BROOKLYN, known as "Meryckawick" (sandy place) by its original Algonquin inhabitants, is one of the five boroughs of New York City. It is located at the southwestern end of Long Island, adjacent to but separated from Manhattan Island by the East River. The first European settlers in the region were the Dutch, who, through a total of some two hundred purchases, began settling Brooklyn in 1636. The flat, relatively low-lying lands of Brooklyn proved attractive to these settlers. Under Dutch rule, six mostly agricultural towns were settled. One of
these, Gravesend, was founded in 1643 by the controversial Lady Deborah Moody, who had been exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1664, the British challenged the Dutch for supremacy over their North American holdings and, by 1674, Brooklyn, along with the rest of what had been New Netherland, passed definitively into English hands and became part of the colony of New York.
Brooklyn long resisted consolidation with New York City. It was a slow but probably inevitable event. In 1834, Brooklyn was granted city status, over the opposition of New York City. But in 1857, the state combined Brooklyn's and New York City's basic health and safety services into joint boards. Through a series of charters dating from the late seventeenth century, Manhattan gained dominance over the region's waterways at Brooklyn's expense. Over the course of the nineteenth century, an extensive network of transportation links between the two areas was put into place. A Manhattan farmer began the first ferry service linking Brooklyn to Manhattan in 1642. In 1814, the introduction of the steamboat ferry provided the first regular and rapid transportation between Manhattan and Brooklyn; the trip took fifteen minutes. Bridges and tunnels were added, and, finally, the first subway line reached Brooklyn in 1908. Most significant to the consolidation process was the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. On 1 January 1898, Brooklyn officially became one of the five boroughs comprising New York City.
Brooklyn's population has always been diverse. By the nineteenth century, Holland, Germany, France, and England were all well represented. In addition, there were significant numbers of both free and enslaved African Americans, as illustrated by the incorporation of Brooklyn's first black church in 1794. By 1855, almost half the population was foreign-born, and, by 1860, Brooklyn was the third-largest city in the United States (behind New York and Philadelphia). Its shift to manufacturing began in 1825 with the opening of the Erie Canal and encouraged a new wave of immigration, most notably by the Irish. However, soon after the end of the Civil War (1861–1865) and into the first quarter of the twentieth century, large numbers of Italians and Jews, among others, settled in Brooklyn to live and work.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, Brooklyn's fortunes and population declined as manufacturing plants deserted the area and the borough lost residents to nearby suburbs. However, new waves of immigrants, most notably from the West Indies, South America, and Asia, helped bring about a population resurgence. In addition, after the 1980s, many of Brooklyn's brownstone neighborhoods again became popular and were gentrified.
Brooklyn has produced numerous well-known artists, writers, singers, actors, and politicians. Among them are poet Walt Whitman, writers Bernard Malamud and Arthur Miller, politician Shirley Chisholm, and singers Barbra Streisand and Richie Havens. It is also home to such important entertainment and cultural institutions as the Coney Island amusement park, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn was home to the much beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, established as a major league baseball team in 1884. From 9 April 1913 until the Dodgers abandoned Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1957, the team played at the now-defunct Ebbets Field. In 1947, the Dodgers made history by signing on Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in the major leagues.
Burrows, Edwin G., and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Glueck, Grace, and Paul Gardner. Brooklyn: People and Places, Past and Present. New York: Abrams, 1991.
Snyder-Grenier, Ellen M. Brooklyn: An Illustrated History. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.
Stiles, Henry Reed. A History of the City of Brooklyn. Reprint, Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1993.
Weld, Ralph Foster. Brooklyn Village, 1816–1834. New York: Columbia University Press, 1938.