Brooklyn Bird Watch: March 24

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Today Brooklyn Bird Watch returns to the Eagle with a photo of the Killdeer, another excellent Heather Wolf photo shot in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Killdeer is considered a shorebird and is part of the family of birds called “Plovers,” described by the National Audubon Society as short-billed gregarious wading birds, typically found along shorelines and sometimes they frequent grasslands, tundra, and even mountains.

Killdeers have two thick black bands across their white chest feathers, with the top band laying sort of like a necklace. Their dark brown eyes have small bright orange circles around them. Their plumage, from the back of the neck all the way to the tail, is a mocha color with slight variations of light and dark. They have long wings and tails, short necks, straight bills, and moderately long legs.

The Killdeer moves swiftly on the ground, one of those shorebirds you may have seen scampering along the water’s edge getting out of the way of beach goers. These shorebirds can be just as comfortable inland, far away from the water’s edge. They have been known to nest on roofs and lawns. They often just lay their eggs on the ground where the beige and dark spotted eggs will be effectively camouflaged.

As The Cornell Lab of Ornithology explains, the nest is created with a “scrape,” which is a shallow depression scratched in the ground where the ground slightly rises. The Killdeer will create several “scrapes” near the nest and sit on one of these “imaginary nests” in order to confuse a potential predator.

They also do something called the “broken-wing act” (aka “false brooding”) to lure predators from the nest. People have reported being fooled by this “broken-wing tactic,” thinking they might help the bird, contrary to what a predator will have in mind, only to discover the bird was faking it.

The Killdeer has a conservation rating of low concern and is considered a “successful” shorebird because of its fondness for and ability to adapt to modified human habitats, and a willingness to nest close to people. Being so close to people can be precarious for the bird but that hasn’t caused the Killdeer species to become endangered in any way.

What’s News, Breaking: Friday, February 17, 2023

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FORT GREENE AND BUSHWICK — Hydroponic farm classrooms will be coming to 20 schools around New York City, thanks to $800,000 in checks that U. S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-7th District) presented to benefit the Community Project Funding for NY Sun Works at three representative schools. The hydroponic farm classrooms will provide hands-on, project-based environmental science and climate education and access to fresh, nutritious produce for students and families. Rep. Velázquez presented checks at P.S. 67/ Charles A. Dorsey School in Fort Greene and P.S. 299 Thomas Warren Field School in Bushwick, both on Feb. 16, and a school in Queens the next day.

Hydroponic technology is indoor vertical farming that enables the cultivation of plants in an environment free of weather extremes. Hydroponic plants receive energy from LED lighting that is tailored specifically to the needs of the plants, and seeds are planted in soil-free growth mediums.

Congressmember Nydia Velázquez (left center, wearing blazer) presents a check to NY Sun Works that will make possible a hydroponic farm classroom at PS 67 in Fort Greene. Photo: NY Sun Works.


Congressmember Nydia Velázquez (second from left, wearing blazer) presents a check to NY Sun Works that will make possible a hydroponic farm classroom at PS 299 in Bushwick. Photo: NY Sun Works.



CITYWIDE — The NYC Department of Environmental Protection is running an awareness campaign to stop residents from flushing “flushable wipes” down the toilet or pouring cooking oil down the drain. “Trash It. Don’t Flush It,” (in the Community Board 11 newsletter) which explains the dangers that the synergistic combining of “fatbergs” can wreak on sewer systems, instructs residents instead to throw flushable wet wipes in the trash; and to pour used cooking oil into a container, label it accordingly, and place it with the regular garbage pickup.

The term “fatberg” combines the words “fat” and “iceberg” to describe the masses of congealed grease and personal hygiene products that have been found lingering in sewers around the world. Some municipalities around the U.S. offer recycling of used cooking grease.



NEW UTRECHT — He may be a day late for his birthday, but Founding Father George Washington will return to New Utrecht next Thursday. Friends of Historic New Utrecht announced a special free performance with Washington portrayer Michael Grillo, on Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p,m. The New Utrecht Reformed Church parish house on 18th Avenue is hosting the event.

Washington’s birthday was traditionally observed on Feb. 22 until the creation of Presidents’ Day, which marks both Washington’s and Lincoln’s days of birth and which falls on the third Monday in February.



