View of the Manhattan Bridge, connecting Brooklyn with that island across the East River, 1946.
View of the Manhattan Bridge, connecting Brooklyn with that island across the East River, 1946.Ed Clark—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
View of the Manhattan Bridge, connecting Brooklyn with that island across the East River, 1946.
From photographer's notes: "Trolleys & tracks at corner of Flushing Ave., Graham & Broadway."
Brooklyn, New York, 1946.
Corner of Middagh and Hicks, Brooklyn Heights, 1946.
Jumping rope on Siegel Street near Humboldt, Brooklyn, 1946.
City veterans housing project, Canarsie, Brooklyn, 1946.
Laundry out to dry, Brooklyn, 1946.
Brooklyn street scene, 1946.
Unidentified Brooklynite, 1946.
Taking the sun on a Brooklyn rooftop, 1946.
Listening to a Dodgers-Giants ballgame on the radio, Brooklyn, 1946.
Ebbets Field, 55 Sullivan Place, Brooklyn, 1946.
Dodgers ballgame, Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, 1946.
Dodgers fans, Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, 1946.
Jack Kaufman outside his barber shop on Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn in 1946, holding a signed baseball that once beaned future Hall of Famer Joe Medwick.
Subway entrance, Eastern Parkway at Utica Avenue, Brooklyn, 1946.
Brooklyn, 1946.
Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, 1946.
Prospect Park, Brooklyn, 1946.
Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, 1946.
On the waterfront, Brooklyn, 1946.
Moore Street near Graham Avenue, Brooklyn, 1946.
Sumner Avenue (now Marcus Garvey Boulevard) near Myrtle Avenue in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, 1946.
Grocery shopping, Brooklyn, 1946.
Unidentified boys, Brooklyn, 1946.
Under the elevated tracks, Broadway at Lynch, Brooklyn, 1946.
Brooklyn Bridge, 1946.
View of the Manhattan Bridge, connecting Brooklyn with that island across the East River, 1946.
Ed Clark—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Hipsterless Brooklyn: Vintage Photos From a Vanished World

Dec 07, 2014

Brooklyn is big. If it were its own city, and not part of Gotham, its 2.5 million residents would make up the fourth largest metropolis in the United States. Brooklyn covers almost a hundred square miles of intensely varied terrain, from the beaches of Coney Island and Sea Gate to the brownstones of Park Slope and the thronging sidewalks of Williamsburg—a neighborhood filled with stoop-shouldered young men who, evidently, can afford fedoras but have difficulty finding socks, or pants that fit.

There's cobblestoned Dumbo; the mean streets of East New York; the mansions of Brooklyn Heights; the tree-lined avenues (and, miracle of miracles, driveways) of Ditmas Park; the glories of Prospect Park; the soaring container cranes of Red Hook; the unnameable, party-colored, aromatic ooze of the Gowanus Canal.

The borough boasts countless ethnicities, creeds and religions. It's somehow wildly bustling and unselfconsciously low-key at the same time. It has given the world memorable phrases (fuhgeddaboudit) and immortal delicacies (the egg cream—with no egg and no cream).

[More: A tribute to the Brooklyn Bridge at 130]

But somehow, recently, Brooklyn has maybe gotten a little too big—or, rather, it's started to believe the hype about itself, which is another way of saying that it's not quite as hip as some of its residents, new and old, like to think it is.

Not long ago, GQ pronounced Brooklyn the coolest city in America—a verdict that elicited eye rolls everywhere, not least in Brooklyn itself. Meanwhile, Vogue (yes, that Vogue) tried to explain "why New Yorkers are flocking to the borough"—evidently forgetting that Brooklynites are already, and have always been, New Yorkers.

"Models, writers, actors, and artists have been flocking to 
New York's Left Bank for its destination restaurants, bustling farmers' markets, Parisian-style parks, and passionate dedication to l'art de vie," panted the post. "Welcome to the new bohemian chic."

And yet, despite the growing number of creatures swarming Kings County in hopes of hunting down, hog-tying and sucking every last ounce of life from that "new bohemian chic," Brooklyn remains full of genuinely creative people, great restaurants, fascinating history, eclectic music, art, parks and architecture—in short, the sort of stuff you'd expect from a world-class city. Even one besieged by "New Yorkers."

Here, offers photos of Brooklyn, made by LIFE's Ed Clark right after World War II, that all these years later reveal something that's long been elemental to the borough's enduring appeal: namely, a free-wheeling and, above all, an unpretentious self-confidence.

And if that ain't the key to l'art de vie, what is?

[More: See the gallery, "Lower Manhattan: Where New York Was Born"]

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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