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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Six photos of ‘Schools’

July 23, 2020 Phil Kaufman
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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.

Little Dutch girls, Packer, c. 1940

These fifth graders dressed up in Dutch costumes, no doubt part of a class unit on New York’s Dutch history. Costumes aren’t only for stage performance and you can’t learn everything from books.


When typos were not typed, Packer, April 1941

Raise your hand if you recognize what’s being done here. Those with hands up are either senior citizens (or getting close) or have some special interest in this field. Before the widespread advent of computerized digital capability (1970s), printing was a tedious, manual process, barely changed from Gutenberg’s day. This young woman is loading print, one letter at a time, from a California job case into her composing stick, preparing to print on the press behind her. Pretty tedious and pretty hard to get perfect.


Deck the halls with song, December 19, 1947

Decked out in costume for a Christmas pageant, the Packer choral group descends to lead the school’s holiday celebration.


The devil is in the details, Hawthorne School, November 1937

The sets that were being constructed and painted in a photo shown Monday are now in use for this devilish drama. Construction, teamwork, acting – many skills exercised in one project.


Sitting pretty, Abraham Lincoln H.S., November 15, 1935

Advanced art students at work. Students took turns posing for the others, and the group has gathered around for the exercise, instead of being seated at their desks as they were normally.


They’ve come a long way, Bryant High School, December 5, 1935

A primitive robot, to say the least. But it’s a start. We can’t tell what the robot is doing, or can do, but my father’s notes say the picture “shows them demonstrating the mechanical man.” “Them” refers to the student, Stephen Stadelmeier, and the faculty advisor to the science club, Alexander Feldman. It’s also not clear why Stephen is on the phone, but it’s probably not sending remote signals to control the robot’s actions.

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’

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