 23, 2009, through January 17, 2010, it marks the first time in more than twenty years that any of the Tissot watercolors, a pivotal acquisition that entered the collection in 1900, have been on view at the Brooklyn Museum.

The exhibition has been organized by Judith F. Dolkart, Associate Curator, European Art, and will travel to venues to be announced. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue of the complete set of 350 images, to be published by the Museum in association with Merrell Publishers Ltd, London.

Born in France, James Tissot (1836-1902) had a successful artistic career in Paris before going to London in the 1870s, where he established himself as a renowned painter of London society, before returning to Paris in 1882. He then began work on a set of fifteen paintings depicting the costumes and manners of fashionable Parisian society women. While visiting the Church of St. Sulpice in the course of his research, he experienced a religious vision, after which he embarked on an ambitious project to illustrate the New Testament.

With the same meticulous attention to detail that he had applied to painting high society, he now created these precisely rendered watercolors. In preparation, he made expeditions to the Middle East to record the landscape, architecture, costumes, and customs of the Holy Land and its people, which he recorded in photographs, notes, and sketches, convinced that the region had remained unchanged since Jesus’s time. When he returned to his Paris studio he drew upon his research materials to execute the watercolors, concentrating on this project to the exclusion of his previous subject matter.

Unlike earlier artists, who often depicted biblical figures anachronistically, Tissot painted the many figures in costumes he believed to be historically authentic. In addition to the archaeological exactitude of many of the watercolors, the series presents other, highly dramatic and often mystical images, such as Jesus Ministered to by Angels and The Grotto of the Agony.

Tissot began the monumental task of illustrating the New Testament in 1886 and first presented selections at the Paris Salon in 1894 (before the series’ completion), where they were received with great enthusiasm. Press accounts on both sides of the Atlantic reported emotional reactions among the visitors: some women wept or kneeled before the works, crawling from picture to picture, while men removed their hats in reverence.

In May 1901 the 350 watercolors, newly mounted in gold mats and reframed, went on view for the first time on Eastern Parkway; records seem to indicate they remained on nearly continuous display until the 1930s. Since then, in part because of conservation concerns, they have only rarely been shown, and then only small portions of the series, most recently in late 1989 through early 1990.

Photo: James Tissot. Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray, 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Museum Launches Smart Phone Gallery Tours

By on


Visitors to the Brooklyn Museum with mobile phones with Internet access can now create their own gallery guides to the permanent collections through a first-of-its kind program launched last week. Museum attendees who bring their Web-enabled phones will also be able to suggest works of art to fellow visitors. Based on the visitor’s initial selections, the guide will generate additional recommendations about works to see.

Anyone who wants to will now also be able to create sets of annotated objects, which function as customized tours, through the Museum Web site, www.brooklynmuseum.org. These tours may be shared with friends and featured on the Museum Web site for other visitors. The Brooklyn Museum Web site now contains images and brief information on more than 11,000 objects from its comprehensive holdings, which range from antiquity to the present and
include nearly every culture.

For example, a visitor to the ancient Egyptian galleries containing more than 1,200 objects might focus on the Old Kingdom section, encompassing Dynasties 3 through 6, from 2675 through 2170. There, they might select a limestone group statue depicting a man, his wife, and their small son that was the first major work of Egyptian art ever exhibited in America. Given their interest in this statue, the program then might suggest that the visitor look at three elaborately painted wooden tomb statues depicting a man at various stages of his life and an exquisite alabaster statue of the child King Pepy II seated on the lap of his mother.

Through the aggregation of data provided by visitors and their individual tastes, the guide is designed to grow more intelligent as more visitors use it and more data is supplied. The new customized guide will be free to all visitors and may be used on any Web-enabled mobile phone.

The guide is designed as a mobile Web application, specifically engineered for the small screen of a mobile device. The object data displayed within the application is drawn from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection online and combined with the social element that each visitor contributes while in the gallery during their visit.

Eventually, the data generated by visitors using the guide in-house will be exported back into the collection online to form a recommendation system on the Brooklyn Museum Web site.

This project was developed by Shelley Bernstein, Chief of Technology, with assistance from Jennifer Bantz, Manager Interpretive Materials, Brooklyn Museum. The Web application was engineered in-house by Paul Beaudoin, Programmer, Brooklyn Museum.

A New Book Highlights Brooklyn’s Evergreens Cemetery

By on


Organized in 1849 as a non-sectarian cemetery Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn (it actually borders Brooklyn and Queens) and covers 225 acres and is the resting place of over a half million people. This remarkable cemetery of rolling hills and gently sloping meadows features several thousand trees and flowering shrubs in a park like setting and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also the subject of an outstanding new book, Green Oasis in Brooklyn: The Evergreens Cemetery 1849-2008 by noted historian John Rousmaniere.

