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 Colonial history of Brooklyn


It’s amazing how much of a pivotal role our city played during the Colonial era. As this new Smithsonian article brings out, “New York City is an afterthought—if it’s part of the conversation at all.” — Yet NYC suffered great losses, and with just a population of 25,000. The most heartbreaking of those being trapped in squalor aboard brutal British Prison ships and other make-shift prisons around the colony.

via The grisly history of Brooklyn’s Revolutionary War martyrs


Prison Ship Martyrs Association

This is a group dedicated to preserving the memory and history of these tragic events. They even have the names of 8,000 victims.Whether they were captured, fought, or died. Chances are there were many more, but the records are what they are.

Further Reading:

When skulls and bones washed ashore in Brooklyn

The Battle of Brooklyn: A loss that helped win the Revolution

The Battle for Brooklyn, 1776

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.