CITYWIDE — Public Advocate Jumaane Williams echoed other city officials in his praise of Friday’s tentative labor agreement between the city and the union District Council 37, particularly on the point of workplace flexibility. Calling the agreement “one which reflects the values and priorities of working people in and employed by our city,” Public Advocate Williams said, “I assume that this pilot program will determine what so many private sector companies, as well as our own office, have long known – that flexible hybrid and remote work options are not only feasible but necessary, both to recruit and retain talent and to provide invaluable work-life balance and support for employees.”

Williams added, “I hope that this agreement, if ratified, sets a path and a standard, a starting point for the rest of the city’s unionized workforce that recognizes the benefits of and need for a flexible new approach to modern, inclusive workplaces.”



CENTRAL BROOKLYN — U.S. Rep Yvette D. Clarke (D-9th District) on Friday, February 17 introduced the Health Center Community Transformation Hub Act, legislation that will authorize specialized grants to community health centers to implement community transformation hubs capable of addressing primary social determinants of health, including access to transportation, food security, economic security, education access and quality. Community Health Centers act as hyper-local hubs that provide consumer-driven comprehensive care, screening for social risk factors and working to improve clinical care and quality of life for their communities.

According to Uniform Data System data, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funded CHCs served more than 30 million patients in 2021, a 43% increase over the past decade.



CITYWIDE — City Comptroller Brad Lander is praising Friday’s tentative labor agreement with City Hall and District Council 37, which is New York’s largest public employees’ union. “Today’s agreement between the City of New York and District Council 37 brings welcome clarity about future labor costs as we enter budget season. My office looks forward to analyzing the implications of today’s agreement for the City’s budget, as well as efforts to retain and hire staff in critical positions,” Lander said.

Mentioning that his own office recently finalized hybrid work policies after a successful hybrid model, Lander is “pleased that the agreement includes a path forward to expand remote and flexible work options for employees, as well as targeted salary adjustments for hard-to-recruit positions, both recommendations included in our office’s ‘Title Vacant’ report in December on filling critical workforce vacancies in City government.”



CENTRAL BROOKLYN — Legislation calling for the exoneration of Marcus Garvey from his mail fraud conviction and identifying him as a champion for the liberation of people of African descent was introduced in Congress on Friday, Feb. 17, with First Vice-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-09/central Brooklyn) who, like Garvey, immigrated from Jamaica; and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) leading the cause. Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born Black nationalist and leader of the Pan-Africanism movement that sought to unify and connect people of African descent worldwide, was in the United States a noted civil rights activist, albeit controversial among some Blacks who were suspicious of his alleged meetings with the Ku Klux Klan and other groups.

J. Edgar Hoover, who in 1922 was head of the then-named Bureau of Investigation, led the charges against Garvey. The resolution introduced on Friday also calls for President Biden to take necessary action toward clearing his name.



RED HOOK — Mixed-media artist Demarcus McGaughey will hold an Artist Talk on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. at Ti Art Studios in Red Hook on his new series “Kindred,” which honors the ancestry of Black Americans while acknowledging the cultural contribution of his family beyond enslavement. For “Kindred,” McGaughey used paper collage, inherited fabrics that belonged to the artist’s grandmother, acrylic, resin, family photo albums, boxes of snapshots and generations of weathered tales to create art documenting his history and culture, in the hope that viewers “will see you and your family in his.”

“Kindred” will be on display in the Sweet Lorraine Gallery at Ti Art Studios from Feb. 4 through Feb. 26.

Pieces from Demarcus McGaughey’s new exhibition, “Kindred.”



WESTCHESTER — Two aerospace companies completed a successful test flight of a new electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft in White Plains on Tuesday, reports Bloomberg, in a milestone that could represent a quieter future for New Yorkers tired of helicopter noise. The new aircraft, which ascends vertically like a helicopter but flies like a plane, is reportedly only one-tenth as loud as traditional helicopters, which could help it beat proposed legislation banning helicopter flights over NYC, while providing an alternative form of transit to well-heeled commuters fed up with city traffic.

 The challenge for the two companies, air transport operator Blade Air Mobility and builder Beta Technologies, will be in obtaining regulatory permission for the craft and in building a network of electric charging stations to support flights.



BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Borough President Antonio Reynoso, along with the Human Resources Administration, will host the opening session of his new community resource information series at the new Brooklyn Heights Library on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 6 p.m., which will serve to connect Brooklynites with available resources and support. The first session will discuss cash assistance, employment services, child support services and homelessness prevention, among other topics; and will also involve local nonprofits tabling to reach out to residents.

