Conduct research at Brooklyn Historical Society
Interested in delving into the history of Brooklyn’s waterfront? Visit the Other Library at Brooklyn Historical Society.
Have a reference question? Ask it here
Interested in delving into the history of Brooklyn’s waterfront? Visit the Other Library at Brooklyn Historical Society.
Have a reference question? Ask it here
This guide is intended as an aid to researchers interested in archival material at Brooklyn Historical Society that relates to African-American history. The guide lists manuscript collections from the slavery era (i.e., colonial period through the Civil War) to the post-Civil War period and through the twentieth century.
Two bound volumes, together titled Some Roebling Letters and Incidental Matters, containing typescript copies of letters of the Roebling family, particularly those of Washington A. Roebling.
While some letters touch upon Washington Roebling’s business and professional life, particularly relating to the family’s wire-rope-making business in Trenton, N.J., very few letters date from the period of Roebling’s involvement with the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, though later letters do contain reflections on his experiences as Chief Engineer of the bridge.
Magazines, publications, correspondence, programs, calendars, bulletins, posters, clippings, photocopies of articles, and additional ephemera documenting the Brooklyn Bridge centennial celebration in 1983.
Notes, letters, engineering computations, reports, specifications, inventories, and technical newspaper clippings, dated 1873 to 1879, all relating to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Also included are notes to Washington Roebling, as well as some items in his hand.
4 deeds recording Robert Benson’s land transactions in what is now the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, 1795-1804
12 letters and 2 legal memos documenting the activities of the Board of Commissioners for the Improvement of Brooklyn Heights, including a document that discusses the Board’s dissolution following Brooklyn’s consolidation with New York City in 1898
Newsletters, bulletins, bylaws, annual reports, treasurers reports, and letters to the general membership of the Brooklyn Heights Association (1929 to 1998), including one folder of material specifically on the creation of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District in 1965
Bulletins, reports, announcements, notices to membership, and other records (1964 to 1980) compiled by Robert Vadheim during his involvement with the Brooklyn Heights Association.
Historical and geological information, photographs, hand-drawn maps and diagrams, copied illustrations, and analyses of street pavings and sewer routes, concerning areas in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Fulton Ferry Landing, and DUMBO.
This collection consists of news clippings, magazine articles, publications, brochures, flyers, newsletters, photographs, and ephemera, the majority concerning the brownstone movement and the development and renewal of Brooklyn neighborhoods (mainly circa 1968 to 1989).
The Downtown Brooklyn Development Association was founded in 1929 as a civic group concerned with the problems of the business and shopping center in downtown Brooklyn.
The collection includes news clippings, correspondence, brochures, newsletters, pamphlets, legislative documents, photographs, city plans and maps, and other items relating to organizations and causes with which the association was involved. Box 3 includes materials on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
13 journals dating from circa 1816 to circa 1854 in which Gabriel Furman both documented his personal observations about Brooklyn and New York and recorded historical items relevant to his writing and lectures.
Among the wide diversity of topics found in the journals are epidemics of cholera and yellow fever, financial crises, daily weather conditions, theatre and the arts, politics, and religious belief. The journals also chronicle the urban development of the town and city of Brooklyn.
Garrett Middagh and Cornelia James Cowenhouse in 1691, and together they owned a 30 acre farm near the ferry on the west side of Fulton Street near Henry Street in Brooklyn. This collection includes a copy of an indenture for land in the township of Brookland (Brooklyn), dated August 16, 1758; and an order to Garrett Middagh, tax collector of Brooklyn, to collect taxes, dated February 5, 1696.
Deeds documenting transactions among members of the Cornell family for land along the East River in Brooklyn, dating from 1784 to 1792
In the late 18th century, the Sands family owned land in what is now the location of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, as well as the DUMBO and Vinegar Hill neighborhoods. The Sands family papers consist of four items, dating from 1776 to 1795, and include two financial accounts, one indenture for apprenticeship, and one receipt.
A hand-drawn map of a lot at the ferry in Brooklyn, New York, surveyed by Rutgert Van Brunt for the town trustees, March 27, 1716.
3 toll books of the New-York and Brooklyn Steam Ferry Boat Company dating from 1825 to 1826, 1828 to 1829, and 1836 to 1837, which record the weekly ferry toll received on the Brooklyn side, and list daily receipts signed by the ferry master upon turning in the weekly total.
