Samantha Garcia



In recent years, an influx of tech workers, followed by an influx of tech facilities and speculation about even more tech development, has been a highly visible part of the ongoing public discourse about gentrification in North Brooklyn. In the public sector, tech figures prominently in the Department of City Planning’s North Brooklyn Industry and Innovation plan; in the private sector, several coworking spaces and modernized office buildings are in the works in the neighborhood.

Many characterizations of this kind of change to the neighborhood suggest that technological innovation is a new addition to Bushwick’s neighborhood makeup—but while Bushwick has certainly changed considerably over time, it has long been a home to inventors. Here’s some evidence of this experimental spirit, some of which dates back more than 150 years!

In 1851, Joshua K. Ingalls of Bushwick patented this steam heater, which is similar in some ways to the modern radiator that’s still in wide use around the neighborhood. Ingalls’ patent is cited in a 1943 patent for the internal-combustion hot-air heater, which in turn was cited by inventors who made other home heaters and auto parts.

Around the same time, Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Union, built the manufacturing plant Bushwick Chemical Works at Metropolitan Avenue and Grand Street near Newtown Creek. In October 1867, the American Institute awarded Bushwick Chemical Works the first premium for commercial acids of the greatest purity and strength.

Martin Kalbfleisoh patented an improvement in the manufacturing of prussiate of potash and soda, in 1848, to “rid of animal matters” on the streets (probably something we should look into again). The nature of the invention consisted of dissolving animal matters of any kind into a kettle of caustic potash or soda, and drying the same before exposing them to a strong heat or calcination.

In the modern era (1973, to be exact), Bushwick’s Joseph A. Pinzone invented reflectors and mounts for panoramic optical systems. While he did not invent the panoramic photo setting on your iPhone, the panoramic optical system is certainly a precursor to modern 360 degree panoramic imagery. The optical systems consisted of frusto-conical and hemispherical reflectors mounted on supporting structures for attachment to the interior or exterior of a camera lens barrel to provide panoramic viewing. A peripherally adjustable sunshade and a rain protector may have also been provided. The reflectors were adjustable and could be positioned with respect to the camera lens.

These inventions, while obscure now, are all significant to our history of technological progress! This capacity to adapt to the changing times is arguably something that’s always happened here.

Happy inventing, Bushwick!

Featured image: The Blueprint for Pinzone’s reflectors and mounts for panoramic optical systems. Image via Google Patent Library.