Photo of the Week: Roller Skating

 

v1992.49.216

[New Utrecht Reformed Church, 16th Avenue and 84th Street, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn], 1925, v1992.49.216; Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, v1992.49; Brooklyn Historical Society.

 Roller skating has experienced waves of popularity in New York City from its beginnings in the 1860s through the present day.

In 1863, James Plimpton patented a new roller skate design that allowed for a smoother motion while skating, making the sport something that people actually wanted to do. In the same year, Plimpton also opened the first roller rinks in the United States in New York City – naturally – and also in Newport, Rhode Island.[i] While not immediately popular in Brooklyn, in 1867 the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that roller skating was the “feature of the season’s entertainment”[ii] and by 1877 there were roller rinks throughout the city.

From the late-19ththrough the mid-20th century, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is filled with advertisements for roller rinks in the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Brighton Beach, Crown Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, and at the border of Bedford Stuyvesant and Bushwick. Roller skating also spilled out into the streets. In the early 1900s, people gathered to skate on the streets of Brooklyn at what were called skating “carnivals.”[iii] In one incident in 1908, four people were arrested after repeated complaints for skating on Stuyvesant Avenue near Putnam Avenue. It was reported that the smooth pavement at that location was attracting between 200 and 500 people each day, skating with “horn and whistle accompaniment.”[iv]

The image above of two women valiantly attempting to roller skate along a bumpy dirt road in Bensonhurst in 1925 illustrates Brooklynites’ enduring enthusiasm for the sport – an enthusiasm that continues, even today. True, the Empire in Crown Heights– touted as the “birthplace of roller disco” – closed its doors in 2007,[v] and Coney Island’s Dreamland Roller Rink survived for only two years, from 2008 to 2010.[vi] There are no longer hundreds of people roller skating in hordes on the streets. Still, roller skating in Brooklyn is not dead. Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 2 opened in May with a new roller rink,[vii] and the new LeFrak Center in Prospect Park offers roller skating, roller derby and roller hockey, attesting to Brooklyn’s continuing interest in all things roller related.[viii]

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-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. To leave a comment, email hchoiniere@brooklynhistory.org

Author: Halley Choiniere


[ii] “Sports and Pastimes: Skating,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 4, 1877

[iii] “Roller-Skating,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 27, 1911

[iv] “Of 500 Roller Skaters Just 4 Are Arrested,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 3, 1908

[v] Bernard, Sarah, “The Last Go-Round,” New York Magazine, October 25, 2007 (http://nymag.com/homedesign/greatrooms/29415/);  Bleyer, Jennifer, “The Last Lace-Up,” The New York Times, April 22, 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/22/nyregion/thecity/22empi.html?_r=0)

[vi] Durkin, Erin, “Coney Island Lola Staar’s Dreamland Roller Rink loses bid to renew lease at Child’s Restaurant,” New York Daily News, May 5, 2010 (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/coney-island-lola-staar-dreamland-roller-rink-loses-bid-renew-lease-child-restaurant-article-1.444866)

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A Case of Mistaken Identity

Irving Underhill (American, 1872-1960). Garfield Building, Court and Remsen Streets, Brooklyn, ca. 1896-1950. Gelatin silver glass dry plate negative Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection, 1996.164.8-B16611 (105)

Irving Underhill (American, 1872-1960). Garfield Building, Court and Remsen Streets, Brooklyn, ca. 1896-1950. Gelatin silver glass dry plate negative Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection, 1996.164.8-B16611 (105)

This is the latest in a series of posts on the records of Brooklyn’s Corporation Counsel, which are currently being processed with funding provided by a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) “Hidden Collections” grant.

Please join us this Thursday at 6 p.m. for the inaugural Beer Garden of the summer, and the first installment of Tales from the Vault, where I”ll be presenting a few of the interesting stories from Brooklyn’s past that I have found in the collection.

On February 24, 1898, a woman named Agnes Paureiss entered the First Precinct Station House (now the site of the New York State Supreme Courthouse on Adams St.) and stated that a man who had swindled her out of $2000 had just entered the nearby Garfield Building (pictured above). The man was named George O. Ferguson, and a judge in Flushing had recently issued a warrant for his arrest. The chief of police telephoned the judge and confirmed that the warrant had been issued, and the chief sent a patrolman along with Mrs. Paureiss to the Garfield Building. Once identified, the police would hold Ferguson at the station house until the warrant arrived from Flushing.

Mrs. Paureiss indicated that Ferguson had an office on the third floor, so she and patrolman took the elevator up to his office. The door was locked, and a sign hanging in the window stated he would return within the hour. The patrolman suggested they wait outside to catch him entering the building. As soon as they reached the street level Mrs. Paureiss spotted the suspect and exclaimed, “here comes the man who swindled me out of my $2000 and he is getting on the elevator!”

The patrolman raced up the stairs to the first floor, and when the elevator doors opened to let off some passengers he stepped in and held the door for Mrs. Paureiss. The patrolman asked if she could identify Ferguson, and she pointed her finger at the man standing in front of the patrolman. The patrolman asked the gentleman who was identified by Mrs. Paureiss to step off the elevator, which he did. He then asked the man if he was George O. Ferguson, to which the man replied, “No I am not.” The patrolman again asked Mrs. Paureiss whether this was the right man, to which she replied, “whatever your name is now, you said your name was Mr. Ferguson when you had dealings with me and you are the man who swindled me out of my money and drove my husband insane!”

The man insisted that he was not Mr. Ferguson, and if the patrolman would just take him to the office of the district attorney, located in the same building, that he would clear up everything. The patrolman took the so-called Mr. Ferguson by the arm, and insisted be brought to the stationhouse. The man agreed to go, but asked that the officer let go of his arm. The patrolman declined, and all three left to meet with the chief of police.

As it turns out, Mrs. Paureiss had been mistaken. The man she had identified as George O. Ferguson was actually John S. Griffith, a local attorney who also had an office in the Garfield Building. Surprisingly, Mr. Griffith was understanding, and even indicated that he did not blame the patrolman for bringing him in. Unsurprisingly, he would go on to sue the city for false arrest and damaging his reputation by hauling him through the streets of Downtown Brooklyn to the police station.

Later that day, the station house received word that the actual George O. Ferguson had been arrested in Manhattan at the very same time that John S. Griffith was being held in Brooklyn.

There are a few other cases of false arrest that I’ve found in the records of Brooklyn’s Corporation Counsel, and like the other types of legal records I’ve discussed in the past I believe they provide a unique insight into 19th century Brooklyn. In particular, they allow us to review the sometimes dubious methods of Brooklyn’s police force (I’m not sure the NYPD typically brings along elderly women on stake-outs today).

Finally, I’d like to once again plug the first installment of Tales from the Vault, this Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Brooklyn Historical Society, which will feature yours truly discussing the records of Brooklyn’s Corporation Counsel. And if the prospect of learning about Brooklyn’s history via 19th century legal records doesn’t exactly reel you in, there’s also beer, custard, and pretzels to be enjoyed at our first beer garden of the season. Hope to see you there!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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