Thursday, June 23, 2011

Timing is Everything

This actually just happened. If you look closely at the above screenshot, you'll see that I opened the Brooklyn Historical Society's Photo of the Week e-mail this morning, to find a picture of one of the dry docks of Todd Shipyard in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Now look even closer, at the other tabs that were open when I got that e-mail. One of them was a brief history of Todd Shipyards. Another was a search I'd done for "todd" in Emma, the BHS "Archives, Manuscripts, & Special Collections" catalog.

Here's a screen shot for another window I had open at the time:

I'd been about to compose a request to the Brooklyn Historical Society to ask whether they had any collections pertaining to the Todd Shipyards facilities in Brooklyn.

I spent yesterday at the Library of Congress reading Every Kind of Ship Work: A History of Todd Shipyards Corporation. I spent last night searching WordCat for copies of the Todd Shipyards mid-century in-house newsletter, The Keel.

And then today, with no effort at all on my part, up pops Todd Shipyards in my inbox! I think I may have to rephrase my question about whether BHS has any collections relating to Todd Shipyards.

I've been researching Todd Shipyards because my great-grandmother's brother, Harold Mulvaney, was killed while he was working there in August, 1933. He drowned in the East River. The death certificate judges his death an accident, though rumors have trickled down through the years that his family wasn't so sure about that. But the Mulvaneys didn't like to talk about things, and so I don't have much information. Ever since I learned, yesterday afternoon, about the existence of The Keel, I've been hoping that I could find a copy of the issues for 1933, and maybe find some mention of the incident or memorial to Harold after his death. (None of the institutions listed in WorldCat as holding copies has issues for 1933.) Harold was killed on Pier 5 in 1933, when, according to his death certificate, he accidentally fell overboard. The picture I received this morning was taken at Pier 1 in 1928. I have no idea whether Harold had been working at Todd Shipyards 5 years prior to his death, but it's entirely possible that he's actually in the crowd of men pictured surrounding the dock, above.

I can't help but think that this serendipity is a good omen for this line of inquiry.

(The above post includes affiliate links.)

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