Brooklyn Boro

Kaufman’s Brooklyn: 10 photos from the ‘Vehicles’ collection

September 16, 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 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.

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.

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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 are of cars, but not just any cars. Throughout my posts there have been many images that included old cars — pre-war models from the ’20s or ’30s. So, I don’t think there’s any need to show more of them, even enlarged. Better, I realized I had many shots of cars from the decade or so after the war that were interesting not because of age but because of a unique look or purpose. See if you agree.

Two sports, a couple of gents in a couple of MGs: Cedar Grove, NJ, undated

My father made a trip out to New Jersey to cover a performance that included a few stars – Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé among them – at the Meadowbrook in Cedar Grove. In the parking lot, Mel Tormé (left) and an unidentified co-performer apparently decided to bring their sports cars together for a photo-op.


Cute car, cute sign: Near entrance to Holland Tunnel, August 15, 1952

I guess it’s worth a big advertisement for Free Air and Water to prevent an unnecessary breakdown inside the tunnel. This was one of several shots that were part of a quiz, asking, “Where Was I?, Scenes around NY.”


Customer service: Best & Co., undated

You don’t see service like this anymore. Best & Co., a high-end department store, here at its prime location at 5th Avenue and 51st Street, provided chauffeured cars to drive customers and their bundles home. This encouraged them to keep shopping after they’d bought the one or two things they came for, without worrying about how to get everything back to their Manhattan homes. (It’s not clear what the spending threshold or the geographic limit was on this luxury.)


Police, up close and personal: Leading a parade, Bensonhurst, summer 1943

Police car, 1943 vintage. This one was on a ceremonial assignment, leading a parade (and keeping the peace, if necessary, I’m sure) near a war bond rally and a parade to the opening of a film at the nearby Kingsway Theater. (See June 11 post.)


Army, up close and personal: At the bond rally, summer 1943

This image was posted just last week (September 10), but with the army vehicles not very visible. I thought one would be worth a closer look.


Squeaky clean: Delivery vehicle? undated

This negative seems as sharp and clear as the day it was developed, and the car seems as shiny and clean as the day it was painted. I love this shot and hate that the negative and this image might outlive Sears.


Unlikely combination: taxi and sports car, undated

Small and almost out of the frame of a skyline shot taken from Queens in the late ’30s, these two cars double-parked together caught my eye.


Here’s a head-scratcher: I don’t think they uncovered it down there, 9/25/59

I just had to show all three images of this rather bizarre situation. How the car got down there and how they got it out are both puzzling. I don’t know if any people were hurt, but it looks like the car survived pretty well, even though this foundation is pretty deep. Unless there’s another plausible explanation apparent from a different perspective in this deep hole, I have to assume the car crashed down there somehow. If so, why isn’t it more bashed in?

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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