Title: Brooklyniana, No. 7
Creator: Walt Whitman
Date: January 25, 1862
Publication information: Brooklyn Standard 25 January 1862: .
Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue. Gaps from damage to the original have been supplied by consulting Emory Holloway, ed. The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1921. pp. 249–253.
Whitman Archive ID: per.00223
Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Janel Cayer, Ashley Lawson, Liz McClurg, and Sarah Walker
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A Series of Local Articles, on Past and Present.
We will occupy this paper of our series with some remarks on the situation, advantages, healthiness, &c., of Brooklyn—and with a bird's eye view of its manufacturing industry. Probably, in both particulars, the very citizens that live in our midst pass on their way from year to year without giving a thought on the subject.
Our population is probably this day fully 300,000 persons—although the census summer before last puts the number considerably below that. To our personal knowledge, however, that census was taken in the most defective manner.1
It may not be generally known that our city is getting to have quite a world-wide reputation, and that it is not unfrequently specified, as a familiar name in the Old World, in the discussions there, in their literary periodicals. We noticed, for instance, in a leading article in the great London Times, in a number dated about a month since, that Tycoon of the European press alluded to the city of Brooklyn, to point one of its illustrations—as if the name and facts of the said city would be familiar enough to its readers through the British islands, and on the continent.
And now to our manufactures.
Few persons have any idea of the immense variety of manufactures, works, foundries, and other branches of useful art and trade carried on in the limits of our expansive and thriving city. For illustration, we will append a list of manufactures, (many of which we have at one time or another personally visited), and all of them in operation now in different parts of our city. It will, we are sure, be quite a curiosity to many of our readers:
ANNUAL MANUFACTURES AND PRODUCTS OF BROOKLYN, ACCORDING TO THE STATE CENSUS, 1855, (NOW LARGELY INCREASED, AND WITH NEW BRANCHES, PROBABLY DOUBLE.)
This is all that is given in the last State census.
But large as the foregoing list is, it leaves out unmentioned very many of the principal productive interests of Brooklyn, such as those giving employment to house-builders, the cartmen, drivers, City Railroad employees, &c., &c. There were in 1855 the number of 22,573 buildings in Brooklyn. Of these 511 were of stone, valued at $5,000,000; and 8,039 were of brick, valued at $40,000,000. The rest were, of course, wooden edifices, and were valued at $30,000,000.
Of the foregoing list, several points in connection may be here mentioned. The manufacturing of hats is put at far too low a figure. There is one establishment alone in the city that turned out, either then, or immediately afterward, probably twice or three times that amount of work—to say nothing of numerous other large hat factories. Of the Distilleries, one of the largest, when in full operation, absorbs 3000 bushels of grain per day. There are about ten rope-walks, employing from ten to fifteen hundred men and boys. There are from fifteen to twenty Breweries in the Eastern District, in the neighborhood of Bushwick; these are the sources of the mighty outpourings of ale and lager beer, refreshing the thirsty lovers of those liquids in hot or cold weather. There are eight or ten ship-yards at Greenpoint, employing from five to seven hundred men, when in operation. Brooklyn has the only plate-glass manufactory in the United States. The White Lead factory gives employment to two hundred and twenty-five men.3 Immense quantities of spirits are shipped direct from the Distilleries here to France (to return, we suppose, in the shape of pure French brandies, wines, &c.).
We can only hint at, without specifying, the immense amounts of capital employed here in the Bank, Insurance Offices, the Union Ferry Company,4 the Brooklyn City Railroad Company,5 the Central, the Long Island Railroad6 (capital of the latter $3,000,000), and the Atlantic Dock Improvements,7 the Gas Companies, and the immense and every way triumphant Brooklyn Water Works.8
Our Navy Yard also employs 3000 men, and turns out works to the annual amount of tens of millions of dollars.
And now a few words on our geographical situation, &c.
The topography of the city of Brooklyn is very fine. Indeed it is doubtful if there is a city in the world with a better situation for beauty, or for utilitarian purposes. As to its healthiness, it is well known. No wonder it took the eyes of the early Holland immigrants. It is hilly and elevated in its natural state—and these peculiarities, graded down somewhat by the municipal improvements, but still preserved in their essential particulars, give us a sight of unsurpassed advantage and charming scenery. With much greater attractions for residence than our neighboring island of New York, Brooklyn is steadily drawing hither the best portion of the business population of the great adjacent metropolis, who find here a superior place for dwelling. So that it is not at all improbable that, at the end of the century, we may have here a larger number of inhabitants than will be eventually within the limits of New York city.
We have now marked advantages for residents. There is the best quality and cheapest priced gas—the best water in the world—a prospect of moderate taxation—and, we will say, for our city authorities, elected year after year, that they will compare favorably with any of similar position in the United States. Much slang is always expended on city officials—but as to ours, they are generally men of probity and intelligence, and perform their duties to the public satisfaction.
Why then should not Brooklyn, in the experience of persons now living, become a city of a great million inhabitants? We have no doubt it will. We can not go over the list and description of our public institutions in this paper, although we intend to do so one of these days. We have not, in a modern city like Brooklyn, such marked specimens of magnificent architecture as the ancient or mediaeval cities presented, and many of whose ruins yet remain. For our architectural greatness consists in the hundreds and thousands of superb private dwellings, for the comfort and luxury of the great body of middle class people—a kind of architecture unknown until comparative late times, and no where known to such an extent as in Brooklyn, and the other first class cities of the New World.
Still, we have some public edifices creditable in a high degree. The City Hall is a handsome structure enough. Several of the churches are noble buildings, and the new Academy of Music9 is a sufficient success in an architectural point of view outside. But, after all, there are private rows of buildings in some of the choice streets of our city that transcend any single public edifice among us that we know of.
The Reservoirs of our Water Works, and the buildings connected with them, and some of the monuments in Greenwood Cemetery,10 are worthy of being specially mentioned before conclusion.
1. The 1860 census put Brooklyn's population at 266,661 inhabitants, making it the third–largest city in the United States. [back]
3. The Brooklyn White Lead Works, established in 1822, was the oldest white lead factory in the state of New York. [back]
4. The Union Ferry Company was established in 1851. Preceding its establishment, there had existed two associated companies, the first of which was established in 1839. [back]
5. The Brooklyn City Railroad Company was established in 1853. [back]
6. The Long Island Railroad was chartered in 1834. [back]
7. The Atlantic Dock Company was established in 1835. [back]
8. The Long Island Water Works Company was incorporated in 1853, then rechartered as the Brooklyn Water Company in 1855. The Brooklyn Water Company also incorporated several other water works in 1856. [back]
9. The Academy of Music was an opera house and theater that opened in 1853. Later, in his article "Washington in the Hot Season" (August 16, 1863), Whitman refers to the academy with the phrase "the choruses at your New-York Fourteenth-street" due to its location at 14th Street and Irving Place. [back]
10. Greenwood Cemetery, founded in 1838 by Henry Evelyn Pierrepont, is home to several famous monuments, including a monument to DeWitt Clinton, sixth governor of New York, and another to nautical pilot Thomas Freeborn, who died aboard his ship in 1846. A large monument to Civil War soldiers was erected there in 1869. [back]