Brooklyn Boro

Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Eight photos of ‘Public service organizations: special focus’

September 1, 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 photos display activities of service organizations that focused on specific constituencies and their unique needs. The organizations were privately funded and run, with minimal government support.

Again, I’m highlighting four organizations. The first is the Industrial Home for the Blind (IHB), an independent (later incorporated) organization that provided a full range of services to people who were blind or deaf-blind.

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

Working with the IHB, for a time in the mid- and late 1930s, was the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (AICP). The AICP supported the work of other charitable organizations in a variety of ways. Their work with the Home for the Blind in this period included help selling products and adding to the products available in special fundraising activities.

The joint efforts of these two groups were quite extensive. I’ll be featuring them for the first three days this week. On Thursday and Friday I’ll add a few images from two other groups: the Menorah Home for the Aged and the Brooklyn Hebrew Society of the Deaf. Rather than a different organization each day, I’ll show a different topic each day: products, skills, sales, activities and support.

Today’s photos:

Today’s photos show workers at the Industrial Home for the Blind as they learn and develop skills in creating various products. In some cases, it’s apparent what they’re making. All the workers are playing a role in producing goods that will help support the IHB. Unfortunately, my father left no explanation of what the specific activities or products are, so a fair amount of my commentary is speculative.

Needlework: Women working with cloth, spring 1936

The women in these pictures are apparently producing material to support the sale of goods produced by the blind. It seems that cloth is the output of the workshop in the first picture – though I admit that’s just a guess.  The woman in the second picture is surrounded by brooms, brushes, stuffed toys – products made by IHB workers – and may be wrapping them with the material stacked in front of her.


Three special skills, not the typical products, spring 1936

Here, three men are working on unusual tasks. Two of the tasks are (more or less) clear to me, the third is not. The first picture shows a blind man who has mastered the art of stringing a tennis racket. The second photo shows a man typing, apparently transcribing what he is hearing through headphones. Whether that transcription leads to a braille version or some other medium is hard to say.

The third scene is a mystery to me. The machine is a complex affair, with fan belts, perhaps levers or handles, and what looks like a drill below the operator’s right hand. The long items adjacent to his right hand seem to be targets of the drill – one already full of holes, the other about to get some. What the output is, I can’t guess. If anybody can provide a better explanation of what’s being done in this or any of the previous pictures, please add a comment below to help us all out.


No mystery here: standard items: mops and brooms, spring 1936

The first picture shows men working on long-handled mops. The other two are putting together stiff-bristle brooms. Several of the men are wearing glasses that don’t seem to be intended for protection. They could be visually impaired rather than totally blind. Or, they could be instructors, getting the brooms started for the “students” to complete.

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 18: Photos of ‘Public service organizations: special focus’

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment