New Utrecht Dutch Reformed Church, ca. 1910; v1981.15.103, Ralph Irving Lloyd lantern slides; Brooklyn Historical Society.
From the desk of Cassie Mey, Project CHART intern: I am currently scanning the Ralph Irving Lloyd lantern slides of Brooklyn, 1890-1910. Many of the images in this collection reflect the end of an era when townships like New Utrecht, made up of old Dutch farmlands, were annexed into Brooklyn. Several weeks ago I came across this slide of the New Utrecht Dutch Reformed Church and was positively puzzled by the white pole in front of the church. I couldn’t believe that this was a pre-World War I image. I wondered how a radio antenna was present before there was radio.
As my research revealed, the original New Utrecht liberty pole was first erected on November, 25, 1783 – a New York holiday known as “Evacuation Day” – to celebrate the British evacuation of Long Island. In the late eighteenth century, liberty poles – long, wooden poles, sometimes topped with a red “liberty cap,” – were erected in protest of monarchial tyranny. They became popular during the American Revolution but were used around the world, most notably during the French Revolution.
The New Utrecht liberty pole reminds us of how happy many citizens of New Utrecht were to see the British set sail for home in 1783. After the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776, the British army took control of Long Island, often commandeering the supplies and even some of the homes of residents in towns like New Utrecht. Though more than a few Kings County residents were loyalists at the start of the Revolutionary War, by its end most had come to resent their British occupiers. Liberty poles like the one in New Utrecht marked the joyous celebration of the departure of the British after a protracted and difficult war.
To see more photos from BHS’s collection, visit their online image gallery.