“Resources are no good if no one knows they’re there or if they’re too hard to access… This upcoming session with HRA/DSS will be the perfect start of our new series connecting people with support,” said Reynoso in a press release.



NATIONWIDE — A new study published in The Lancet on Thursday showed that people infected with COVID-19 acquire strong immunity to reinfections, reports NBC News, with the risk of hospitalization from reinfections falling by 88% in the ten months after initial sickness. Experts cautioned, however, that natural immunity in people infected with early COVID variants did not protect as much against the Omicron variant, with reinfection protection falling to only 36% by the tenth month after, and that mRNA vaccines are still the optimal choice.

“The problem of saying ‘I’m gonna get infected to get immunity’ is you might be one of those people who ends up in the hospital or dies. Why would you take the risk when you can get immunity through vaccination quite safely?” senior study author Dr. Christopher Murray told NBC.



CITYWIDE — A new report from StreetEasy showed that inquiries on its listings jumped more than 21 percent between December and January of this year, following a sharp reduction in mortgage rates that saw the average NYC buyer’s budget increase by $83,000. The company says that January is usually a hot month for home sales, but that this year’s jump in inquiries is close to the strongest they’ve seen, behind only January of 2022.

Although real estate markets have calmed since peaking during the pandemic, demand still remains strong in Brooklyn, partially due to low inventory.



NATIONWIDE — Automaker Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia have been forced to issue a new, free software update for more than 8 million vehicles with traditional key ignitions following the exposure of a critical security flaw that has led to the thefts of thousands of their cars, spurred on by the viral TikTok “Kia challenge,” in which people filmed themselves using the exploit to break into the cars and take them on joyrides. The Verge reports that beginning next week, car owners will be able to bring certain models to dealerships and have technicians install a software update that will modify the cars to only start when unlocked with the key fob, in addition to extending the cars’ alarm durations from 30 seconds to one minute.

Hyundai owners can enter their VIN on Hyundai’s new anti-theft website to find out when the update might be available for their specific make and model, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges owners of these vehicles to contact Hyundai (toll-free at 800-633-5151) or Kia (toll-free at 800-333-4542) for further information on the free update.



 BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The Voices in the Heights concert series at the First Unitarian Congregational Society’s McKinney Chapel is set to kick off its 2023 season this weekend with performances from singer-songwriters Raquel Vidal and Kelly Lin Knott alongside folk band Youth in a Roman Field. The musicians offer something for everyone – Vidal’s songs are described as dark, velvety and cinematic and Lin Knott’s as upbeat and irreverent; while Youth in a Roman Field, featuring fiddler Claire Wellin, delivers surrealist, progressive folk music.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 and can also be viewed live online; tickets are pay-what-you-want in advance or $20 at the door and can be purchased on Voices in the Heights’ website.



 WASHINGTON — Amid heightened focus on airborne national security risks, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Marco Rubio are leading a bipartisan push for full funding of their Unidentified Aerial Phenomena office, which was created in 2022 to work with the Department of Defense and the intelligence community to investigate UAP sightings and concerns, and to provide Congress with briefings and reports on UAPs. Current funding falls short of what the office needs to fulfill its mission and “maintain American air supremacy,” according to a letter sent from the senators to the DOD and the Deputy Director of National Intelligence.

This push comes following weeks of concern over the discovery of several apparent balloons floating high above the North American continent, at least one of which was found to be carrying Chinese surveillance equipment.



CITYWIDE — The City of New York has reached a tentative five-plus year contract agreement with District Council 37 (DC 37) — NYC’s largest public employee union — on Friday, Feb. 17, the first major one under Mayor Eric Adams’ administration. This agreement, which will cover nearly 90,000 municipal employees — or one-fourth of the city’s total unionized workforce — is retroactive, from May 26, 2021 and expiring Nov. 6, 2026, and includes wage increases of 3% for each of the first four years of the contract, and 3.25% in the final year and includes a lump sum ratification bonus for all DC 37 members.

Also, part of the agreement which the union must first ratify, are a major investment in a child care trust fund established and administered by DC 37, dedicated funding for improved retention and recruitment efforts, and a committee to explore flexible work options — including remote work.



CITYWIDE — A group of elected officials and family advocates joined forces with Councilmember Alexa Avilés (D-38/Red Hook to Dyker Heights) to introduce City Council Resolution in support of the New York Working Families’ Tax Credit (Gounardes/Cooney S277, Hevesi, A4022). The New York Working Families’ Tax Credit, which State Senators Andrew Gounardes (D-22) and Jeremy Cooney (D-Rochester) and Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens) will streamline the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Empire State Child Tax Credit (CTC) to give increased support to families with children under 18, giving families a larger credit, delivered every three months to better keep up with real-time needs, and expanding eligibility to all kids — ending the exclusion of the youngest New Yorkers under current law.

