BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) is a multi-arts center located in Brooklyn, New York.  For more than 150 years, BAM has been the home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas—engaging both global and local communities. With world-renowned programming in theater, dance, music, opera, film, and much more, BAM showcases the work of emerging artists and innovative modern masters.

From Brooklyn to the World: Part I
Since 1861, BAM has fostered the Brooklyn community by serving as a common ground where New Yorkers of all backgrounds have assembled. From mounting evening-length spectacles by local amateur opera societies, to hosting graduation ceremonies for Brooklyn schools, to presenting addresses by local and national politicians—BAM has been and continues to be Brooklyn’s meeting place. This exhibition of objects and artifacts culled from the BAM Hamm Archives provides a keyhole view into the vast architecture of BAM’s past. 

Stereoscopes, two-dimensional images that appear three-dimensional when viewed, were popular in the 19th century. This stereoview photo of the Academy in its Montague Street location was taken before the fire on November 30, 1903 that destroyed the theater.

This legal document includes the bylaws, articles of incorporation, names of the founding fathers, and a list of original subscribers, who purchased shares at $50 apiece.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music opened on Montague Street to great fanfare, with a subscription for the six nights of opening week priced at $7.50.

Portrait of actor Edwin Booth, circa 1861. Edwin Booth performed numerous times at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, including multiple shows in its inaugural year of 1861-1862.

This local fundraiser benefitted the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a forerunner of the Red Cross, which collected medical supplies to aid sick and wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Hoping for a permanent home, the Philharmonic Society proposed building a classical concert venue, giving birth to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. This 1866 concert took place during the Philharmonic’s ninth season, and the Academy’s fifth.

This ornate ticket for a Full Dress Reception for the 13th Infantry is dated 1870, just five years after the end of the Civil War. During the War, the Academy also hosted the Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, a fundraiser benefitting Union Soldiers.

Mark Twain read from his work at the Academy multiple times, often with another important contemporary writer, George W. Cable.

Advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Newspaper for a lecture by Henry Ward Beecher in May of 1864. The abolitionist preacher lectured frequently at the Academy.

Decoration Day, now called Memorial Day, originated as a day to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. The Academy regularly hosted events in commemoration.

Henry Ward Beecher, prominent social reformer and abolitionist, lectured frequently at the Academy, which served a civic and educational function in addition to entertainment.

The Apollo Club was founded in Brooklyn Heights in 1878 as an amateur singing society for well-to-do men, though this program includes two female soloists. The private club performed concert pieces, operatic pieces, and popular and patriotic songs.

Program for German virtuoso violinist August Wilhelmj, dated 1879. The Academy’s affluent, cultured founders prided themselves on presenting classical music in Brooklyn.

An early, mixed musical bill at the Academy, reflecting the founders’ interest in high art and classical music.

The interior pages of this program for Cinderella, cast with “the pupils of C.H. Rivers,” promise “Sparkling Dialogue! Beautiful Tableaus!” Tickets for children were half price. Over the years, the Academy has continued to present a rich roster of cultural events for young people.

This weeklong engagement of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S Pinafore originated in Boston, and was performed by Boston theater company The Ideals. H.M.S. Pinafore premiered in London in 1878, three years before this Brooklyn run.

On this night in 1880, Edwin Booth, famous Shakespearean actor, appeared as both Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. Booth performed numerous times at the Academy, often in his most famous role, Hamlet.

This 1881 program announces the “Farewell American Engagement” of Sarah Bernhardt in the plays Frou-Frou and Camille.

The Kemble Amateur Dramatic Association was a late 19th century dramatic society, and this “souvenir programme” is for Defeated, an original play.

The Kemble was one of many amateur dramatic societies in Brooklyn in the late 19th century, when amateur performing clubs of all stripes – opera, choral, instrumental music, theater – thrived as a popular means of both entertainment and socializing.

From its founding, the Academy has served a civic function. This benefit raised funds for a nursing school in Brooklyn.

The memorial for U.S. President and civil war hero General Ulysses S. Grant was held at the Academy in September of 1885.

Ticket for the Second Annual Ball of the Veteran Volunteer Firemen, benefitting their Widows & Orphans’ Fund, held at the Academy’s first, Montague Street, location. The Academy served a civic function, hosting balls and other community events.

This concert by the Philharmonic Society of New York, performing in Brooklyn, was conducted by Theodore Thomas, who later founded the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

After its start as a “private and parlor society,” the Association grew in “strength, prosperity, and popularity,” employed a professional conductor and designers, and began performing at the Academy.

