Brooklyn Boro

Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Eight photos from the ‘Vehicles’ collection

September 15, 2020 Phil Kaufman

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 display will be a little different than any of the previous ones. As you can see, the category is “Vehicles,” and judging by the one image you just saw, the vehicles will not be run-of-the-mill passenger cars.

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

Even though my father rarely took pictures of just vehicles, and only then because they were unusual or noteworthy for some reason, cars turn up often his photos. Using the simple definition of “vehicle” — a thing used for transporting people or goods, especially on land — I realized I had dozens of images that included them.

Most of the time those images were buried in a photo that was highlighting something else. So, I had to crop and zoom some images to make the vehicle the prominent item. Sometimes the resulting picture lost some clarity and will appear grainy. A few of the pictures this week have been displayed before, with the focus on something else.

As suggested above, I avoided routine passenger cars. There is a group, however, that I will display later this week that I call “Cars.” It shows normal cars being used for non-routine purposes. The other kinds of vehicles featured later in the week will be commercial trucks, other especially heavy vehicles and, finally, fire-specific vehicles.

Even for the non-car-lovers out there, I hope you find these photos fun to look at.

Today’s photos:


Today’s pictures all feature vehicles that are heavy themselves or are handling heavy loads – or both. Again, a couple of them have been shown before, but not as close-up subjects on their own.

Quite a run: Heavy load for over half a century, June 2, 1939

The sign in front says it all: “My Last Trip After 51 Years of Service.” James Harrison began pulling steel and passengers above Brooklyn streets in 1888. That’s the year this Fulton Street line opened, though we can’t be sure that Mr. Harris worked that route his entire career.


Classic grainy NY photo, unidentified and undated

I’m almost glad this photo had to be blown up so much that it became grainy. Its subject has the look of a very early trolley that way. Though undated, this has to be one of my father’s earlier shots, mid-1930s. It would be nice if I could say this was Fulton Street, under Mr. Harrison’s el train route. Can anyone out there figure out the location?


A different train: Chinatown parade, June 6, 1955

As mentioned yesterday, here’s one more scene from a Chinatown parade. This multi-car street train was sponsored by Schaefer Brewing – a fixture in New York, including Brooklyn, from when it was founded in 1842 until it was bought by Stroh’s in 1981. Schaefer sponsored many things in NY, including billboards on the outfield wall and scoreboard at Ebbets Field.


One right-side-up, one up-side-down: Floyd Bennett Field (top), October 29, 1935; unidentified, undated (bottom)

The top photo shows a Ford Tri-Motor Seaplane being overhauled in preparation for work as an air-taxi and air-mail shuttle to Wall Street. For the bottom photo, I have no information at all. How the plane managed to get upside down like that with so little apparent damage is only part of the mystery.


Heavy machinery, heavy load: Infrastructure project, undated

This is one of the pictures that was posted before (August 4) as a construction scene. But zooming in closer helps appreciate the work that was needed to install large water aqueducts for miles under the streets of a city.


Destruction, not construction: Sixth Avenue El comes down, 1939

Another visit to Manhattan. My father must have spent a whole day documenting the removal of just a block or two of the Sixth Avenue El. I have a couple of dozen photos. This was one of the few that fit most of one of the giant cranes, and its cargo (upper right), into a single frame. The guys standing underneath the beams as they are lowered obviously trust the machine and its operator.


More than your average truckload: Brick house on the move, October 9, 1936

Here’s another scene that’s been posted before, on June 8. But those two photos didn’t get close, nor did either one show the truck maneuvering its cargo. This shot shows the truck responsible for moving the house, though I can’t tell if it’s coming or going. Must be a powerful engine under that little hood to move that much brick.

(By the way, the house was being moved from 430 Lincoln Rd., where a new school was planned, to Sterling Street and Old Clove Road, about four blocks away.)

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 20: Photos from the ‘Vehicles’ collection

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