The “City of Brooklyn” – 1492 – Present
by William R. Everdell
1492, October 12 — Cristoforo Colombo (Columbus), a Genoese navigator sailing for Spain, arrives at what he thinks are the islands off China and India, and calls Los Indios, but which will later be named for another Italian (Florentine) navigator and called America. In his lifetime, present-day BROOKLYN and Manhattan (and south to Delaware) were occupied by the Leni Lenape, another of the peoples (like the Taino who met Columbus in the West Indies) that Columbus and his successors called “Indians.”
1524, Spring — Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine sailing for France, becomes the first European navigator to sail along the east coast of North America north of Florida, sailing into a harbor he named Angoulême after a fief of the French king. It is the first European name for New York. Verrazzano will record meeting some of the Lenape people who had long lived there, and then continue his voyage north and “discover” and map what will later be called Cape Cod Bay. His are the first European landfalls logged in New York and NEW ENGLAND.
1604 — First European settlement in NEW ENGLAND established at St. Croix Island in what is now the state of Maine by a French party including Samuel de Champlain, and called Acadia.
1609, Fall — Henry Hudson, an English navigator sailing for the United Provinces of the Netherlands, enters the harbor of what will be New York and finds and sails up the Hudson River, claiming the land for the Dutch who will name it New Netherland.
1620, December 16 — The English “Pilgrims,” opposed to the Church of England’s retention of hierarchical government and bishops, land in Cape Cod Bay, legendarily at Plymouth Rock, after rounding Cape Cod in search of Virginia. (Virginia had already been colonized by the English in 1607.) Within a few years, they establish the first sizable settlement in what English colonists will call NEW ENGLAND, at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
1622 — The Province of Maine first named in a land patent issued to Sir Ferdinando Gorges for settlements in what is now Portland.
1623 — William and Edward Hilton form a permanent settlement at present-day Dover, New Hampshire, on a grant from the Abenaki people, establishing the NEW ENGLAND colony of New Hampshire.
1624 — Peter Minuit of the Dutch West India Company establishes the colony of New Netherland by purchasing the island of Manhattan from the Lenape people for 60 Dutch guilders in goods and naming it Nieuw Amsterdam. He will go on to be the first Director of the Dutch colony (1626-1631). In 1638, he will be drowned at sea in a hurricane off the West Indian island of St. Kitts while trying to deliver a shipload of tobacco to finance the other American colony he founded—New Sweden.
1628 — Puritan stockholders establish the colony of Massachusetts Bay with claims to all the territory now called NEW ENGLAND plus territory in its latitude west to the Pacific Ocean. Puritans and others come to Massachusetts Bay in large numbers in the 1630s, including resisters against the would-be absolutist regime of King Charles I. One of these, Hugh Peter, will return and assist at King Charles’s execution by the Puritan Parliament in 1649.
1636 — Roger Williams is exiled from Massachusetts Bay for religious dissidence, establishes the colony of Providence Plantations on land granted him by the Narragansett people. It will become the religiously tolerant NEW ENGLAND colony and state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
1637 — Ann Hutchinson is tried for heresy in Massachusetts Bay. Convicted and exiled from Massachusetts, she will move with her 15 children and other followers first to Rhode Island and then to The Bronx near the River now named for her.
1638 — Theophilus Eaton and others establish the NEW ENGLAND colony of New Haven (absorbed in 1664 by Connecticut).
1638 – The Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House is estimated to have been built on Long Island on the land the Lenape people call Canarsie (now BROOKLYN), one of the first structures built by Europeans on the island and the oldest surviving Dutch saltbox frame house in the U.S. Only a small section remains from 1638-1652.
1639, January 24 — Connecticut Fundamental Orders adopted, by which the colony of Connecticut establishes itself on Massachusetts Bay territory.
1640 — English colonists from NEW ENGLAND begin settling along the north shore of Long Island. The town of Southold is founded on land bought from the Corchaug people by Theophilus Eaton, Governor of the colony of New Haven (eventually part of Connecticut) and will be chartered by New Haven in 1658. The Southold hamlet of Cutchogue (or “principal place” in the Algonquian language of the Corchaug) now has the oldest English house in Southhold, dated to 1699.
1643, May — NEW ENGLAND Confederation (a.k.a. United Colonies of NEW ENGLAND) is formed by the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, New Haven, and Connecticut. It will last until King James II tries to revoke colonial charters in the 1680s.
