Today marks an interesting day in Brooklyn history: the Daily Eagle published its last edition on this date in 1955. Students in my upcoming course will be studying the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and its significance to Brooklyn, New York City, and American history. The BDE dated back to the 1840s, when Walt Whitman was an editor for several years before leaving over political differences tied to his Free Soilist leanings. The Eagle seems to have been silent on Abraham Lincoln’s famous 1860 visit to Brooklyn’s Plymouth Church, where the soon-to-be presidential candidate attended services the day before his Cooper Union speech launched him to national prominence. The newspaper’s apparent silence on Lincoln’s visit is not surprising given its publisher’s Democratic leanings. The Eagle came into its own during the Gilded Age but took a blow with the consolidation of New York City in 1898. It was still a great paper–it lasted another half century and then some. Still, once Brooklyn was subsumed into Greater New York it could not compete with the papers across the East River.
The Eagle continued performing its yeoman service documenting local and national events. It was so successful that it eventually outgrew its original building and moved into a new facility in what is now Cadman Plaza. For those who know Brooklyn, the building you see above stood where the New York State Supreme Court building is today, across the street from the post office. The paper coverage was especially good during the Great War, which is fortunate given that the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Governors Island military base, and New Jersey piers shipping men and armaments across the Atlantic were all with a stone’s throw of Eagle offices. The paper continued doing well until, like the rest of Brooklyn, it became victim to Brooklyn’s decline and the mass exodus to the suburbs that took place after the Second World War. In its final edition the editors explained that the paper fell victim to the “Manhattan Pattern” that had been underway “since Brooklyn became part of New York City.” Indeed as the paper noted in that editorial sixty-one years ago today, the papers was always a step-child compared to Manhattan’s more privileged status within the municipal infrastructure. That’s true, but the Eagle’s demise was due also to trends taking place in the publishing industry at the time; many dailies were either going away or consolidating, a victim to the rise of television, frequent newspaper strikes, suburbanization, and other issues.
Brooklyn became a lesser place when the Eagle shut down. Even worse, the borough is saddled with the monstrous eyesore of a building that took its place when the Eagle building was then down. When the Brooklyn Dodgers finally broke through and won the World Series that October the Eagle was sadly not there to cover it. In a cruel irony, the iconographic headline “THIS IS NEXT YEAR” celebrating the Dodgers’ win appeared in the October 5, 1955 edition of the New York Daily News.
(image/Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Brooklyn Daily Eagle.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1903. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-f806-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99)