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A colorfully humorous look at Manhattan, New York City from a Brooklyn pier.
Brooklyn (/ˈbrʊklɪn/) is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with approximately 2.5 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County (Manhattan). It is also the westernmost county on Long Island. Today, if it were an independent city, Brooklyn would rank as the fourth most populous city in the U.S., behind only the other boroughs of New York City combined, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Brooklyn was an independent city until January 1, 1898 when, according to the Charter of "Greater New York", Brooklyn was consolidated with the other boroughs to form the modern "City of New York". It continues to maintain a distinct culture. Many Brooklyn neighborhoods are ethnic enclaves where particular ethnic groups and cultures predominate. Brooklyn's official motto is Eendraght Maeckt Maght. Written in the (early modern spelling of the) Dutch language, it is inspired by the motto of the United Dutch Provinces (currently the official motto of Belgium) and translated "Unity makes strength". The motto is displayed on the borough seal and flag, which also feature a young robed woman bearing fasces, a traditional emblem of Republicanism.Brooklyn's official colors are blue and gold.The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle in the area on the western end of Long Island, also inhabited by a Native American people, the Lenape (often referred to in contemporary colonial documents by the Lenape place-name for one of the larger native settlements:"Canarsee"). The first Dutch settlements, established in 1624, were called Midwout (Midwood) and Vlacke Bos (Flatbush). The Dutch also purchased land during the 1630s from the Lenape in present-day Gowanus, Red Hook, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Bushwick.
The Village of Breuckelen, named for Breukelen in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands, was authorized by the Dutch West India Company in 1646; it became the first municipality in what is now New York State. At the time, Breuckelen was part of New Netherland. Other villages were later incorporated into Brooklyn: Boswijk (Bushwick), Nieuw Utrecht (New Utrecht), and Nieuw Amersfoort (Flatlands). A few houses and cemeteries still show the Dutch origins of the borough of Brooklyn, including the oldest house of New York City, the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House in Flatlands.
The Dutch lost Breuckelen in the British conquest of New Netherland in 1664. In 1683, the British reorganized the Province of New York into twelve counties, each of which was sub-divided into towns. Over time, the name evolved from Breuckelen, to Brockland, to Brocklin, to Brookline, to Brookland and eventually, to Brooklyn. Kings County was one of the original counties, and Brooklyn was one of the original six towns within Kings County. The county was named in honor of King Charles II.
On August 27, 1776, the Battle of Long Island (also called the Battle of Brooklyn) was fought in Kings County. It was the first major battle in the American Revolutionary War following the Declaration of Independence and the largest battle of the entire conflict. While General George Washington's defeat on the battlefield may have cast early doubts on his abilities as a military tactician and leader, he did keep the Continental Army intact with an overnight tactical retreat, across the East River.
New York became the British political and military base of operations in North America. This encouraged the departure of patriots and their sympathizers while attracting loyalist refugees fleeing the other colonies. Loyalists swelled the population of the surrounding area, including Brooklyn.
Correspondingly, the region became the focus of General Washington's intelligence activities (see Intelligence in the American Revolutionary War). The British also began to hold American patriot prisoners-of-war in rotting hulks anchored in Wallabout Bay off Brooklyn. More American prisoners died in these prison-ships than the sum of all the American battle casualties of the Revolutionary War.
The first half of the nineteenth century saw significant growth along the economically strategic East River waterfront across from New York City. Brooklyn's population expanded more than threefold between 1800 and 1820, doubled again in the 1820s, and doubled yet again during the 1830s. The county encompassed two cities: the City of Brooklyn and the City of Williamsburgh. Brooklyn annexed Williamsburgh in 1854, which lost its final "h" in the process. With the addition of this new area, Brooklyn grew from a substantial community of 36,236 to an influential city of 96,838.
The building of rail links, such as the Brighton Beach Line in 1878 heralded explosive growth, and, in the space of a decade, the City of Brooklyn annexed the towns of New Lots in 1886; Flatbush, Gravesend, and New Utrecht in 1894; and Flatlands in 1896. Brooklyn had reached its natural municipal boundaries at the Kings County line.
In 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, easing the trip to Manhattan. Brooklyn engaged in the consolidation process developing throughout the region. In 1894, Brooklyn residents voted by a slight majority to join with Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, and Richmond (later Staten Island) to become the five boroughs of the modern New York City. This referendum took effect in 1898. Kings County retained its status as one of New York State's counties.
Founded in 1863, the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) is a museum, library, and educational center dedicated to preserving and encouraging the study of Brooklyn's history. BHS houses materials relating to the founding of the U.S. and the history of Brooklyn and its people.
February 14th, 2013
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