1645, December 19 — Lady Deborah Moody, an English Baptist driven from NEW ENGLAND (Massachusetts Bay) for religious deviance, founds the village of Gravesend (now in BROOKLYN and including Coney Island), on a grant of Lenape land from New Netherland Governor Willem Kieft.
1646 — New Netherland colony authorizes the purchase of land from the Lenape people on Long Island across the East River from Nieuw Amsterdam to found “Breuckelen,” (now BROOKLYN) named for the town of Breukelen in the Province of Utrecht in the United Provinces of the Netherlands. It is a Dutch village, but it will have a growing number of English residents, most of them from NEW ENGLAND.
1655 — English colonists from NEW ENGLAND continue settling along the north shore of Long Island. The town of Setauket, Long Island, is sold by Algonquian-speaking Setalcott people to land speculators who will settle it with NEW ENGLANDers from across Long Island Sound. Later called Brookhaven, its oldest surviving structure, the Brewster House, dates from 1665. The town of Huntington, Long Island, founded in 1653 by migrants from neighboring Oyster Bay who were themselves emigrants from Connecticut, will vote to become a part of Connecticut rather than New Netherland in 1660.
1657, December 27 — Flushing Remonstrance sent from the New Netherland village of Vlissengen (Flushing, now in Queens, New York) in to the government of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, requesting religious toleration on the Dutch model. Signed by the English settlers in a Dutch town in behalf of the Quakers and other religious dissidents in Flushing, Jamaica and Gravesend, the Remonstrance protests Governor Peter Stuyvesant’s 1656 edict that banned all religious practice except Dutch Reformed. Stuyvesant prosecutes the signers, but the Remonstrance will remain a landmark document in the history of religious liberty in America and the West.
1658-1676 — Massachusetts Bay absorbs the Gorges settlements in Maine by purchase and legal maneuver. Maine will be part of Massachusetts until 1819.
1664, September 6 — Peter Stuyvesant, the last Governor of Dutch New Netherland, is forced to surrender the colony without a fight to the English fleet that entered Nieuw Amsterdam harbor at the end of August. Under the authority of James, Duke of York, the fleet’s commander, Richard Nicolls, becomes the first Governor of the now English colony of New York and issues a code of laws including religious toleration (even for Catholics like the Duke). Back east from its ferry landing, Breukelen (BROOKLYN) is open country with scattered farms. The rest of Long Island is much the same with mostly English farmers and fishermen.
1664 — The last of the several individual town colonies in southern NEW ENGLAND, including New Haven, submit to being annexed by the chartered colony of Connecticut, but NEW ENGLAND claims to Long Island settlements are rendered moot by the English capture of New Netherland.
1686 — Dominion of New England set up under Governor Edmund Andros to include every English colony from Maine to New Jersey. It lasts until 1689, one year more than its author, King James II (formerly Duke of York), who was deposed in 1688 by the Glorious Revolution. For these three years, at least, all New York, including BROOKLYN, is part of NEW ENGLAND.
1700s — New York colony prospers. BROOKLYN is now an English village with some Dutch inhabitants on the East River with a rowboat ferry landing and a hinterland of farms (including Philip Livingston’s plantation on BROOKLYN Heights), many of which export food to the islands of the West Indies to feed the slaves who grow sugar cane there on land too valuable for growing anything else.
1776 — After the battles at Lexington and Bunker Hill, the British decide to move their headquarters from Boston to New York, which they consider the “keystone of the arch” of the American colonies because of its river connections north to Lake Champlain and west past the Appalachians to the Great Lakes, and its ability to control Long Island Sound and so much of the ocean approach to NEW ENGLAND. Emerging British military strategy seeks to divide the northern from the southern colonies.
1776, July 2 — The Continental Congress votes the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on report of a Committee of Five including Ben Franklin of Philadelphia, John Adams of Boston, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia and Robert R. Livingston of Clermont, New York. New York delegate Philip Livingston of BROOKLYN Heights is a signer, though New York is still unsure. The Declaration will be engrossed and signed on July 4 and first read out in August to the Continental Army encamped in BROOKLYN.
