Photo of the Week: Paul Leicester Ford (1865-1902)

V1984.1.597

[Paul Leicester Ford], circa 1890, V1984.1.597; Brooklyn slide collection, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Paul Leicester Ford was a journalist, writer, and noted bibliographer of Revolutionary War America, whose works included a seminal collection of Thomas Jefferson’s papers, and a Check-list of American Magazines Printed in the 18th Century (1889).  The Brooklyn Historical Society library stacks hold several of Ford’s novels and biographies, like Tattle-Tales of Cupid (1898) and Who Was the Mother of Franklin’s Son? An Historical Conundrum Hitherto Given Up—Now Partly Answered (1889).

Ford was the son of Gordon L. Ford, who managed the New York Tribune and in 1863 co-founded the Brooklyn Daily Union newspaper to support the North in the Civil War.  Gordon L. Ford was a respected collector of Americana, and housed his trove of manuscripts and printed matter at 102 Pineapple Street, which domicile served as an annex to the family’s Clark Street mansion.

Paul Ford had two brothers.  While Worthington Ford was chief of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress from 1903 to 1909, Malcolm, the youngest brother, was not a wordsmith, newsman, historian, or bibliognost.  When his father died, Malcolm was disinherited in the Will, as a result of a dispute which the New York Times death notice described as Malcolm’s “own love for outdoor sports and his disinclination to join his brothers in literary work in his father’s big library.”

On May 8, 1902, Malcolm Ford, who had become an estranged sibling of the Ford family and feuded with Paul over money matters, entered Paul’s library on East 77th Street in Manhattan, pulled out a gun and murdered his brother before shooting himself through the heart.

Interested in seeing more historic Brooklyn photos from the BHS image collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images, and visit our new website here.  To search our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections, visit Othmer Library at the Brooklyn Historical Society, Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

Posted in Brooklyn Past & Present, Library & Archives | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photo of the Week: Marianne Moore

V1973.5.1589_Photo from Dept. of Parks, verso August Heckscher  Marianne Moore  Clay Lancaster

[Reception at Gage and Tollner], 1967, V1973.5.1589; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC 202; Brooklyn Historical Society.

On November 28, 1967, a book release party for Brooklyn writer Clay Lancaster was thrown at Gage and Tollner, the hallowed and hoary “oyster and chop house” at 372 Fulton Street.  Brooklyn poetess Marianne Moore wrote the introduction for Lancaster’s publication, Prospect Park Handbook, and is shown in the above photo wearing her trademark tri-cornered hat and presenting the lauded tome to the author.

In the introduction, Moore exalts “Mr. Lancaster’s exact, careful but unstilted writing,” and compares him to Thomas Jefferson because the writer “assists us to be intelligent and to love beauty.”

Moore was a former employee at the Hudson Park branch of the New York Public Library in Greenwich Village, and had once worked as a secretary for library science panjandrum Melvil Dewey.  She lived many years in Brooklyn at 260 Cumberland Street, apartment #9.

A devoted baseball fan, Moore had written a poem about the Brooklyn Dodgers that made the front page of the New York Herald-Tribune on opening day of the 1955 World Series.

“… Another series. Round-tripper Duke at bat,
“Four hundred feet from home-plate”; more like that.
A neat bunt, please; a cloud-breaker, a drive
like Jim Gilliam’s great big one. Hope’s alive…”

The man in the bowtie smiling at the camera is August Heckscher, the NYC Parks Commissioner.  A former White House Cultural Adviser in the Kennedy administration, Hecksher was an editor at the Herald-Tribune when “Hometown Piece For Messrs. Alston and Reese,” Moore’s Dodgers poem, ran on page one.

Marianne Moore, an iconoclast, lady-about-town, and mystifying independent thinker, also wrote liner notes for I Am the Greatest, a spoken word album recorded by world heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali, who, like Clay Lancaster, was originally from Kentucky.

Interested in seeing more historic Brooklyn photos from the BHS image collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images, and visit our new website here.  To search our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections, visit Othmer Library at the Brooklyn Historical Society, Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

SOURCES

Lancaster, Clay (1967) Prospect Park Handbook. Intro. by Marianne Moore. NY: W.H. Rawls.