This oversize book filled with unique and picturesque photographs by Ken Druse, traces the history of the Evergreens Cemetery beginning with the land on which the cemetery was founded, and it’s design by some of the most acclaimed architects of their time, Alexander Jackson Davis and Andrew Jackson Downing. It also shows how the forces that shaped the history of New York – population growth, immigration and growing wealth – also shaped the Evergreens. Among the monuments of fascinating characters buried there are those of Brooklyn’s Eastern District Fire Department (site of a statue memorializing a fireman who died in the Brooklyn Theatre Fire of 1876), Chinese American plots, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Memorial, Stranger’s mound (pauper’s graves), the graves of more then 500 entertainers, the 20th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops plot, Yusef Hawkins (the 16-year-old African American youth who was shot to death in 1989 in Bensonhurst sparking racial tensions), Max Weber, Anthony Comstock, and literally thousands of other notable people.

Take a listen to NPR’s recent tour of The Evergreens here.

This is the rest of the post

Mad Ones: Media Darling Crazy Joe Gallo

By on


Tom Folsom’s new book, The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld, takes readers back to a time when Red Hook, Brooklyn called to mind a bloody guerrilla war with the mafia, and not a new IKEA store. Because he writes about the history and cultural fabric of the city in a fresh and inventive way Folsom recently appeared on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. You can also find a YouTube video of Folsom discussing what the neighborhood at the junction of Columbia and Union Streets in Red Hook was like before waterfront crime and the construction of the BQE and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Joe Gallo’s short life as gangster, gunman, and racketeer of the Profaci crime family (later known as the Colombo crime family) drew much media attention. Joey and his two brothers initiated one of the bloodiest mob conflicts since the Castellammarese War of 1931. He was an inspiration for Jimmy Breslin and Mario Puzo, considered a threat by both Jimmy Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy, and was teh subject of spreads in Life magazine and Women’s Wear Daily. His gangster chic was the popularized by Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs. His death would be the subject of Bob Dylan’s 1976 song “Joey”.

The Mad Ones tells the story of the Gallo brothers, a trio of reckless young gangsters from Red Hook who staged a coup against the Mafia. In the book, author Tom Folsom recreates the New York City Joey Gallo and the Gallo brothers inhabited. To do this, Folsom—who went inside the FBI Witness Protection Program to research the critically acclaimed “>Mr Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of the Black Godfather written with its subject Nicky Barnes, immersed himself in the strange, brutal, and sometimes poetic world of the Gallo brothers. He waded through almost 1,500 pages of unpublished FBI files, spent hours in the tabloid archives at the New York Public Library, interviewed the Federal agents and NYPD detectives who had staked out the Gallo headquarters almost a half a century ago, and culled what made sense from wiretaps of underworld conversations and leads from informants.

Passing as Black: A Pioneer of American Alpine Climbing

By on


There was an interesting review of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss in the New York Times Book Review yesterday. The book is about Clarance King, first director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), American alpine climbing pioneer and author who passed as black, married a former slave, and lived two lives from his home base in New York City.

Passing Strange meticulously — sometimes too meticulously; the book can be plodding — recounts the unlikely convergence of two lives: King was born in 1842 in Newport, R.I., to parents of longstanding American stock, and Ada Copeland was born a slave in Georgia, months before Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter. Copeland, like most slaves, is woefully underdocumented; we know that she somehow became literate, migrated to New York in the 1880s and found a job in domestic service. King, by contrast, is all but overdocumented; after schooling, he went west as a surveyor, summing up 10 years of work in two books, including the 815-page “Systematic Geology,” which told, one historian said, “a story only a trifle less dramatic than Genesis.”

The pair met sometime around 1888, somewhere in bustling New York. By telling Copeland he was “James Todd,” a Pullman porter from Baltimore, King implied his race; a white man could not hold such a job. They married that year (though without obtaining a civil license), settling in Brooklyn and then, as Copeland had five children, Flushing, Queens. All the while King maintained residential club addresses in Manhattan, where colleagues knew him as an elusive man about town. Living a double life is costly, and King’s Western explorations never quite delivered returns, so the Todds were always broke.

King was among the first to climb some of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada range in the late 1860s and early 1870s and wrote Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, which includes accounts of his adventures and hardships there.

According to The Literature of Mountain Climbing in America (1918):

The beginnings of mountaineering in America have to be looked for mainly in early histories and narratives of travel, though the first ascent in the Canadian Rockies is chronicled in the supplement to a botanical magazine. The first magazine article upon American mountains seems to be Jeremy Belknap‘s account of the White Mountains, printed in the American Magazine in Philadelphia in February, 1788. The first book was Joel T. Headley’s The Adirondack, published in 1849. The Alpine Journal of England, the earliest of such magazines, had a short account of a climb in Central America in its first volume, 1864, and in the third volume, 1867, there was an account of an ascent of Mt. Hood. The first book devoted to alpine climbing in America was Clarence King’s Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada.