This memorial event, presided over by abolitionist and social activist Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, included a prayer, a poem, and choral and band music.

The Gilbert Dramatic Association was an amateur dramatic society, one of many in late 19th century Brooklyn. Here they presented Our Boys, “A Musical Comedy in Three Acts,” by British playwright Henry J. Byron.

This Irish play, described as “a sporting comedy in three acts,” was performed by The Gilbert, an amateur dramatic association.

The popular concert pianist, Ignacy Jan Paderewski also composed and was Polish Prime Minister after World War I.

The cover of this program for L.A. Benjamin’s World’s Fair Children’s Carnival proclaims “Over two thousand children on the stage.”

This lecture by Arctic explorer Lieutenant Peary, describing his journey across the Greenland Ice Cap, was illustrated with 100 slide projections. Also present were Peary’s sledge, 6 sled dogs, “and their native Esquimaux driver in full fur dress,” which could be inspected after the lecture.

The concert was accompanied by projected “views” that illustrated the history covered, which spanned the arrival of Columbus through the Civil War.

In the early days of the Academy, the Metropolitan Opera presented full seasons in Brooklyn. A highlight of the 1895 season was a series of Wagner operas, Tristan and Isolde, Siegfired, and Lohengrin, under the direction of Walter Damrosch.

From Brooklyn to the World: Part II
The Committee of One Hundred, composed of wealthy businessmen and members of old Brooklyn families, was established to raise $1 million to cover the expense of constructing a new Academy of Music. The architec- tural firm of Herts and Tallant—which in the first part of the 20th century was among the most prolific and forward-thinking theater architects in New York—was hired to design the new building in fashionable Fort Greene. The cornerstone was laid at 30 Lafayette Avenue in 1906 and a series of opening events were held in the fall of 1908, culminating in a grand gala featuring Geraldine Farrar and Enrico Caruso in Gounod’s Faust. 

A 1907 photograph of the interior of the new Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House, designed by architects Herts & Tallant in the Beaux Arts style. The fanfare-filled 1908 gala opening included performances by Enrico Caruso and Geraldine Farrar.

Program for the Opening Banquet on the eve of the Gala Opening of the rebuilt Academy of Music, on Lafayette Avenue. The menu, in French, corresponds to the next day’s gala program of Gounod’s Faust, performed in French.

Author, educator, and civil rights activist Booker T. Washington spoke at the Academy's original Montague Street site and in 1909, at the current Opera House.

In the early 1900s, two of the world's most famous ballet dancers, Anna Pavlova and Mikhail Mordkin, graced the Opera House stage. On October 15, 1910, Pavlova performed her signature, "The Dying Swan.”

Popular American soprano Geraldine Farrar appeared with the Metropolitan Opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music numerous times between 1908 and 1924. She performed with Enrico Caruso at the 1908 Gala Opening of the Academy’s new Lafayette Avenue building in a production of Gounod’s Faust.

In the early 20th century, the Metropolitan Opera presented full seasons at the Academy, with luminaries including Gustav Mahler, who conducted during the Met’s second Brooklyn season.

Ruth St. Denis, a pioneer of modern dance inspired by Asian dance and spiritualism, parlayed solo success into an influential company and school (Denishawn) with Ted Shawn. They performed at the Academy numerous times, individually and together.

Robert E. Peary was one of many explorers and scientists who lectured at the Academy in its early years. His lecture "Last Polar Expedition and Its Climax on April 6th, 1909" described his journey to the North Pole.

A photo of Women’s Suffrage leaders General Rosalie Jones, Jessie Stubbs, and Colonel Ida Craft, who carries a bag labeled "Votes for Women pilgrim leaflets," and a banner advertising a Mass Meeting for a Woman Suffrage Party to be held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House.

Raymond L. Ditmars, pioneering naturalist and the first curator of reptiles at the Bronx Zoo, lectured at the Academy in the fall of 1914.

World-famous Czech violinist Jan Kubelik performed seven times at the Academy in the early years of the 20th century.

During this period the Academy’s non-BIAS programming presented many world-class musicians, among them Sergei Rachmaninoff, Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, and Gustav Mahler, who conducted several of the Met’s operatic productions for the Academy in the first few years of its reopening. During this time it was not music or theater that dominated the Academy’s programming, however. Since there were so many legitimate theater and opera houses in Brooklyn and Manhattan, the Academy began to carve a new niche for itself by presenting modern dance, a newly emerging and exciting form.
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