Moore, Marianne (1967) The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore.  NY: Macmillan / Viking Press.

Roffman, K. “Women Writers and Their Libraries in the 1920s;” in Institutions of Reading: The Social Life of Libraries in the United States.  Augst, T. & Carpenter, K. (ed.) University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.

Posted in Brooklyn Past & Present, Library & Archives | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Map of the Month — June 2014

New York World’s Fair with a new transit map of Greater New York, [1939]. Brooklyn Historical Society Map collection.

New York World’s Fair with a new transit map of Greater New York, [1939]. Brooklyn Historical Society Map collection.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 1939-1940 World’s Fair held in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, I have selected for this month’s map a beautiful bird’s eye view map, “New York World’s Fair with a new transit map of Greater New York,” published by the C.S. Hammond & Company for the Franklin Fire Insurance Company.

The beautiful color and the stunning view hardly need the further embellishment of text for enjoyment, but there are a few details worth noting. The map keeps a fairly tight focus on the fairgrounds while the vista opens up to the west, with major natural landmarks occurring in orderly and ever receding fashion: Flushing Bay, East River, Bronx, Manhattan, Hudson River, New Jersey. (Is anyone else reminded of Saul Steinberg’s famous New Yorker cover, with its telescoped view of the world from Manhattan?) This lovely aerial view is a stealth road map, however, for the artist is clearly showing how anyone driving from New Jersey, Westchester or Long Island can drive straight to the World’s Fair parking lots (rendered in a tastefully subdued navy blue) featured in the foreground of this map.

The partial list of buildings at the base of the map—Fair Buildings, Government Buildings, and Exhibition Buildings—shows a pride in industry, culture and commerce steeped in an optimism that puts behind the hard times of the past decade and denies the growing tensions in Europe.

Detail, New York World’s Fair with a new transit map of Greater New York, [1939]. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

 The generally sunny feel of this map is reinforced on the other side, where “New York: The Wonder City” is rendered in yellow, with the rapid transit system shown in bold colors and the directory of places of interest—including skyscrapers, stadiums, churches, museums, beaches and amusement parks—is studded with brilliantly colored illustrations.

Verso, New York World’s Fair with a new transit map of Greater New York, [1939]. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Verso, New York World’s Fair with a new transit map of Greater New York, [1939]. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

The Fair opened April 30, 1939 and remained open until October. By the end of the 1939 season, Poland had been divided by Germany and the Soviet Union.  When the Fair reopened in May 1940, it opened in a very different world, with fewer European pavilions among the Government Buildings, reflecting the tensions that would intensify and finally ignite over the course of the spring and summer of 1940. By the time it closed for good in October, Europe was engulfed by war.

A map like this delights us now, inspiring a nostalgia for happier, more optimistic days gone by. Those happier days only exist in our imagination, of course, at the expense of the memory of harsher realities, much as the optimistic future embodied in the World’s Fair enterprise, so skillfully invoked in this map, could only be imagined by blocking out the ominous realities of 1939.

New York World’s Fair with a new transit map of Greater New York, [1939], cover. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Cover panel, New York World’s Fair with a new transit map of Greater New York, [1939]. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

 

Interested in seeing more maps? You can view the BHS map collection anytime during the library’s open hours, Wed.-Sat., from 1-5 p.m. No appointment is necessary to view most maps.

This map was cataloged with funding provided by a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) “Hidden Collections” grant.

Posted in Brooklyn Past & Present, Hidden Collections, Library & Archives | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Photo of the Week: Memorial Day

V1972.1.1254

[Dartmoor, Prisoners of 1812]; 1853, v1972.1.1254; Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection, ARC.201; Brooklyn Historical Society.

“It was my fortune,” begins the memoir of Lewis P. Clover, the former New York seaman holding the flagstaff in the above group portrait, “to be taken prisoner in India during the War of 1812.”  The portrait shows Clover reunited in 1853 with former inmates of Dartmoor, a “stark, mist-enshrouded” prison located on the southern moors of England where British forces incarcerated captured Americans in the “Second War of Independence.”