The legislation addresses the federal government’s failure to renew the successfully expanded child tax credit, which lifted 2.9 million families from poverty.



GRAND ARMY PLAZA — The Brooklyn Public Library on Thursday was presented with two Anthem Awards for its programs to fight literary censorship. The BPL’s Books Unbanned initiative, a program to provide young people free and easy access to books amid an alarming rise in censorship, won top honors in the national awareness campaign category. And the Library’s flagship podcast, titled Borrowed, won bronze in the audio category.

The Brooklyn Public Library was selected from nearly 2,000 entries in 43 countries worldwide for this award, which recognizes individuals and organizations who are sparking social good.



DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Conversations about Artificial Intelligence are taking place in the academic field, with NYU Tandon School of Engineering professors and researchers being key leaders in bringing ChatGPT and AI into the everyday conversation through webinars and news media interviews. Among them are Brendan Dolan-Gavitt (Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering), who recently gave a talk during a NYC Media webinar on the impact of education and workforce development; Siddharth Garg (Institute Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering) at NYU Tandon, who spoke with NBC about security implications for ChatGPT and code; Yann LeCun, (Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering), who discussed ChatGPT’s novel launch of language models into popular discourse — rather than a revolutionary innovation of the technology itself.

Moreover, and Chinmay Hegde (Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering) spoke with the New York Post about Artificial Intelligence’s impact on jobs.



CADMAN PLAZA — Half Moon Sword will present its 37th annual New York Sword Dance Festival on Feb. 18 and 19, featuring nine performing troupes from across the northeastern U.S. in an exciting weekend of English-style sword dancing exhibitions and live folk music. Sword dancing is a winter tradition with ancient roots that is practiced in the farming and coal-mining regions of northern England, where the annual visit of the local sword dancers to the village homes was thought to guarantee good luck for the year.

The free-to-attend festival’s Brooklyn schedule includes Saturday performances at 1:30 p.m. at the Brooklyn Heights Library and at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the Pacific Library; and, Sunday performances at 12:30 p.m. at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, 12:45 p.m. at the Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope and a grand finale at 2:30 p.m. at the Brooklyn Waldorf School in Clinton Hill.



CADMAN PLAZA — Sculptor Jean Shin will debut her latest work, “Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” at Brooklyn Heights Library later this month, marking the official completion of the new library. “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” takes the form of a gravity-defying inverted tree whose contours form a map of Brooklyn, with each leaf representing a zip code and a neighborhood with a local BPL branch.

The sculpture, constructed of reused denim and electronics collected by the artist from librarians and library patrons, renders the data of the last 125 years of BPL book-borrowing into a living record; each leaf is inscribed with the title of the most circulated book in the year that its respective branch opened.

Concept art of “Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” by Jean Shin. Photo: Jean Shin.



DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The two men accused of murdering hip-hop legend Jason Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay of the group Run-DMC, in 2002 face a hearing in federal court on Thursday afternoon, as prosecutors push for an expedited trial following the death of a witness in the case and allegations of witness intimidation. Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington were originally set to stand trial this month for the murder, thought to be related to a narcotics deal gone bad, but a judge in January pushed back the start date to January of 2024.

Mizell performed as the DJ of the legendary ‘80s hip-hop group Run-DMC, credited with breaking hip-hop and rap into the mainstream and serving as an inspiration for countless later artists.



BROWNSVILLE — The Community Preservation Corporation, a nonprofit finance company, on Wednesday announced together with partner Proto Property Services the $100 million refinance of Riverdale Osborne Towers, a 525-unit affordable housing complex in Brownsville that also contains a preschool and the only full-service grocery store in the area, according to a press release from the companies. This new refinancing will ensure that the property remains financially stable, preserving the long-term affordability of all 525 homes, as well as funding renovations to modernize the tenants’ kitchens and bathrooms.

The two development partners were selected by Catholic Charities to manage the complex in 2007, and have since conducted a $39 million tenant-in-place renovation of the units, as well as constructing a new central lobby and undertaking necessary repairs to the building’s nonfunctioning elevators and other systems.



