Brooklyn Boro

Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Six photos of ‘Schools’

July 24, 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.

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.

School for Native American children, October 25, 1939

I didn’t expect many people to recognize what was happening in the printing shop photo shown yesterday. Even fewer are likely to know what is happening here. It doesn’t look very mysterious: children standing at a blackboard while a teacher explains something. But what is written on the board? It’s a transliteration into an Native American language (Mohawk or Kanyen’kéha) of the Lord’s Prayer.

This took place at the Cuyler Presbyterian Church, 360 Pacific St., Brooklyn. Mrs. Louise Diablo is the teacher, and the three students have Anglicized names, but their Mohawk names translate as “New Town,” “North of River” and “Flower.” I’m going to take the unusual step of simply quoting a passage from Wikipedia’s article about this church. Of all the things I have learned about Brooklyn in doing this work with my father’s photos, this is the most novel and surprising.

“The church served as the cornerstone for the Mohawk community in Boerum Hill (formerly known as North Gowanus). The Mohawk called their neighborhood “Little Caughnawaga,” after their homeland in Canada. For nearly 50 years, most Mohawk in New York lived within 10 square blocks in Brooklyn; they were from Kahnawake, a reserve in Quebec, Canada. The men were ironworkers on the bridge and skyscraper projects of New York. The women, some of whom had gone to New York separately for economic opportunity, and others who were wives and mothers, worked in a variety of jobs, as well as creating community for their families.

“The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.”


You won’t believe your eyes, Tilden High School, June 9, 1939

During a hobby show at the high school, George Sands makes a rabbit appear out of nowhere. Actually, in a “P.S.” that my father added to the basic facts he submitted with the photo to the Eagle, “a youngster whose hobby is raising rabbits discovered one of his pets missing from his cage in an exhibit a short distance from the ‘magician.’” There is no further comment on whether the rabbit mysteriously reappeared in the cage later.


Looks like a happy ending, Packer, senior play, March 16, 1940

These four seniors, about six weeks from graduation, are probably in their last high school performance. Let’s hope this is a happy-ending scene from the play and that it also speaks to a happy ending to the students’ high school years.


It takes practice, Brooklyn Ice Palace, 1940

Three of these Packer girls are in step and looking ahead; one is out of step and looking down. It’ll take a little more work to get in sync. This photos was labeled “Brooklyn Ice Palace” which was located at 1163 Atlantic Ave. and was the largest ice rink in the city.


Another beautiful day, Packer, lawn dance and party, mid-1940s


So grand, Packer, lawn dance and party, mid-1940s

On Wednesday I showed two scenes from this site on the Packer campus. Here are two more. I have dozens from this same location, and it always looks like a gorgeous day. (Of course, if it were raining, they’d move indoors.) This event is variously labeled May Day Dance, Lawn Dance, Lawn Party, etc. But it seems to be an outdoor event for the whole school with parents and guests.

The first photo shows a few small groups dancing in what looks like a square dance variation. The second photo shows a striking scene of what could be the entire student body at either a grand opening or a grand finale. Whatever they called it, it’s a wonderful sight.

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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  1. Thank you for posting so many of your father’s fantastic photos. It’s clearly a huge task to undertake, but very impressive, informative, and much appreciated!

  2. I live down the block from the old Cuyler church on Pacific St., so this particular photo with the blackboard and Mohawk students is especially interesting…fascinating!