In the first decades of the 19th century, British fleets cruised international waters in pursuit of American privateer and merchant vessels, often imprisoning or impressing into service the crewmembers aboard.  Clover was seized from the merchant ship Union, near Calcutta, in 1814 and spent the duration of the war confined at Dartmoor prison.  In 1844, Clover described the despondency and camaraderie among the American, Dutch, Irish and French prisoners in a five-part memoir published in The Knickerbocker, a New York monthly. An inscription under Clover’s diagram of the prison in the above photo cites “the Massacre… of 1815,” when guards, led by “the monster Shortland,” indiscriminately fired on the unarmed prisoners, killing seven and wounding thirty-one.

According to a 1924 tally conducted by the United States Daughters of 1812, a total of 6,554 Americans were imprisoned at Dartmoor, of which over 270 died before British authorities granted amnesty at the war’s end.

Clover returned to New York, succeeded as a carver and gilder, and lived in “a little frame cottage” at 227 19th Street in Brooklyn.  He died at age eighty-eight, and among Clover’s friends attending the funeral was Augustus Toedteberg, the father of former BHS librarian Emma Toedteberg.  Clover’s 1879 obituary described him as having been the last American survivor of Dartmoor prison.

Interested in seeing more historic Brooklyn photos from the BHS image collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images, and visit our new website here.  To search our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections, visit Othmer Library at the Brooklyn Historical Society, Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

Sources

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (1879) “Funeral of a Veteran of the War of 1812.” Jan. 24, 1879.

Carr, Deborah Edith Wallbridge (1924) Index to certified copy of list of American prisoners of war, 1812-1815 as recorded in General entry book, Ottawa, Canada. List of American prisoners of war, who died at Princetown, Dartmoor, England, 1812-1815. Association of State Presidents, Past and Present, and Charter Members, of the National society, United States Daughters of 1812.

Clover, Lewis P. (1844) “Reminiscences of a Dartmoor Prisoner,” The Knickerbocker. Vol. 23, Number 2.

Clover, Henry A. (1850) “Memoir of Lewis P. Clover,” The United States Democratic Review. Vol. 26, Issue 141, Mar. 1850.

Hickey, Donald, ed. (2013) The War of 1812: Writings from America’s Second War of Independence. NY: Penguin Group; Library of America.

Horsman, Reginald (1975) “The Paradox Of Dartmoor Prison.” American Heritage, Feb. 1975, Vol. 26, Issue 2.

Posted in Library & Archives | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Twin Track Stars Break Barriers

Sobers 1

[Photograph of the DeSaussure sisters], ca. 1940; Mary DeSaussure Sobers collection, 2005.053; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Mary DeSaussure Sobers made history by accident. One morning in late August, 1945, she and her twin sister Martha were sent to buy groceries and were distracted by a bus bringing kids to the nearby 13th Regiment Armory. The sisters peeked inside and were told that there was a track meet being held—and did they want to run? Martha was too overwhelmed to say yes, but Mary agreed, and convinced the representative that she could run just fine in her dress and galoshes.  Mary won the race, becoming the first African-American female to participate in an official New York City track meet.

The Mary DeSaussure Sobers collection (2005.053) at Brooklyn Historical Society documents the groundbreaking track careers for which both sisters continue to be recognized today. They helped form the first black female Police Athletic League (PAL) track team in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, and participated in the Olympic tryouts in 1948. During the Sobers sisters’ running careers, New York State removed its ban on women participating in certain sports previously restricted to men, which included track.  The sisters were also among the first women to participate in racially integrated track meets.  As an adult, Mary helped organize and coached the Queens Trailblazers Track Club.

sobers 3

[Photograph of Mary Sobers]; Mary DeSaussure Sobers collection, 2005.053; Brooklyn Historical Society.

In our new Civil Rights Subject Guide, the Sobers materials are listed alongside numerous collections related to the subject, covering African-American and women’s rights movements post-Civil War to the 1990s.  The guide features archival materials, oral histories, photographs, and books.  Having researched, compiled, and written this subject guide as part of my public services internship in the Othmer Library, I discovered many fascinating stories, of which the Sobers’ is just one.

sobers 2

[Image of cover for Running Against the Wind by Inge Auerbacher]; Mary DeSaussure Sobers collection, 2005.053; Brooklyn Historical Society.

 

Posted in Brooklyn Past & Present | Leave a comment