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Guide to 1977 Blackout Slide Collection 2007.042

128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Katherine Christensen.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on August 15, 2012
Finding aid written in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Title: 1977 Blackout Slide Collection
Dates [inclusive]: 1977-1978
Dates [bulk]: Bulk, 1977
Abstract: These images were captured in the months after the July 13th Blackout of 1977. They were taken by two photographers and cover various locations in the neighborhood of Bushwick. They are predominately potographs of burned-out houses, apartments and stores. Some of the images show the fires being fought while others show the subsequent destruction or the reconstruction of the ruins.
Quantity: 0.25 Linear feet in 1 35mm slide box
Physical Description: Collection is mounted 35mm color slide film.
Language of Materials: Materials in English.
Call Phrase: 2007.042

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Historical Note

The blackout of 1977 led to looting and fires throughout New York City. The worst hit areas were in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and one of the most devastated was a thirty block stretch of Broadway in Bushwick. The damage here was particularly severe not only due to looting but also because of the comparatively high incidence of arson. Curvin and Porter state that “of the 134 stores looted in that section, 45, or 33 percent, were damaged by fire; many of these were burned to the ground.” Despite this frenzy for destruction, the looters across New York City were remarkably peaceable, showing little violence either towards the police or towards each other. Instead they worked together to reach their aims and even gave away their looted goods to those less fortunate. Their ability to decimate a street of businesses and escape with so much was aided by the slow pace of police response. At the start of the blackout, there were 189 officers on duty for the 1,000,000 residents of Brooklyn North (Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, Crown Heights, and East New York). Off duty police had to come into the neighborhood from Queens, Staten Island, or even further afield and by the time they arrived and were in uniform and on the streets, the first and most serious wave of looting had taken place. The looting in Bushwick was also notable as it extended on into the day on the 14th, while most neighborhoods calmed with the coming of daylight. The fires also extended into the 14th, in fact growing worse on the second day. Curvin and Porter attribute this continuation to “the confusion of fire trucks and the darkness caused by the elevated tracks.” These images were taken during the aftermath of the blackout, some showing firemen still fighting fires, most showing the burned remains of stores and homes which were destroyed in the night and the slow process of rebuilding and recovering.

Curvin, R. and Porter, B. (1979). Blackout Looting! New York City, July 13, 1977. New York: Gardner Press, p. 135 Ibid, p. 26 Ibid, p. 42-43 Ibid, p. 44 Ibid, p. 60 Ibid, p. 69 Ibid, p. 64 Ibid, p. 135 Ibid, p. 45

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Scope and Content

Photographic Slides of Bushwick after the 1977 New York City Blackout, 1977-1978, undated: The slides were taken on multiple dates by two photographers. As a result, they are scattered around the neighborhood and occasionally feature the same location on a different date or from a different perspective. Some street signs are visible and other locations can be determined based on proximity to images in other slides or to prominent landmarks. The dates associated with the slides are determined by the development process, and not the capture of the image. There were at least three developments in July of 1977, at least two in August of 1977, one in June of 1978, and one more which is not dated. The slides, in all but the undated development, are successively numbered. The images predominately depict structures which suffered damage during the looting and fires which occurred during the blackout. Frequently there are groups of people within the scenes and occasionally these people are the focus. Item level description is available.

System of Arrangement

The slides came to us in a slide carrousel and this order has been maintained. However, it is clear that this is not the original chronological order as evidenced by the development dates printed on the slide casings.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Color slides
  • Photographs

Subject Topics

  • Arson
  • Civil disobedience
  • Documentary photography
  • Electric power failures -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Fire fighters -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Pillage -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Bushwick (New York, N.Y.)

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Administrative Information

Custodial History

The slides were donated by Sister Elizabeth “Betty” Nichols, a community leader in Bushwick. The slides were given to her by the two photographers.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.



Conditions Governing Use

As the photographers are unidentified, there is no clear evidence that the intellectual rights to the collection have passed to the Brooklyn Historical Society. As a result, we must assume that copyright is still in the hands of the creators. These images will enter the public domain in 2097 and 2098 according to the development dates listed on the casings. Brooklyn Historical Society archives and manuscripts must be examined on site. Appointments to examine archives and manuscript materials must be made in advance. Please contact the Brooklyn Historical Society to learn of any additional conditions of access and use.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, 1977; 1977 Blackout Slide Collection, 1977.042, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Related Materials

No institutions in New York have comparable photographic materials, although some have materials related to the subject of the blackout and the events which transpired. Our newspaper coverage does not extend over this period, but there is a text within the library which contains a few copied newspaper articles covering the topic: Sanchez, T. (1988). Bushwick Neighborhood Profile. Brooklyn, N. Y.: Brooklyn In Touch Information Center. Call Number: F129.B7 S26 1988pb

The New York Historical Society has one book on the subject: Curvin, R. and Porter, B. (1979). Blackout Looting! New York City, July 13, 1977. New York: Gardner Press.

This is a study conducted by the Ford Foundation and is also available by pdf from George Mason University:

The New York Public Library also has this study, as well as the following reports: Corwin, J. L. (1979). Synthesis of Regional Electric Reliability Council Responses to the Recommendations issued by the Federal Power Commission following the 1977 New York City Balckout. Springfield, Va.: Available from National Technical Information Service.

New York (State). Dept. of Public Service. (1977). A Report by a Staff Task Force from the Department of Public Service to the Governor of the State of New York on the Events Leading to the Consolidated Edison Company Blackout of July 13, 1977. Albany, N.Y.

United States Congress, Joint Committee on Defense Production. (1977). Emergency Preparedness in the Electric Power Industry and the Implications of the New York Blackout for Emergency Planning: Hearings before the Joint Committee on Defense Production, Congress of the United States, Ninety-fifth Congress, first session, August 10 and 11, 1977. Washington : U. S. Govt. Print. Off.

The study and the Congressional Hearings are also available at the Brooklyn Public Library, as are the following additional congressional sources: The Brooklyn Graphic. [microform] Brooklyn, N.Y. : Avenue Publication Corp., 1954-

Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service. (1978). The Cost of an Urban Blackout : the Consolidated Edison Blackout, July 13-14, 1977 : a Study / Prepared at the Request of John D. Dingell, Chairman, Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, United States House of Representatives, by the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Washington : U.S. Govt. Print. Off.

United States Congress, Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce. Subcommittee on Energy and Power. (1978). The New York City Blackout of July 13, 1977: Hearing before The Subcommittee on Energy and Power, The Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, Ninety-fifth Congress, first session, October 13, 1977. Washington : U.S. Govt. Print. Off.

Other Finding Aids

Item-level description is available in the Image Database for use in the library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The slides were donated by Sister Elizabeth “Betty” Nichols, a community leader in Bushwick. The slides were given to her by the two photographers. As she was only able to identify one of the photographers, who is unsure that and of the photographs are his work, her account in somewhat in question.

Processing Information Note

Collection arranged and processed by Katherine Christensen in March 2009 under the supervision of Julie I. May. Collection information entered into Archivists' Toolkit by Julie I. May in 2009.

Photograph Records

Item-level description and a sample of digital versions of images from the collection are available for searching via the online image database

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