1776, August 27 — Battle of BROOKLYN, the biggest battle of the American Revolution. British naval forces having earlier deployed some 300 ships around Staten Island, and debarked a British army estimated at from 20-32,000 men in Gravesend Bay, BROOKLYN, on August 22nd, General William Howe sends it against General George Washington’s Continental Army, quartered in BROOKLYN Heights. The British outflank the Continentals east of what is now Prospect Park and drive them back to BROOKLYN Heights. On August 29, covered by night and fog, Washington will order his NEW ENGLAND boatmen to evacuate his defeated forces across the East River to Manhattan, beginning a long fighting retreat out of the city to New Jersey. The British will occupy New York, including BROOKLYN and Long Island, until the Revolutionary War ends in 1783.
1777 — Battle of Setauket. A revolutionary battle is fought on the village green in Setauket, Long Island, between the Loyalist town militia and a small army of Whigs from Fairfield, Connecticut across the Sound in NEW ENGLAND. The battle is a draw, and the Whig force will withdraw after it, but the Culper Spy Ring will be founded in Setauket in 1778 and will successfully pass information to General Washington about the plans and movements of the British forces occupying New York until 1781.
1777 — Vermonters with land grants from New Hampshire establish the independent Vermont Republic (a.k.a. the Republic of New Connecticut), overcoming opposition from those who received grants of land there from New York. The Republic abolishes slavery and grants the vote to free men 21 and over, with or without property, making it the first democracy in America and the first in the West since Athens. In 1791 it will become the last of the NEW ENGLAND states to join the United States.
1780 — British army occupying New York City builds Fort BROOKLYN. Philip Livingston’s estate on BROOKLYN Heights is occupied by British forces from August, 1776 to August, 1783.
1783, 25 November — Evacuation Day. The British leave New York, leaving a Union Jack flag nailed to a greased pole, and empty fortifications in BROOKLYN. Many British sympathizers, “Tories” or “Loyalists,” leave New York for Canada and England; much of their land and property is sold or confiscated and given to US sympathizers.
1786 — Erasmus Hall Academy founded in Flatbush, BROOKLYN. This, the first high school to be chartered by the New York Board of Regents, will be donated to the public school system in 1896, and closed in 1994 in order to be turned into the Erasmus Hall Educational Campus of five separate schools.
1790 — The first U.S. census finds 4,549 people living in BROOKLYN.
1799 — New York State passes the Gradual Emancipation Act intended to abolish slavery in stages, with slaves born after 1799 turned into indentured servants serving their mother’s owner until the age of 25 for women or 28 for men. In 1817 a law will follow freeing all slaves born before 1799 in 1827. Except for those born after 1799, all adult slaves will be fully emancipated as of July 4, 1828. BROOKLYN’s slaves, who worked on farms, were more numerous than New York’s. BROOKLYN’s freed blacks formed communities at the ferry landing, modern DUMBO, Vinegar Hill and Weeksville.
1812-1815 — The British make an unsuccessful attempt to establish naval supremacy in the Atlantic and regain the territory west of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, that was ceded in 1783 to the rebellious colonies. Delegations of NEW ENGLAND states, upset at losing trade relations with Britain, meet to discuss seceding from the U.S. Washington, DC, is briefly captured but the cities of BROOKLYN, New Orleans, Boston, and New York are not.
c.1810 — Hezekiah Beers Pierrepont (formerly Pierpont), born in NEW ENGLAND (New Haven, Connecticut), who emigrated to BROOKLYN in 1802 after going bankrupt in the China trade, becomes a land developer. He buys 60 acres that include parts of Philip Livingston’s “Clover Hill” estate on present-day BROOKLYN Heights, including Livingston’s distillery below the Heights near the foot of present-day State and Joralemon Streets. Legendarily the first distillery in New York, if not America, it produces a popular brand, Anchor Gin. In 1819, Pierrepont will sell the distillery, and use the proceeds to buy more land in BROOKLYN Heights.
1814, May 10 — The first trip by the steam-powered ferry Nassau between Fulton Street, BROOKLYN and Wall Street, New York and back. In partnership with Hezekiah Beers Pierrepont (who was born in New Haven) Robert Fulton has made reliable daily commuting possible between the two cities in order to properly develop his BROOKLYN properties. As commuting builds, BROOKLYN will explode as the “first suburb of New York City,” or indeed of America. Hezekiah, and his son Henry will continue buying land, laying out streets, and developing much of what we now know as the BROOKLYN Heights neighborhood.
