This posting is a continuation of 54c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily Leatrice’s Studio Portrait 1935 (Part 1) where we shared a studio portrait of Emily taken in 1935. The name of the studio on the picture frame prompted us to learn more about the photographer, Joseph Weise. We followed the growth of his business from 1930 to 1940. We now continue with our review of the findings which showed that Mr. Weise had studios in two different neighbhorhoods where the mix of immigrants and American citizens created the opportunities for expanding his client base.
Joseph Weise Photography Studios in Bensonhurst and Borough Park
The Weise Studio located at 4723 13th Avenue was situated in the part of Brooklyn formerly known as Blythebourne in the late 19th century. In the early 20th centuries Jewish immigrants settled in the area becoming the majority population. Italian and Irish immigrants also lived in this neighborhood. By the 1930s a shift began to take place as Hasidic Jews moved in. Today, the Hasidim dominate the community outnumbering the Orthodox Jews who were the dominant Jewish group at the time Joseph Weise opened his studio on 13th Avenue sometime after 1933 and before 1935.
The studios at 6408 18th Avenue (in 1933) and 6411 18th Avenue (in 1935) were situated in Bensonhurst. Up until the end of WWII, Bensonhurst had almost equal percentages of Jewish and Italian immigrants living in the community. With the development of middle class housing in the suburbs after WWII many of the Jewish residents moved out leaving the Italian-American community as the dominant ethnic group in the area. Today Bensonhurst is home to a much smaller Italian-American population. The up-and-coming immigrant groups are Chinese and Russian.
Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, February 21, 2016 11-11:50 a.m.
We found an early 1930s New York City Subway and Trolley Car map to use as a starting point for this week’s discussion. Since Sam put in a long work day we think Josie and Emily made this trip to the Weise Studio on their own or in the company of a relative.
The following questions arose when we thought about getting from the area where the Serrapede family lived to the Weise Studio.
• Which studio would they have gone to, 6411 18th Avenue or 4723 13th Avenue?
• Which bus or trolley line would take Josie and Emily from 1075 66th Street to the studio?
• Was the subway preferable?
We compared the period maps to see whether travel by subway was more efficient than the trolley and bus lines that are the source of many nostalgic memories of the Old Brooklyn of the 1920s through the early 1950s.
1930s Brooklyn Bus and Trolley Car map.
Trolley routes are shown by solid lines, bus routes by broken lines.
Josie lived nearest to bus and trolley stops on Forth Hamilton Parkway. The studio in Bensonhurst is marked in yellow.
Close-up of the Sea Beach elevated line, from the 1931 subway and elevated lines map.
We think Josie and Emily travelled to Joseph Weise’s studio at 6411 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst by the elevated Sea Beach Line. The bus and trolley car lines did not go directly to Bensonhurst from Dyker Heights where they lived. Since no trolley car lines (solid lines in the map) were conveniently located near the Serrapede’s apartment building Josie and Emily would have to travel by bus (broken lines in the map). Their trip by bus might have been scenic but would be long and might run a double fare:
1. Get on the bus running along Fort Hamilton Avenue near 66th Street and ride until 60th Street.
2. At 60th Street and Fort Hamilton Avenue get off the bus and wait for the bus line going down 60th Street to 18th Avenue. We don’t know if this incurred another fare or was done by transfer.
3. Get off at 18th Avenue and walk about 4 blocks to the studio.
The Sea Beach subway line offered a shorter ride and was more convenient:
1. Walk 4-5 blocks to the station at 62nd Street and Fort Hamilton Avenue.
2. Take the Sea Beach line 3 stops.
3. Get off at the third stop, 18th Avenue. Walk about 1 block to the studio.
The challenges Josie and Emily would have to travelling within and between different areas in Brooklyn by trolley and bus are still with us today. The bus lines are good to use in pleasant weather if your destination is along the route or one or two blocks away. To get deeper into a particular neighborhood, though, is difficult by bus since the routes run around the outsides and not up and down every side street. This preserves a residential quality in many communities like Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights but it also results in more walking to reach some destinations after getting off. The same would be the case with the trolley car lines in 1930s Brooklyn. The subway then, as now, is still a good way to get around the borough.
The success Joseph Weise enjoyed in the standard of living he achieved is, we think, due to his ability to provide services to the ethnically diverse communities of Bensonhurst and Borough Park. By having studios in both he was able to expand his business outreach to a greater population.
In putting together this posting Uncle Sammy and I realized that this episode in the family history is a good example of how immigrants experienced life in America. Each group came into contact with people from other countries and members of each group shared the goal of improving their lives in their new country. The willingness to do business with each other promoted the growth of neighborhood businesses. As business profited the amount of goods and services available increased to meet the demands of the growing communities.
This brief study of how an Italian immigrant family chose a Russian-Jewish photographer to take a studio portrait of their American-born daughter portrays a scene from the daily life of 1930s Brooklyn and America at a time when the immigrants began to expand their interactions beyond the confines of their own ethnic and religious groups. These interactions occurred in ways that could not have been considered and envisioned by their ancestors back in the Old World even one generation earlier.
1933 Brooklyn City Directory
1930 United States Federal Census
Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York;
Roll: 1523; Page: 44A; Enumeration District: 1380;
Image: 427.0; FHL microfilm: 2341258
1940 United States Federal Census
Census Place: New York, Kings, New York;
Roll: T627_2570; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 24-957
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The New York Times
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Trolley Car Map
Trolley Map from the 1930s Shows How Easy It Was to Get Around Brooklyn
Posted On Wed, June 10, 2015
By Diane Pham In Brooklyn, History, maps, Transportation
Brooklyn Subway Map
1931 Subway Map
Brooklyn Elevated Lines
NYC Subway Maps.org