BROOKLYN — Brooklyn’s rental market is reaching new heights, reports the New York Post, with record amounts of ultra-luxury properties hitting the market and average rents across the borough skyrocketing. Data from Corcoran indicate that the average rent in Brooklyn for January 2023 was $4,220 a month, up more than 30% from January of last year, and thought to be driven by high asking prices in new luxury buildings.

“Brooklyn is having its moment in the luxury sun. It’s become a destination with renters moving in from the Lower East Side, the Village and Chelsea, and scooping up luxury properties,” local real estate agent David Chang told the Post.



CITYWIDE — New York City lacks needed guidelines and policies for agencies’ use of artificial intelligence (AI), leaving it vulnerable to misguided, inaccurate or biased outcomes in several programs that can directly impact New Yorkers’ lives, according to an audit released on Thursday from New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The audit, which examined governance policies on AI use at four agencies: the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the Department of Education (DOE), the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the Department of Buildings (DOB), found significant shortfalls in oversight and risk assessment of artificial intelligence.

Just last year, the Mayor’s Executive Order 3 established the Office of Technology and Innovation and charged it with oversight and governance of AI, which in the previous administration had been under an Algorithm Management and Policy Officer; that work had been left unfinished as well, DiNapoli’s audit found.



CITYWIDE — The City Council has introduced a resolution that codifies and supports a statewide “Good Cause” eviction law, and received immediate praise from The Legal Aid Society for doing so. This budget-neutral legislation, if passed, would equip tenants in unregulated units with basic protections to defend them against unwarranted evictions and rent increases. City Councilmembers Sandy Nurse (D-37/Bushwick, East New York) and Gale Brewer of Manhattan sponsored the legislation, which would also cap rent increases at 3% or 1.5% of the consumer price index, whichever is higher, would shield tenants from displacement and allow them to advocate for repairs without the fear of retaliation.

The Legal Aid Society last month released an analysis of city data revealing that, since the statewide eviction moratorium lapsed last year, executed evictions in New York City have increased almost every month.



STATEWIDE — Governor Hochul on Wednesday announced awards of more than $658 million in state funding for a wide variety of health care projects across New York state, including more than $58 million for 11 different providers in Brooklyn. Notable awards include $15 million to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center to upgrade a site to focus on diabetes and obesity care, $12 million to ODA Primary Health Care Network to construct a new Health Center to expand care in an underserved area, and $5 million to Woodhull Medical Center to upgrade its emergency room.

The funding was awarded under the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program, which has so far awarded nearly $1.68 billion in total, with an additional $1.15 billion still set to be awarded later this year, and a further $1 billion requested in the governor’s 2024 budget plan.



MANHATTAN — An NYU study begun in 2019 of nearly 3,000 NYC elementary school kids found that a single application of a liquid called silver diamine fluoride to the teeth worked to prevent 80% of new cavities from forming and to halt the worsening of 50% of existing cavities — delivering results comparable to dental sealants, the current standard of care for kids’ teeth, but with a significantly simpler and cheaper application process. The study was begun shortly before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and resumed two years later when researchers were allowed to return to the participating schools and examine the results of the treatment on the teeth.

“I know of no other dental preventive intervention that had this great a beneficial impact across the pandemic,” said Richard Niederman, professor at NYU College of Dentistry and senior author of the study.

How an American magazine helped create one of the UK’s favorite Christmas Carols

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In 1906, a new carol appeared in “The English Hymnal,” an influential collection of British church music. With words by British poet Christina Rossetti, set to a tune by composer Gustav Holst, it became one of Britain’s most beloved Christmas songs. Now known as “In the Bleak Midwinter,” it was voted the “greatest carol of all time” in a 2008 BBC survey of choral experts.

“In the Bleak Midwinter” began life as a poem, which Rossetti simply titled “A Christmas Carol.” When the hymnal paired her words with music, the poem took on a new identity in song – a phenomenon documented by literature researcher Emily McConkey. But it also became embedded into popular culture in nonmusical forms. “A Christmas Carol,” or parts of it, has appeared on Christmas cards, ornaments, tea towels, mugs and other household items. It has inspired mystery novels and, more recently, became a recurring motif in the British television series “Peaky Blinders.”

As a scholar of Rossetti, I’ve long been fascinated by the afterlife of her poems in music. The Christina Rossetti in Music project, a database of musical adaptations that incorporates my work, now lists 185 versions of “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

But before it could be set to music, “A Christmas Carol” had to make its way into print as a poem – and that wasn’t so easy. Though written by one of Britain’s mostly highly regarded poets, the poem failed to make its mark on British readers until Holst set it to music. Instead, it found its first, and most enthusiastic, audience in the United States.

