Brooklyn Historical Society has multiple text-based collections that highlight the pressing need for a better sewer system in Brooklyn in the nineteenth century, and describe the construction of the Brooklyn sewers. In addition to the Records of Brooklyn’s Corporation Council (a collection that has not yet been processed, but that has its own blog series), there is also the Brooklyn Bureau of Sewers records, circa 1853-1988 (ARC.235). These written documents are, at times, immensely detailed and highly entertaining – but can words ever be as vivid as a picture? Brooklyn Historical Society’s sewer-related image collections include the Arthur Weindorf glass plate negatives collection (v1974.024), the John Farnsworth Hammond, Jr. photograph album and other material (v1986.242), and – the topic of today’s blog – the Brooklyn sewers construction photograph collection (ARC.209).
The images above were photographed – roughly – between 1903 and 1905, in the vicinity of what are now the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Flatlands and East New York. Surprisingly, the focus of this collection is not the sewers, but instead, the people who helped to construct the sewers, and the landscape that this construction was in the process of changing. The poses, the faces, the clothes, and the palpable personalities of the people in these photographs capture the imagination. The pastoral quality of the landscape photographs is also of interest. Even in the images where there are the beginnings of a cityscape with actual buildings, the buildings end abruptly and appear to be surrounded by open country-side. I could write more about this wonderful collection, but why bother when you have the pictures to see for yourself…
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 new website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Fri, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Author: Halley Choiniere