1816 — BROOKLYN officially becomes a Village. The third U.S. census in 1820 will find 11,187 people there, roughly double the population of 4,549 people living in BROOKLYN in 1790.
1825, October 26 — The State of New York opens the Erie Canal, first proposed in the 1780s, providing New York City and BROOKLYN with access to the Midwestern grain and other commodities. NYC will soon be established as the leading trading and manufacturing center in the US. Still agricultural, BROOKLYN will expand too but not as much as New York City. The U.S. census will find BROOKLYN doubling its population between the 1820 census and the 1830, and doubling it again between 1830 and 1840.
1834 — BROOKLYN officially becomes a City. Seth Low (the Elder, 1782-1853), descendant of China traders from Essex County, Massachusetts) becomes one of the city’s incorporators and an Alderman.
1840-1850 — There being no federal immigration law, Irish refugees from famine and German refugees from a failed 1848 revolution arrive in tens of thousands, a source of cheap labor. Combining a labor supply with plentiful available land, growing capital stock and advanced banking, a superb harbor, and access to the interior of the country via the Hudson River and the Erie Canal, and to the Atlantic basin by sea, BROOKLYN booms as a manufacturing center, producing everything from sugar and beer, to ships and pencils, and transshipping cotton from southern producers to mills in upstate New York and NEW ENGLAND. Many of these manufacturers come to BROOKLYN from NEW ENGLAND, which has the skills and technology, but not the land, the harbor, the labor and the capital that the twin cities of BROOKLYN and New York can provide together. Their population expands spectacularly along with other cities along the Erie Canal route. The U.S. census will find BROOKLYN, its population doubled between the censuses of 1820 and 1830, and doubled again between 1830 and 1840, is tripled in the decade from 1840 (47,613) to 1850 (138,822).
1842 — Henry (son of Hezekiah) Pierrepont’s New York and BROOKLYN Steam Ferry Company makes the first cut in its 4-cent fare for travel across the East River between BROOKLYN and New York City. Competing ferries must follow suit, but some go bankrupt and will be bought out by Fulton, who will continue the price war until 1850.
1843, c. 1 June — Isabella Bomefree Van Wagenen, a Dutch-speaking New York slave free since 1828 and a Methodist convert, who will change her name this year to Sojourner Truth, leaves NYC on the ferry “crossing over to BROOKLYN, L.I.” (Narrative of Sojourner Truth, 1850) with two shillings and a mission to preach her faith. She will take a boat to NEW ENGLAND (Bridgeport, Connecticut), then walk to New Haven and thereafter Hartford and eventually to the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Northampton, MAssachusetts, a utopian community of evangelical believers, where she will become a crusader for slavery abolition and women’s rights. Her speech “Ain’t I a woman?” at the 1851 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention is a landmark in both causes.
1847 — The first NEW ENGLAND Society is founded.
1847 — Henry Ward Beecher, born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Presbyterian minister Lyman Beecher of New Haven, East Hampton, Long Island, and Litchfield, becomes minister of Plymouth Church, BROOKLYN, where he will advocate the abolition of slavery and preach to visiting presidential candidate Lincoln. He will serve until his death in 1887.
1850 — Henry (son of Hezekiah) Pierrepont’s Fulton Ferry Company of BROOKLYN lowers its fare to 1 cent. It sweeps up the remaining competing ferries, renames itself the Union Ferry Company, and raises its fare to 2 cents, infuriating commuters.
1851 — William Beard, an immigrant to BROOKLYN from Ireland at 19, who has previously been in the railroad-building boom, begins building the Erie Basin. The expansion of the port of BROOKLYN will culminate with this man-made extension of New York harbor, a series of protected piers and docks, at Red Hook, BROOKLYN. “The BROOKLYN Docks below the Heights, and the Atlantic Docks in South BROOKLYN were already developed. Beard and his partners bought land and got permission to build around the bend in Red Hook. His shipping basin would be called the Erie Basin, because this was where the canal boats finished their journeys. This was not only the end of the Erie Canal; it was also where ships from all over the world docked.”
1855 — Walt Whitman, born to descendants of NEW ENGLAND settlers in Huntington, Long Island, New York, publishes the first edition of Leaves of Grass on a press in downtown BROOKLYN.
