In many ways (and for many people) dreams come true in Brooklyn. From the impossibly massive Brooklyn Bridge, to the dazzlingly bright Coney Island, to the Dodgers’ all-star Jackie Robinson—few cities can conjure as many unforgettable images and events that depict American progress as Brooklyn.
Though we can discuss Brooklyn’s history over thousands of years, we’re most interested in the last 150 years: When manufacturing took a front seat and Kings County (Brooklyn’s original name) became the Brooklyn we know and love.
In the mid 1800’s, the city experienced vast expansion in population and urbanization. Federal funding brought bridges, trolleys, elevated railroads, and subway lines to the area—opening new areas for settlement and development. By 1880, Brooklyn had evolved into one of the leading producers of manufactured goods in the nation.
Its largest industry was sugar refining (which produced more than half the sugar consumed in the United States). There were also dockyards, gas refineries, ironworks, slaughterhouses, book publishers, sweatshops, and factories producing everything from clocks, pencils, and glue, to cakes, beer, and cigars.
Coney Island’s Luna Park opened in 1903. Thanks to over 250,000 lights illuminating the park at night, the park soon earned the nickname “Electric Eden.” (In 1903, electricity was barely a publically available utility. Crowds came to Brooklyn to see a display they’d never seen before.)
Then, the stock market crashed.
Industry waned. Manufacturing fell by half. Dockyards were largely abandoned. Even the Brooklyn Navy Yard closed in 1966.
Despite this decline, the final decade of the 20th century revived Brooklyn's fortunes. Neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill began to spring back to life. The Brooklyn Academy of Music began to draw avant-garde crowds from Manhattan, the Navy Yard began redevelopment into a booming industrial park, and a new generation of artists, fleeing from the high rents in Manhattan, created vibrant new communities.
Today, of course, Brooklyn is back. And that’s where American Field comes in. We’re proud to build on the city’s natural momentum, introducing the population to American-Made manufacturers (and even highlighting many Brooklyn-based brands).
We invite you to join us at American Field Brooklyn on November 21-22. Until then, we’ll see you in the field.