The Catherine and Main Street Ferry Company, established in 1811, operated a ferry line that connected Catherine Street in Manhattan to Main Street in Brooklyn. This collection includes account books, bills for construction and repair, inspection certificates, and a receipt books for wages paid to employees.
Leases, laws, and published court proceedings relating to the Fulton Street, South Street, and Hamilton Avenue ferries, as well as acts of incorporation of the Brooklyn Union Ferry.
One subscribers’ agreement, dated 1833, to establish an unnamed ferry line between Brooklyn and New York City south of the Fulton Ferry. The intended ferry line referenced in the agreement is possibly the South Ferry, which opened in 1836.
An order journal includes of memoranda of fire chiefs, and a company journal includes specific time entries and departures of the firemen, as well as a time schedule of the house watchman for Engine Company No. 54, 1899 to 1904.
2 pamphlets: an annual report of the Commissioner of the Fire Department of the City of Brooklyn, 1884; and “The Fire Limits of the City of Brooklyn, WD,” 1869, which concerns the establishment of official building and property inspection and fire prevention practices and policies in the City of Brooklyn
Items related to the Brooklyn Fire Department, including the constitution and bylaws of the Village of Brooklyn Fire Department, reports and acts concerning the reorganization of the City of Brooklyn Fire Department, reports of the chief engineers of the Eastern and Western Districts, reports of the Fire Marshalls, a prospectus for the Brooklyn Fire Extinguishing Company, and a copy of the fire and buildings inspection code, 1831 to 1873
2 record books of the Brooklyn Fire Department, one pertaining to Engine Company No. 1 (dated 1898-1899), and the other pertaining to Engine Company #40 (dated 1910, with day-by-day logs of each engine company’s activities, including responses to fires and other emergencies
A Fireman’s Discharge issued by the Common Council of the City of Brooklyn, dated 1859
A notebook and a one-page document containing minutes from meetings of the Village of Brooklyn Fire Department, as well as two lists of Department members by company, 1823 to 1828
Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Fire Department meeting minutes
The Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Fire Department meeting minutes span the period 1848 to 1854 and are housed in a single hardbound volume. The minutes list the members and officers of the board for each year and record votes taken and motions passed at each meeting.
Topics discussed at the meetings most often included financial transactions and amendments to the constitution and bylaws of the board.
The Brooklyn Fire Department payroll records are contained in one oversize enclosure and one oversize box and include commissioner and general staff monthly payrolls for the period August 30 to October 31, 1881, as well as individual monthly company payrolls from the years 1875 and 1881.
The records feature lists of Fire Department employees, with signatures and pay rates next to the names.
Antonia Denis was a Puerto Rican social and political activist in Brooklyn.
This collection spans the period 1948 to 1983 and consists of correspondence, administrative documents, financial records, photocopied newspaper articles, calling cards, certificates, newsletters, pamphlets, and other ephemera relating to Denis’s work with the cultural organizations La Casa de Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Pioneers Parade, as well as her political activism and work with the Betances Democratic Club and other organizations.
The Puerto Rican Oral History Project, initiated in 1973, includes over seventy-five interviews documenting the experiences of Brooklyn residents who arrived from Puerto Rico between 1917 and 1940.
This collection includes recordings and transcripts of interviews conducted primarily between 1973 and 1975. Also included are newspaper clippings, brochures, booklets about Brooklyn’s Puerto Rican community, and administrative information on how the project was developed, carried out, and evaluated.
This project took place in the late 1980s and sought to capture the cultural ethos of the Hispanic community in Brooklyn. The collection contains thirty-five oral history interview transcripts, photographs, a VHS videotape, and a variety of printed ephemera, including newspaper clippings, fliers, handouts, programs, business cards, brochures, booklets and restaurant menus.
4 black-and-white photographic prints, circa 1875 to 1930, that document the John H. Prentice mansion that was located at 1 Grace Court in Brooklyn Heights.
197 items, including color slides, negatives, contact sheets, and black-and-white prints, taken by resident Edna Glyde, circa 1940 to 1967. Images chronicle urban conditions in Brooklyn Heights, Downtown, Fulton Ferry, and Navy Yard areas of Brooklyn. Exterior shots of Brooklyn Heights homes concentrate on architectural details, such as ironwork, stoops, and decorative accents.
