Miss Elizabeth Branagan by Gertrude A. Brugman ….. “More New York streets would look like this if Miss Branagan were not constantly on hand to enforce the laws. By tactfully cooperating with the families who live in the buildings, she achieves results which would fill any mere man with appropriate shame.”
I’d never heard of Gertrude A. Brugman. I stumbled on this page, as so often, while doing something else. I may be wrong, but don’t recall, for example, that she appeared among the early pioneer photographers recently brought to more prominence by the campaign whose website is at hundredheroines.org. I’m busy, and I’m doing something else and I’m not supposed to be distracted. But I can’t resist offering you a page from the New York Tribune of April 22nd, 1917, courtesy of the Library of Congress. Nobody with access to a computer can be bored, even in COVID-19 days, while there is still online access to the Library of Congress. I’ve given the captions in full, because they have a certain dated charm of their own. I hope Gertrude (would she mind if I called her by that name?) wrote them herself, because then we’d have a vision of the complete freelance, sniffing out a good story, getting permissions, locations, pictures and text, and selling the whole package to the paper. Great work by Gertrude, and I’m glad to meet her.
When Lovely Woman Stoops to — Public Service. Exclusive photographs by Gertrude A. Brugman, in the New York Tribune of 22 April, 1917
Mrs E. Walzer, by Gertrude A. Brugman ….. “Mrs. Walzer has not turned from the camera because she is overmodest, but because she cannot be photographed. If she were, her face would be known to hundreds of polite grocerymen who have a genius for short weight, and her arrests would be far fewer. She has bought many pounds of butter, only to find on reweighing them that they were several ounces light.”
Miss Jessie McVean by Gertrude A. Brugman ….. “That woman may be a more valuable climber than a social one is shown by Miss Jessie McVean, who climbs ladders daily and peers into the drinking water tanks of flathouses. In the picture she has just discovered a broken tank cover, which unless repaired at once will mean trouble for the landlord. You will never find a tadpole in your crystal goblet while she is on the city payroll.”
Miss Helen Thompson by Gertrude A. Brugman ….. “The female of the species is more deadly than the male –– when it comes to cleaning up tenements. Miss Helen Thompson has no patience with the careless housekeeper or janitor, and she is ready to call the law to her aid if refuse is not removed on notification.”
Dr. Hazel M. Hatfield, by Gertrude A. Brugman ….. “If any dairyman tries to foist inferior milk on the public, he is bound to find Dr. Hazel M. Hatfield at his front door some cold, grey morning. Dr. Hatfield has declared eternal war on bad milk, and thru the examination plates made from samples furnished by 68,000 dairies last year, she has found more than one reason for hostilities ending in victory.”
Miss Grace Plumb, by Gertrude A. Brugman ….. “High prices at the restaurant may gull the public about clean kitchen conditions, but they do not deceive Miss Grace Plumb, who goes around to the back door and examines the egg shells which have escaped the chef’s artistic graces. The Food Bureau of the Health Department owes many a cleaned-up restaurant to her efforts.”
Elegant attention to detail, too.
The page layout is perhaps odd, even clunky, to an eye used to modern design, but these elegant knots fixing the captions to their pictures show how much thought was going even in 1917 to clarity and ease of reading. The odd thing is that not every caption has one of these knots; work in progress for us to appreciate from our distance.