The Harmonic Society of 1896

I unfortunately can’t find much history on the Harmonic Society of Brooklyn, except that they were organized sometime in the mid 1890’s and were an exceptional choir of around 180 members. They sang in churches, private gatherings, galas, and other social functions around New York, many times to support various charities. They were praised often in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.


My great-great Grandmother, Ella T. Sheaff, or as she’s named in most articles – Mrs. George B. Hawthorne, sang Soprano solos. All my life my mother mentioned a relative who was a quote “Opera Singer who sang in shows.” – That’s such a Brooklyn way of putting it!

Lately I’ve been conducting a lot of family research through and news clippings from The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (See my clippings) and it’s been fun to put certain pieces together.


Here’s two beautiful songs Ella sang for the Harmonic Society. It helps me to imagine how she might’ve sounded while singing to the crowd.

Calm as the Night by Carl Bohm (1891)

“Adieu” by Gabriel Fauré

English Lyrics
How quickly all dies, the rose unfolds as the fresh mantle of the meadow.
The long sighs, the lovers: Vanished!
One sees in this rapid world change faster than the waves on the sand; our dreams, faster than the frost on the flowers;
our hearts!
I thought I was true to you, Cruel!
But, alas, the longest loves are the shortest ones!
And I say to you as I leave your charms, without tears; till the moment of my avowal:




The Brooklyn Public Library digital Collection


Brooklyn takes its history seriously and has the digital resources to prove it. I was browsing the new and improved BPL website – I really miss living in Brooklyn since my big out-of-state move – There’s a wealth of newly digitized information, articles, and photographs just waiting to be discovered! Sign yourself up for a Virtual Library card if you don’t already have a BPL card.

How would you like to browse through Phone Directories and City Listings over 500 pages long going back to 1856? You may find your ancestors listed.

There are 20,000 digital historical photos with the option to purchase for personal, commercial or educational use.

Civil War Buff? History Teacher? Student? Browse Brooklyn In the Civil War for information, pictures, and lesson plans.

I could keep listing, but why not just go directly to the Collections Page and see for yourself. They’ve added a bounty of treasures from Theater playbills to a digital collection of American and European Children’s books.

1900’s Family History

My Maternal great-grandfather and great-grandmother were mentioned in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for an engagement and wedding announcement between the years 1911 and 1912.

I believe it was common in that era to run ads for special announcements like this. Particularly if you had a higher standing in society. Newspapers in the past often posted the address of the people mentioned in their articles. Today that’d be an extremely dangerous thing to do.

If your family has roots in Brooklyn going back between the publication years of 1841 – 1955, use the search engine on the The Brooklyn Newsstand Archive  to type in names and events. You may find your ancestors mentioned. It’s a fun and educational resource provided by the Brooklyn Public Library for history buffs, writers, bloggers, and anyone who wants to know the newsworthy events, lifestyles, and interests of Brooklynites during the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century.