In addition, rooftop views from Brooklyn Heights provide limited skyline views of Brooklyn. These images also show signs of change and growth in the borough during the 1940s and 1950s, such as food ration notices during World War II, the elevated subway lines prior to demolition, the newly-constructed Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and abandoned or demolished buildings.
Businesses, warehouses, and small construction projects in these neighborhoods are also depicted.
Color slides in the collection date from 1964 to 1967, and concentrate largely on the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, especially around Columbia Heights and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. These slides show views of the New York Harbor, Manhattan skyline, piers, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Two stereographs, four photographic prints, and one cabinet card, circa 1890 to 1930, of various views of the Brooklyn Bridge
19 photographic negatives (35mm) and one black-and-white print showing views of Brooklyn, including the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the East River, circa 1980
36 photographs, circa 1950 to 1969, of the Manhattan skyline taken from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade facing west
70 color slides, taken by Joseph Maraio, and 10 color photographs, taken by Elizabeth Beirne, of areas along the Brooklyn waterfront in the DUMBO neighborhood Brooklyn, circa 1975
3 black-and-white 8 x 10 inch glossy photographs showing views of the Brooklyn Bridge, circa 1950
11 black-and-white photographs pertaining to a seven-year waterfront improvement program by the Port of New York Authority (now the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) along the Brooklyn waterfront, circa 1955
The Atlantic Dock Company was founded in 1840 and comprised a massive set of docks, warehouses, and a basin for deep water ships in the area presently known as Red Hook and South Brooklyn. This collection is composed of papers, dated 1840 to 1857, belonging to founder Daniel Richards, and includes an act of incorporation, a prospectus for investors, and a handwritten history of the company.
The American Sugar Refining Company (today known as Domino Foods, Inc.) operated a refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for nearly 150 years. This collection includes annual reports describing the business operations of the firm and publications featuring photographs and stories about some of the company’s workers.
Wilder, Craig Steven. A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.
White, Shane. Somewhat More Independent: The End of Slavery in New York City, 1770-1810. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1991.
Tippins, Sherill. February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof in Brooklyn. New York: First Mariner Books, 2006.
Snyder-Grenier, Ellen M. Brooklyn! An Illustrated History. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.
Shapiro, Mary J. A Picture History of the Brooklyn Bridge. Mineola, New York: Dover, 1983.
Sanderson, Eric. Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City. New York: Abrams Books, 2009.
Page, Max and Randall Mason. Giving Preservation a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States. New York: Routledge, 2003.
Osman, Suleiman. The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
McCully, Betsy. City at the Water’s Edge: A Natural History of New York City. New Brunswick: Rivergate Books, 2006.
McCullough, David G. The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972.
Lockwood, Charles. Bricks and Brownstones: The New York Row House, 1783-1929. New York: Rizzoli, 2003.
Linder, Marc and Lawrence S. Zacharias. Of Cabbages and Kings County: Agriculture and the Formation of Modern Brooklyn. Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1999.
Lancaster, Clay. Old Brooklyn Heights: New York’s First Suburb. 2nd edition. New York: Dover, 1980.
Kurlansky, Mark. The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. New York: Random House, 2007.
Krogius, Henrik. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2011.
Kornblum, William. At Sea in the City: New York from the Water’s Edge. 2nd edition. New York: Algonquin Books, 2013.
Koeppel, Gerard T. Water for Gotham: A History. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Kieran, John. A Natural History of New York City. New York: Fordham University Press, 1982.
Jackson, Kenneth. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Haw, Richard. The Brooklyn Bridge: A Cultural History. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2008.
Gellman, David N. Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827. Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 2006.
Everdell, William R. Rowboats to Rapid Transit: A History of Brooklyn Heights. New York: Brooklyn Heights Association, 1973.
DiFazio, William. Longshoremen: Community and Resistance on the Brooklyn Waterfront. South Hadley, Massachusetts: Bergin & Garvey, 1985.
Caro, Robert A. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. New York: Knopf, 1974.
Capote, Truman. A House on the Heights. 2nd edition. New York: Little Bookroom, 2002.
Brown, Joshua and David Ment. Factories, Foundries, and Refineries: A History of Five Brooklyn Industries. Brooklyn: Brooklyn Educational & Cultural Alliance, 1980.
Ballon, Hilary and Kenneth T. Jackson. Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007.
Burrows, Edwin G. and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.