1858, October 28 —R. H. Macy, born in Nantucket, NEW ENGLAND, opens his store selling dry goods on 6th Avenue and 14th Street in New York City. Opening day revenue is $11.08 (hundreds of today’s dollars). Macy’s will become iconic in the burgeoning retail sales business that is becoming a New York City specialty.
1861-1865 — Civil War. BROOKLYN manufacturing prospers on providing war materials for the Union. The BROOKLYN Navy Yard builds warships by the score, including the first of the three named “BROOKLYN.” Some of Union Ferry’s boats are conscripted for naval activities. The ironclad gunboat Monitor, built at Greenpoint, BROOKLYN, to John Ericsson’s revolutionary design, defeats the Confederate Merrimac for control of the harbors on the Chesepeake. Walt Whitman becomes a nurse. One of Brooklyn’s 3 volunteer regiments, the 23rd Regiment, New York Volunteers (23rd BROOKLYN) is sent west from BROOKLYN to mount a defense of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, against Lee’s 1863 invasion of the north. The defense succeeds, since Lee never gets further north than Gettysburg. Ordered to cut off Lee’s retreat at the Potomac, the 23rd is a few hours too late. Detached with New York’s other regiments to return to New York to put down the draft riots in New York and BROOKLYN, it arrives a day too late to do that. Its officers are feted and the Regiment will be paraded with the 14th Brooklyn (formed by abolitionists) and the 5th Heavy Artillery, under Grand Army Arch with its statue of Gouverneur Warren of the 5th New York Infantry, who saved the Battle of Gettysburg at Little Round Top and whose daughter Emily Warren will marry veteran Washington Roebling and finish the supervision of the building of BROOKLYN Bridge.
1863, October 9 — The BROOKLYN, Bath and Coney Island Railroad (a.k.a. West End Line), opens for passenger service between Fifth Avenue at 36th Street at the then border of the City of BROOKLYN and the village of Bath Beach in the Town of Gravesend. It is BROOKLYN’s oldest city or suburban rail line. The age of the “trolley dodger” begins, and over the next 50 years BROOKLYN, and to a lesser extent, Queens, will develop as a “streetcar suburb.”
1880 — The NEW ENGLAND Society in the City of BROOKLYN is refounded. John Silliman is its first President, 1889-1901(?). Within a few years, it has 400 members, and is inviting former presidents of the US and former leading generals of the Civil War to speak at its dinners. BROOKLYN’s population is found this year to be 599,495, more than doubled in two decades.
1881 — Seth Low (the Younger, 1850-1916), a Republican reformer descended from a Massachusetts family and graduate of Poly Prep Country Day School in BROOKLYN, defeats a venerably corrupt Democratic machine to be elected Mayor of BROOKLYN. He will be re-elected in 1883.
1882 — Chinese Exclusion Act, the first federal ethnic immigration ban, ends legal immigration to the United States from China. Immigrants will continue to settle in “Chinatowns” in U.S. cities. Manhattan’s, dating from the 1840s and 50s, will expand greatly after 1882, and even more after the Exclusion Act’s repeal in 1943. Queens will not get a Chinatown until one gets started in the 1970s in the Dutch and English town of Flushing. BROOKLYN will have to wait to get one until three Chinese open the Winley Supermarket in the former “Little Norway” in Sunset Park in 1986.
1883 — The BROOKLYN Bridge is opened by Mayor Seth Low of BROOKLYN and President Chester Arthur (a New Yorker). Commuting ferries from BROOKLYN to Manhattan will fade away, the last one running in 1924.
1889, April 27 — Lexington Avenue elevated railroad begins running across BROOKLYN Bridge, connecting BROOKLYN to New York City by rail. Population grows.
1894 — Gravesend and Coney Island are annexed by the City of BROOKLYN, and a referendum is taken which votes that BROOKLYN will be merged into New York City in 1898. Bay Ridge has become a vacation destination.
1896, February — BROOKLYN Rapid Transit Company (BRT), incorporated this January, takes over the bankrupt Long Island Traction Company, the BROOKLYN Heights Railroad and the lessee of the BROOKLYN City Rail Road. It has long been in possession of BROOKLYN’s oldest city rail line, the BROOKLYN, Bath and Coney Island Railroad (a.k.a. West End Line), with passenger service dating from 1863 between the City of BROOKLYN and the Town of Gravesend. BRT will acquire the BROOKLYN, Queens County and Suburban Railroad by lease on July 1, 1898. The “streetcar suburb” of Kings County reaches at its apogee, eight years before the BRT’s and IRT’s first subway will begin replacing it.
