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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: 14 photos from the ‘Variety’ collection

October 5, 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:

I’ll continue this week with a display similar to last week’s. Instead of focusing on a single theme for the whole week, each day has its own focus.

Again, variety is the spice of life.

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Today’s photos:

And I’ll start with the most variety of all. Today’s pictures are really mixed. Most are in groups of two, three or four with something in common. But there are also a couple of singles. I think they’re all interesting to look at and contemplate.

75th Anniversary: Often criticized but indispensable, United Nations Secretariat Building, maintenance work, Sept. 30, 1957

Talk about a job where it’s impossible to please everyone! That’s inevitable, but the institution has struggled, survived and, I believe, made the world a much better and safer place than it would have been otherwise.

I’m not sure who the client was, but my father had the task of documenting maintenance work being done on the building – mostly repointing the mortar, as far as I can tell from the photos. There are lots of pictures clearly showing workers with mortar and trowel. But my father didn’t miss the opportunity to get shots with far more beauty.


Cows in Brooklyn? Apparently so, undated

I have enough information to know that both of these are Brooklyn photos, and the one with the boys is associated with the Flatbush Boys Club (see sign on left) and is no later than about 1936. But other than that, I can’t add much. The Boys Club must have had animal husbandry or a related project (or ongoing program), but that’s just a guess.


Exterior, interior: Murphy’s and Oetjen’s, Feb. 1940, Jan. 1942

Murphy’s, on Fulton Street, looks like a typical neighborhood bar. Oetjen’s, on Church Avenue, near Flatbush Avenue, is remembered as a “landmark of Flatbush” and you can find images of its postcards and menus for sale online. The interior views show that the two establishments didn’t have much in common …

… Except that they both served alcohol. And that required a liquor license, which had to be periodically renewed. Each renewal application was required to have an exterior and interior photo included. I don’t know how much business my father did for these license renewals, but it wasn’t just a one-time thing, since these two are a year apart on the calendar and light years apart in style, prices and (probably) clientele.


Suitcases and briefcases, travelers and commuters: Ticket for New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, undated, 1960s?

A simple scene becomes a lovely image.


What is he standing on and why? Worker at demolition site, 1939

He’s not standing on his ladder, and he’s not standing on the corner of the roof in the background (even though it’s a great optical illusion). The platform he’s on isn’t much more than a toehold, and it looks a bit tricky to get to and from the ladder. I wonder what he’s reaching up for, and whether it’s worth the risk.


Architectural treasures: St. Martin’s (top) and St. Luke’s (middle and bottom) churches, Harlem, 4/10/57 and 7/30/58

St. Martin’s Episcopal Church is on Lenox Avenue and West 122 Street. According to its website, the Church is “thought by many to be the finest example of Romanesque Revival architecture in New York City” and “has long been an important hub of the African-American community.”

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church is on West 141 Street and Convent Avenue. With “its classic red brownstone facade and broad porch [facing] Convent Avenue” and “side elevation of multiple arcades on 141st Street,” it is “one of the most powerful architectural statements in New York” according to architectural historian Andrew Dolkart.

Like the UN building at the beginning of today’s photos, and at essentially the same time, these church buildings were undergoing exterior maintenance. You can see workers in the top photo, at St. Martin’s. But, though I have many images clearly showing the men repointing the bricks, these images of St. Luke’s were taken to display the building. Again, like the UN, I think my father enjoyed capturing the beauty more than recording the labor.

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 collections 22 and 23: Photos from the ‘Variety’ collection

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