The Brooklynite: Flappers Were the Original Hipsters

The Brooklynite

  • The Brooklynite

Imagine a Brooklyn magazine that wrote about things like the drinking problems of Brooklyn writers, the difficulty in finding the perfect Brooklyn apartment, the proper subway etiquette, the best Brooklyn neighborhood to indulge in a little heavy petting, the cutest dogs in the borough, and the boom in baby strollers on the sidewalks. Impossible, right? That is basically impossible for you to imagine, because you don’t have to imagine it. It is all too real. But now—and here’s where your mind gets blown wide open, wide like the swinging limbs of a flapper dancing the Charleston—imagine that all these things weren’t being written about today, but were instead being written about over 80 years ago, in an Art Deco-era magazine called The Brooklynite. Boom. Splat. Dribble. That’s your mind blown. And sliding down the wall behind your exploded head.

I first heard of The Brooklynite from the lovely Erin Overbey of The New Yorker who wrote about the long-lost magazine on The New Yorker‘s blog. Overbey writes:

“For anyone who is a fan of The New Yorker, sifting through the pages of The Brooklynite is a bit like seeing a reflection in a fun-house mirror. Edited by Herbert G. Edwards, the magazine is an homage of sorts, featuring departments similar to the Talk of the Town, Profiles, and various critics sections, as well as cartoon sketches and small ads. Its style was satirical, breezy, and sharp. And this was reflected in the publication’s first Editorial Note, which ran in its sixth issue. A periodical is needed, it argued, that will discuss Brooklyn and related subjects in a civilized manner, and will laugh at Brooklyn when necessary. The Brooklynite ‘will never seek to edify. If it accomplishes that sometimes, well—who cares.’”

Which, well, basically is the exact same mantra that I use when I write today—do not edify, who cares, do not edify, who cares. But so anyway, after learning of The Brooklynite’s presence at the Brooklyn Historical Society, I decided to head over to look through the issues myself, because there is little more that I like to do than look through old magazines in a dark wood-paneled, book-lined room with vaulted ceilings located in a mansion in Brooklyn Heights. Really, this is one of my favorite things to do. You’d probably be into it too, if you gave it a try. The Brooklyn Historical Society is on Pierrepont Street, and you should all go.

Once there, I settled in with all the issues that the Historical Society has, some of which were discovered during building renovations in 2003 and some of which were purchased on eBay. The available issues span the years 1926 through 1930, and while there is no definitive answer to when the last issue was published, it appears that The Brooklynite was forced to cease publication in 1930, perhaps because of economic woes caused by the Great Depression. Again, it must be really hard for all of us to imagine the publishing/media industry struggling during times of economic woe, but there you have it. The more things change the more they stay exactly the fucking same. Life is “Groundhog Day,” “Groundhog Day” is life.


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