1897 — Seth Low (the Younger, 1850-1916) of a NEW ENGLAND family emigrated to BROOKLYN, who has twice been elected mayor of BROOKLYN, loses the election to be the first mayor of consolidated New York City.
1898 — BROOKLYN merges with Manhattan, pursuant to the 1894 referendum, devolving from a city to a borough of New York City.
1898, May 1 — Commander George Dewey, a NEW ENGLANDer from Vermont, captures Manila Bay from the Spanish Pacific Fleet with his Asiatic Squadron of the U.S. Navy, led by his flagship Olympia. The Spanish-American War is over in the Pacific. The NEW ENGLAND Society immediately offers Dewey membership, which he accepts, legendarily on the bridge of Olympia. He will decide not to run for President in 1900.
1900 — The U.S. census finds BROOKLYN, its population doubled between the censuses of 1820 and 1830, and doubled again between 1830 and 1840, and tripled in the decade from 1840 to 1850, has doubled in the 20 years since 1880 (599,495) and, at 1,166,582, exceeds one million for the first time. Theodore Roosevelt, New Netherland descended, New York City raised, is elected Vice-President of the United States.
1901 — Seth Low (the Younger, 1850-1916) of a NEW ENGLAND family emigrated to BROOKLYN, is elected the second mayor of consolidated New York City. He will resign as President of Columbia University in order to assume the new office in 1902. Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt, New Netherland descended, New York City raised, is told while climbing Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks that McKinley has died of his wounds in Buffalo, New York, making him President of the United States.
1903 — New York State Legislature creates the BROOKLYN Grade Crossing Elimination Commission and directs it to fully grade-separate a number of railroads and rapid transit lines in BROOKLYN and Queens. More than one hundred years later, virtually all passenger rail lines in New York City (including the subway, LIRR, Metro-North, Amtrak, and the Staten Island Railway) and most freight rail lines are grade-separated. New York City is unique among major American cities in that much of its necessary passenger rail infrastructure is underground and/or grade-separated. The street railway and trolley will fade away in BROOKLYN, but the subway will annex some of their elevated lines and boom.
1904, October 27 — BROOKLYN Rapid Transit Company (BMT, combined with Interboro Rapid Transit or IRT) first electric subway opening day. Tunnel under the East River begins to link to already existing elevated railways that formerly fed across the BROOKLYN Bridge and open up more of BROOKLYN to development. BROOKLYN’s population will continue its rapid growth.
1907 — Immigration to the United States reaches a peak as 1.3 million immigrants enter the United States legally, largely via the immigration center opened on Ellis Island in New York City in 1892. 20 million will have come between 1880 and 1920. 5 million Germans have arrived during the 1800s, the majority of them Catholic, many staying in BROOKLYN, electing German-Americans to the mayoralty, eating German-style processed meats, and fostering a German institution, the beer garden, which does not please temperance-minded Protestants (some of them NEW ENGLAND immigrants to New York) who favor Sunday blue laws. A preponderance of immigrants after 1890, however, have been from eastern and southern Europe. The Irish, Italian and Jewish stereotype of New York City begins to take shape (but it will not be proclaimed until the 1960s when Hispanic, Latino, African-American and Caribbean-American Brooklynites have made the stereotype obsolete.
1907 — Annual Report of the New York City Superintendant of Education to the Board of Education finds:
The largest growth in high schools is found in BROOKLYN. This growth arises not only from the natural increase in the number of pupils entering from the BROOKLYN elementary schools, but also from the number of pupils entering from the Manhattan elementary schools … The consequence is that the BROOKLYN high schools are all crowded to excess.
1910 — “Stores” (the BROOKLYN word for warehouses) in Erie Basin in Red Hook, BROOKLYN’s largest port facility, are reported to have storage for 3,000,000 bushels of grain and capacity for other cargoes. The two large stationary elevators used to transfer grain from canal boats to the Stores and later to fill the holds of oceangoing steam and sailing ships have become impractical as the vessels got bigger and no longer had the room to shift around the basin. “The major culprit in the increase in size were large passenger liners, who started transporting grain both for profit and as ballast. The tall grain elevator buildings were torn down and replaced with general purpose warehouses. Their job of moving grain was shifted to floating grain elevators that could to and from ships. By about 1910, most of the basin’s warehouses had been converted from grain to general cargo and shipyards occupied much of the basin.”
