Brooklyn and the Navy Armed Guard | Episode 247

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Celebrate Navy Day with a discussion of one of the least-known units of World War II, the Navy Armed Guard. Serving in the U-boat-infested waters of the Atlantic, these sailors served in small detachments aboard merchant ships manning the deck guns. This virtual program will be hosted from the Sunset Park waterfront, where many sailors departed from the docks of the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Bush Terminal, and where the largest Armed Guard Center in the country was located, the Second Battalion Naval Militia Armory that once stood on 1st Avenue and 52nd Street. We will discuss the creation and evolution of the service during World War II, listen to oral histories of Armed Guard sailors, and visit one of the few memorials to the sacrifices of these brave men.

Photo Credit: Official US Navy photograph, taken by Clarence F. Korker

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The Tideshift Project: Session 1 with the Waterfront Museum | Virtual Program

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The Waterfront Museum presents The Tideshift Project, an oral history collecting event presented live aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Railroad No. 79 wooden lighterage barge moored in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This three-part series will record stories from waterfront workers who have handled freight in and near Red Hook, and from their descendants. This first event featured interviews with waterfront workers who lived and worked through the transition to containerization, including James McNamara, Robert Hansen, and Gregory “Buddy” Cox in conversation with Stefan D-W.

These are free events and donations to the Waterfront Museum are welcome. The Tideshift Project was funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Where is Pete Panto? Corruption and Crusaders on NYC’s Waterfront | Episode 202

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New York City’s working waterfront has been widely associated with crime and corruption at least since On The Waterfront hit movie screens in 1954, but the story goes back further. Nathan Ward, author of Dark Harbor: The War for the New York Waterfront and CUNY scholar Joseph Sciorra join us to reveal the story of Pete Panto, a longshoreman who took a stand against the mob bosses. Though Panto paid the ultimate price, his death initiated a long struggle toward waterfront reform.

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Exploring the Morris Canal with the Canal Society of New Jersey | Episode 172

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For almost a century, New Jersey’s Morris Canal fueled New York City with anthracite coal from northeast Pennsylvania, but now for nearly another century, the abandoned canal has been all but obliterated from the landscape. Join us as Tim Roth of the Canal Society of New Jersey helps uncover this lost canal, its innovative design, and its vital role in the history of New York City. Our discussion will also look at the lives of the people who worked that waterway, and current efforts to return its remnants to public view.

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Listening to WWII: Voices from the Brooklyn Navy Yard | Episode 159

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On the eve of Veterans Day, join us as we explore Brooklyn’s homefront during World War II through the experiences of those who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Center for Brooklyn History archivists Amy Lau and Mary Mann team up with Turnstile Tours’ Andrew Gustafson to lead us on an intimate journey that weaves together oral history clips from CBH’s Brooklyn Navy Yard collection, excerpts of letters to loved ones overseas, and photographs of the Yard and its workers. These first-hand stories, primarily from women and people of color, bring to life the WWII efforts of those who remained at home.

This program is presented by the Center for Brooklyn History of the Brooklyn Public Library.

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Voices of World War II: Brooklyn Navy Yard Oral Histories | Episode 124

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To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we are listening to the voices of men and women who lived through the war in Brooklyn. We will share a selection of the 100+ oral histories that make up the collection in the Brooklyn Navy Yard Archives to bring the city at war to life. Learn what it was like to be one of the first female shipworkers in 1942, or to face discrimination as a Black sailor in the segregated Navy, or to witness battered ships and sailors limp into the Yard from the war zone. Our team will also share our experiences recording oral histories with these remarkable people over the past 12 years.

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“Manhattan Beach”: The Brooklyn Navy Yard of World War II with Jennifer Egan | Episode 66

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Take a virtual tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in World War II with Jennifer Egan, author of the award-winning novel Manhattan Beach, and our own resident historian, Andrew Gustafson. We will highlight many of the sites featured in the novel and delve into the Jennifer’s research process, discuss the materials she used to bring the Yard of the 1940’s to life, and listen to selections of oral histories of real women war workers that inspired many of the characters and incidents in the book. Jennifer will also read excerpts from her book and answer questions about her remarkable work.

Brooklyn Historical Society logo with white text in block lettering with an image that looks like a sun

This program is presented with support from Brooklyn Historical Society.

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The History of NYC Public Markets, Part 2 | Episode 22

The first and second floors of the Essex Market with a historic neon sign from the Orchard Essex Meat Market

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Take a deep dive into the history of New York City’s public markets, which have their origins in a vast food distribution system set up by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in the 1930’s. Once encompassing 10 retail markets and nearly as many wholesale facilities, today many of the historic buildings of this era remain, and these markets continue to offer affordable space for food entrepreneurs and fresh, high-quality food for shoppers throughout New York City.

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Clayton Colefield and the Building of USS Missouri

Black and white photo of five naval officers standing on a large metal plate, one of them turning a long handle attached to a riveting machine.

They say a Navy ship has three birthdays: its keel-laying, its launching, and its commissioning. The World War II-era battleship USS Missouri has one more, its recommission in 1986 as part of President Reagan’s 600-ship Navy. But one person was witness to its first two birthdays, Brooklyn Navy Yard shipfitter Clayton Colefield, who sat for an oral history in 2009 with Sady Sullivan of the Brooklyn Historical Society.>> Continue reading

From Fulton to Constellation: The Worst Accidents in the History of the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Today marks the 57th anniversary of perhaps the darkest day in the history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. To commemorate the fire on board the USS Constellation, we are going to look back at some of the most notable and deadliest accidents in the history of the Yard.

Shipbuilding is a dangerous business (even today), and fatal accidents were frequent throughout industry in the nineteenth century. The scale, pace, and nature of the work in the Navy Yard made it particularly risky, as workers and sailors fell victim to hazards like falling from great heights, being struck by heavy loads, violent machinery, drowning, fires, and exploding munitions and equipment. Workplace safety began to improve around the time of World War I, and more concerted campaigns began during World War II, when safety was urged as an imperative of national security.>> Continue reading