As an aside, among the men who were associated with Clarence King was his good friend, artist John Henry Hill. Hill accompanied King on two expeditions west (1866 and 1870) as a staff artist but his New York claim to fame is his work on the Adirondacks which he first visited in the 1860s. He camped and sketched throughout the Adirondacks, and from 1870 to 1874, lived in a cabin he dubbed “Artist’s Retreat” that he built on Phantom Island near Bolton’s Landing, Lake George. During one winter, Hill’s brother, a civil engineer, visited and the two men set out on the ice to survey the narrows and make one of the first accurate maps of the islands which Hill than made into an etching “surrounding it with an artistic border representing objects of interest in the locality.” On June 6, 1893 Phantom Island was leased by the Forest Commission to prominent Glens Falls Republican Jerome Lapham.

His journal and much of his work is held by the Adirondack Museum, and additional works can be found at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New-York Historical Society, and the Columbus Museum of Art.

LIFE Magazine Picture Archive Hosted at Google

By on


Google and LIFE Magazine have teamed up to present the magazines photo archive online. Strangely, a search for New York turned up nothing; a search for New York History turns up hundreds of photos, including the shot of men paving a street in Brooklyn in 1890 by George B. Brainerd which was not found in the search results for Brooklyn.

Those problems aside, the archive does include iconic images taken by famous photographers like Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks, and Dorothea Lange. The project is similar to “The Commons” launched by Flickr which now includes photos from the Library of Congress. LIFE has said that as many as 97 percent of the photographs have never been seen by the public before.

Beacons To Commemorate British Departure

By on


The Hudson Valley Press Online is reporting on plans to mark the 225th anniversary of the evacuation of British troops on November 25, 2008 by lighting a series of five local beacons that “replicate the original signal locations used by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.” The plan is a project of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, Scenic Hudson, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Palisades Parks Conservancy, and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission:

These vital systems summoned the militia in both New York and in neighboring New Jersey and warned residents of the approaching British Redcoats. The types of beacons varied from tar barrels on top of poles, to pyramids, to wooden towers filled with dried grass or hay that could be ignited. The beacons enabled quick and effective communication with troops throughout the lower Hudson River Valley.

Instead of lighting fires, Palisades, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, and Scenic Hudson will create a symbolic Xenon light display that will light up Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area from Bear Mountain State Park to Beacon. This project is also part of the larger interstate effort with national heritage area partners in New Jersey, the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area. Six additional Beacons will be lit in New Jersey. The total project area will stretch from Princeton, NJ to Beacon, NY.

The five locations will include:

Bear Mountain State Park, Bear Mountain, NY
Storm King Mountain State Park, Cornwall, NY
Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site, Newburgh, NY
Scenic Hudson’s Mount Beacon, Beacon, NY
Scenic Hudson’s Spy Rock (Snake Hill), New Windsor, NY

While we’re at it, here is a story about Saturday’s relighting of the lamp on top of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn. It has been for 87 years and commemorates those who died in the British Prison ships in New York Harbor during the American Revolution.

Expanded Brooklyn Children’s Museum Reopens

By on


The Brooklyn Children’s Museum reopened Saturday after a year-long closure for an expansion and redesign. According to the New York Times:

The museum doubled the size of its city-owned building — with $48 million in city money and $32 million raised by the museum — to 102,000 square feet. As Robin Pogrebin reported in The Times in February, the project struggled through financial hardships. The museum itself lacked a strong physical identity, because most of its space has been underground since a 1977 design by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates created two lower levels. The greatly enlarged museum now hopes to improve its annual visitor total to 400,000 by 2010, from about 250,000 before the museum closed last September for the final stage of the renovation.

A pioneer in education, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum was the first museum created expressly for children when it was founded in 1899. Its success has sparked the creation of 300 children’s museums around the world. It is the only children’s museum in New York City, and one of few in the country, to be accredited by the American Association of Museums. The Museum encourages children to develop an understanding of and respect for themselves, others and the world around them by exploring cultures, the arts, science, and the environment.

The just-completed expansion features eco-friendly design in hopes of attaining LEED certification – it’s said to be the first “green” museum in New York City. In keeping with the Museum’s commitment to preserve and protect the world’s natural resources, it uses environmentally advanced, sustainable, renewable and/or recyclable materials and systems in the building’s design and construction.

Brooklyn Children’s Museum is one of the few children’s museums in the world with a permanent collection, including nearly 30,000 cultural objects and natural-history specimens. The cultural collection contains both ancient and present-day objects, including musical instruments, sculpture, masks, body adornments, and dolls, as well as everyday household and personal items. The natural-history collection contains rocks, minerals, and fossils, as well as mounted birds, mammals, insects, and skeletons (highlights include the complete skeleton of an Asian elephant, dinosaur footprints, and a whale rib).

For years, much of the collection has been inaccessible to the public simply because of space limitations. Now, an expanded collection study area allows the Museum to display more of the collection and to offer more hands-on activities—so children learn by touching as well as by looking.