1917, April — the U.S. enters World War One on the side of England against Germany. BROOKLYN’s large German population is discriminated against. Its sauerkraut is renamed “Victory Cabbage,” its hamburger, “Salisbury Steak” and its frankfurter sandwich, pioneered as a street food in Coney Island, is briefly renamed the “Coney Island,” although the nickname “hot dog,” that it got after being introduced to the American public at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, will return. In 1917 the United States passed its first federal immigration restriction law requiring a literacy test from immigrants over the age of 16. The U.S. will not sign the treaty of peace, but has nevertheless become the leading world power.
1920 — The U.S. census finds BROOKLYN, its population having exceeded one million (1,166,582) for the first time in 1900, has again doubled in two decades and is now, for the first time, more than two million (2,018,356).
1924 — Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, called the National Origins Act, is signed by President Calvin Coolidge of NEW ENGLAND. It admits a quota of immigrants from any nation in a particular year to a maximum of 2% of the numbers of people of that origin found in the U.S. census of 1890, except Chinese, and some other Asians, now including Japanese, who are completely excluded. The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 had specified 3%. Immigration to New York City is throttled. The many immigrants and descendants of immigrants in New York City and BROOKLYN are counted as having “national origins” other than the United States, including English and German, as well as the more recently arrived Italian and Russian. Descendants of the immigrants who came to New York from Africa as slaves are not counted as African in origin for purposes of restricting immigration from Africa. Those coming to New York from NEW ENGLAND between the 17th and the 19th centuries are classified as being of English national origin, one of the many strained and sometimes bizarre contemporary efforts at dividing American citizens in the name of national “homogeneity.”
1929-1939 — The Great Depression decimates many BROOKLYN institutions. The Immigration Act of 1929 sets the total of immigrants in a year at 150,000, and immigration to the United States plummets between 1930 and 1950. The New England Society in the City of BROOKLYN has as few as 30 members.
1939-1945 — The Second World War reinvigorates (temporarily) BROOKLYN as a manufacturing center and the site of the Navy Yard. After the war, railroads and highways take over as the preferred means of shipping goods, reducing the value of New York’s harbor, and manufacturing declines in New York City. Despite the refugee crisis caused by the war, immigration to the United States continues to plummet until 1950.
1946 — Suburbanization shifts into high gear, driven by returning World War II veterans and the greater availability of private automobiles. Families begin a mass movement out of the “streetcar suburbs” to the “highway suburbs,” eastwards of BROOKLYN and Queens on Long Island, and northwest of the Bronx to Westchester and New Jersey, a movement somewhat delayed for BROOKLYNites by their loyalty to the BROOKLYN Dodgers baseball team before its move to Los Angeles in 1957.
1956 — Containerization of freight for shipping, invented by trucking executive Malcolm McLean, begins reducing the price per ton by 97%, as well as the power of longshoreman’s unions and the value of harborage in BROOKLYN and Manhattan. A move to recapture the working waterfront for recreation will soon begin.
1965 — Immigration and Nationality Act removes the “national origins” exclusions of the Immigration Act of 1924.
1965, April — New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission set up to enforce the New York City Landmarks Preservation law, following the demolition of Penn Station in 1964. Parts of BROOKLYN, called “brownstone BROOKLYN,” will be among the first to be preserved by the new Commission, starting on November 23rd with BROOKLYN Heights. Deindustrialization in BROOKLYN, growing inequality of wealth and income, and the rediscovery of cheap, historic housing begins leading to the process called (by 1980) “gentrification,” and the creation in some areas of a “post-industrial” city. The “renovation generation” of young families buys houses in marginal neighborhoods and renovates them, re-invigorating businesses and schools in formerly run-down neighborhoods, but displacing longtime residents with lower incomes and wealth.
2009 — Hispanic, Latino, Mexican-American, African-American and Caribbean-American BROOKLYNites are found to add up to 73.8% of Brooklyn’s population by the American Community Survey. The Irish, Italian and Jewish stereotype of New York City and BROOKLYN, proclaimed in the 1960s, has become obsolete.