Brooklyn Boro

Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Six photos of ‘Schools’

July 21, 2020 Phil Kaufman
Share this:

My father, Irving Kaufman (1910 – 1982), was a professional photographer who started in Brooklyn in the mid 1930s working for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He captured thousands of images of Brooklyn through the 1950s. I have recently digitized a great many of them. My father’s profile can be found here.

This week’s theme:

This week’s theme is called simply “Schools.” Schools have been in our news quite a bit lately and will surely continue to be for the months ahead. Rather than reminding us all of the dilemma about how to open schools this year, I’ll provide an escape to scenes of Brooklyn schools 80 years ago. Not only that, the escape will take you away from public schools altogether for a look at the different (for most of us) world of private schools.

As I mentioned about a month ago, my father did a lot of work for the Packer Collegiate Institute, which was directly across Joralemon Street from the Irving Kaufman studio. (To see more information on this, look back at the June 18 post. The school is still there; the studio and its building are long gone.) He did hundreds of photos for them, from the mid ’30s to the late ’40s. He also worked, less extensively, for a few other private schools, among them the Walt Whitman School, Hawthorne Academy, Horace Mann and the Jewish Community School, all of which will be represented in this week’s display.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Today’s photos:

Today’s photos show school scenes illustrating school activities, from among art, music, science, shop (“industrial arts”), sports, theater and formal events.

Opera for the younger set, Horace Mann School, March 11, 1947


Opera for the younger set, Horace Mann School, March 11, 1947

Yesterday’s picture of this classroom showed four students standing at the phonograph and looking at the record, which was about to be played. Visible next to the turntable was the album cover for a recording of music and narration from the opera “Hansel and Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck.

Today’s two photos of that scene show what happened next: one of the students started the record, then everyone huddled around the speaker, apparently listening carefully. It’s this last picture that I wanted to display; it strikes me as remarkable that kids this age would take to a classical music performance – albeit with narration, and of a story they all knew – with such apparent interest. In order to appreciate this last picture, you had to see the previous two.


Behind the scenes, Hawthorne School, November, 1937


Behind the scenes, Packer, undated

These images were both taken “behind the scenes” in that they show what an audience is not expected to see. Somebody has to build, paint and arrange the sets for a stage play, and somebody has to build and then control the puppets for a puppet show. Here, students from different schools, at different ages, and with very different products illustrate the “industrial arts” skills used in a school production. (The puppet masters had previously constructed their puppets.)


Eleven characters in search of a play, Packer, March 16, 1940

I don’t know what play these students are dressed for. But it’s clearly not the same one shown in yesterday’s post, entitled “Dramatic Tableau.” This photo shows the cast of another senior play, just two months after the previous one. Theater was definitely a favorite activity; there were several productions a year of varied styles and with varied age groups. The performers, remember, were all girls, using creative costumes and hair styles and make-up to play male roles.


Under the radar, Packer, October 1940

In trying to figure out what to say about this photo, I researched high school field hockey teams and discovered that the sport is alive and well nationally at the high school and college level. Yet I have never noticed any media coverage or publicity for it. I can tell you, however, that as a young teacher I once played in a school’s faculty-student competition against teenage girls, and the game is grueling!

An index of Kaufman’s Brooklyn posts may be found here.

Irving Kaufman’s profile may be found here.

I invite you to submit comments, memories, images of Brooklyn, and especially any additional background information you can supply about the photos posted here to [email protected]. I’d also be glad to supply information about buying prints of any of the images seen here. Many of my father’s images are also available for viewing and purchase at All prints purchased will be the product of professional scanning and editing.

Weekly collection 12: Photos of ‘Schools’

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment