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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Five photos of ‘Public service organizations: healthcare’

August 19, 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 “Public service organizations: healthcare.” Public service organizations of all kinds comprise a large category of my father’s work in Brooklyn that I haven’t displayed yet. Many of the organizations that you’ll see this week focused on healthcare, including services for those with all manner of special needs. Some services were aimed specifically at children or the elderly. For the most part, these groups relied on extensive fundraising to support their activities.

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My father worked for quite a few healthcare agencies, including the Red Cross, the Brooklyn Tuberculosis and Health Association, the United Hospital Fund, the Visiting Nurses Association and others. There were also a number of Jewish-sponsored efforts as well as non-health related services that I’ll come back to in future posts.

Today’s photos:

Today’s photos show the most common and recognized services provided by two of the organizations my father did work for: the Brooklyn Tuberculosis and Health Association provided countless chest X-rays; and the Red Cross is probably best known for its ongoing blood donation drives.

Another X-ray line, January 30, 1947

You may recall a lineup of four men, shown on Monday, waiting for their X-rays. Here, in the same dry-cleaner shop, are quite a number of women (and one man) waiting their turn. Tuberculosis has been largely controlled in the developed world since the widespread use of streptomycin and other antibiotics in the late 1940s. But, as is the case with most medications, the antibiotics worked best when the disease was discovered early. So, chest X-ray diagnosis was still important in the late 40s; in fact, it’s increasingly important in our own time as antibiotic resistance has grown, and TB has returned in some areas. The Brooklyn Association and hundreds of other TB-focused groups provided literally millions of X-rays in the first half of the 20th century.


Men, women and who? An important group gets their X-rays, December 9, 1946

Even Santas had to be checked. In fact, maybe especially Santas had to be checked. TB is contagious and Santas certainly came into close contact with children in stores and the general public at street corner money-raising sites.


All lined up again: Blood drives, undated

These people are lined up like the previous groups, but as donors (of blood, not money), not as recipients of service. Red Cross outlets did, and still do, run regular blood donation drives at their own sites and in public buildings.

The first two pictures above may have been taken at a Red Cross office. The topmost shot shows the men in the front row looking a little nervous or maybe just laser-focused on the procedure they’re about to undergo. The second shot shows what they were focused on. Finally, the bottom shot shows another lineup of people on cots on their backs, but from a balcony above and with a decidedly non-institutional mural behind them. Where could this be? Another shot in a favorite spot: the Hotel St. George, whose public spaces were often available for community service events.

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 16: Photos of ‘Public service organizations: healthcare’

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