Victorian music

“A Christmas Carol” circulated during a carol revival in the United Kingdom. In December 1867, shortly before Rossetti started offering her poem to British magazine publishers, the century’s most influential collection of carols was published.

Previously considered a folk tradition – and not considered fit for worship, given the revelry they were associated with and the mix of sacred and secular lyrics – carols were coming into vogue. And increasingly, they were finding their way into church.

At a time when women could not be ordained as preachers, writing carols and more formal hymns was a rare opportunity for women to shape the church. Barred from the pulpit themselves, female writers spoke from the pews, including Sarah Flower Adams – she wrote “Nearer, my God, to Thee” – and Cecil Frances Alexander, author of the beloved carol “Once in Royal David’s City.”


Rossetti, a devout Anglican and the author of a number of devotional poems, was among them. Although 21st-century readers may know her primarily through her poem “Goblin Market,” Rossetti’s religious poetry was well known to her contemporaries. By the 1870s, several of her poems had been reprinted in British religious anthologies and hymnals.

Light reflects from a Christmas tree made of tiny lights into the Soldiers and Sailors arch at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006.
Photo: Kathy Willens/AP

A bleak beginning

“A Christmas Carol” opens with a vivid description of the harsh physical and spiritual landscape into which Jesus was born:

In the bleak mid-winter,

Frosty wind made moan;

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone

But it failed to impress George Grove, the new editor of Macmillan’s Magazine at the time. According to scholar Simon Humphries, in 1868 Rossetti sent “A Christmas Carol” to the British magazine, which had previously published her poetry. In what might now be regarded as one of the worst editorial decisions of the century, Grove rejected her submission.

Rossetti eventually placed “A Christmas Carol” in another British journal, The People’s Magazine, in December 1873. But as luck would have it, that was the very last issue, and the poem was relegated to half a page, sandwiched between an essay on “The Life and Habits of Wild Animals” and a now-forgotten poem titled “The Red Cross Knight.” “A Christmas Carol” was all but ignored in the U.K. for over a decade.

The American reception

Meanwhile, a very different scenario was playing out in the U.S. In November 1871, Scribner’s Monthly dropped a hint about its Christmas issue, which would include a “little poem … sweet and clear and musical.” “A Christmas Carol” debuted two months later.

Founded in 1870, Scribner’s Monthly sought to publish “the best authors,” making their work accessible and attractive to a mass audience through illustrations. The magazine paired Rossetti’s poem with a striking half-page illustration of the nativity by the well-known British illustrator John Leighton.

Scribner’s dramatic presentation of Rossetti’s poem ensured that it would be noticed. It was reprinted in anthologies and newspapers, ultimately making The New York Times on Dec. 25, 1892.

The first mass merchandising of Rossetti’s poem also occurred in America. In 1880, an artist named Anne Morse incorporated its first and last stanzas into her prize-winning design for a Christmas card contest held by publisher Louis Prang, who popularized the tradition of sending Christmas cards in the U.S. The company published Morse’s card, distributing Rossetti’s words to homes across the country.

A mystery solved

Passersby join a choir from the Norwegian Embassy to sing carols around the sixty foot Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, London, December 20, 1948.
Photo: Associated Press

By the mid-1880s, however, “A Christmas Carol” was finally gaining traction in Britain. In 1885, it was included in a holiday-themed anthology titled “A Christmas Garland.” The Illustrated London News named Rosetti’s poem the best modern carol in the collection. Even more visibility came when “A Christmas Carol” was chosen for a collection of religious poetry compiled by influential editor Francis Palgrave in 1889.

In 2006, I discovered a letter in which Rossetti claimed not to have known about Scribner’s publication of “A Christmas Carol”: “I do not know how it happened,” she wrote, remembering only that the poem had come out in The People’s Magazine. At the time, I was unable to locate “A Christmas Carol” in The People’s Magazine, and assumed Rossetti’s memory was faulty. It wasn’t, as the long-sought copy of the 1873 issue now perched on my desk proves.

But Rossetti’s forgetting about Scribner’s Monthly – unaware of the role it played in bringing her work to American readers, and ultimately British ones too – is perhaps the strangest twist in the story of the “little poem” that, unbeknownst to her, would become her most popular work.

Maura Ives is a professor of English at Texas A&M University