Brooklyn Boro

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

August 20, 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.

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 pictures show a few of the many additional services – beyond the very recognizable chest X-rays and blood drives – provided by the Red Cross and the TB Association. Each served its own purpose, but collectively these activities made significant contributions to the health of local communities.

It takes a village: New mothers get advice, undated

This isn’t quite a village, though new parents often wish they had a village to help them. Here, four members of a Mother’s Club organized by a group called the AICP (Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor), attend a Red Cross event with a nurse answering questions about caring for a new infant.


Charitable but inscrutable: Appeal for flood relief funds, undated

This is an interesting picture, but (with no written help left by my father) I can’t figure out what’s going on in this scene. Whatever the photo was meant to depict, it shows a component of what has always been an important part of the Red Cross: an energetic and effective fundraiser for disaster relief efforts of all kinds. Beyond that, I’m stymied.

The blackboard has a carefully written mock-up of a telegram appealing for contributions from employees toward a ten-million-dollar campaign for flood relief. Judging by the time clock and the visible pipes, this photo may have been taken in the basement of a business with many employees. But it stretches the imagination that the employees would actually be invited to contribute, with such an enormous goal and with no specific flood information. So I’m left to think this is a generic display to provide ideas for fundraising communication. All the same, there’s no evidence of an audience who the display could be meant for.

(To add to the mystery, I did find reference to an actual Hills Brothers Company at 64 Irving St., but it was from the year 1900. In the 1930s I couldn’t find a Hills Brothers at all, and there was no Irving Street at all, just an Irving Place.)


Another lineup: Kids open wide and say aahhh, June 26, 1947

Back on June 22 I displayed a picture – under the theme of “Small People in Pairs” – of kids leaving on a bus for a summer sleepaway camp in the country. The camp was sponsored by the TB Association and was a way of providing a healthful environment for children vulnerable to TB because of their living conditions.

Before they were cleared to leave on the day of the trip, the children all had their throats examined to be sure there was nothing brewing down there that could be passed around at camp. This was a careful step to prevent an unwelcome illness in a summer designed for health.


Traveling clinic: TB Association’s “Healthmobile,” undated

To maximize its impact, the Brooklyn TB and Health Association realized that bringing information, consultation and X-rays to the community was better than waiting for the community to come to them. I don’t have the specifics on what traveled in this converted bus, but it certainly included information and consultation and may also have had portable X-ray capability.

There was a celebrity on hand to help attract publicity to the Healthmobile and its accompanying exhibit. Hard as it is for me to believe — and for you, probably — the woman in the group shown here was Madame Elsa Schiaparelli, renowned Italian fashion designer, especially prolific during the 1920s and 30s. The envelope with the negatives is clearly marked “Mme. Schiaparelli.” Using another image I have with a clear view of the woman’s face, I compared it to an online picture from 1937, and sure enough! I have no information about why Schiaparelli was at this exhibit; perhaps she had some personal experience with tuberculosis. But I’d bet her presence is why the Brooklyn TB Association had my father cover the event.

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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