Alfred M. Butts, inventor of Scrabble

Alfred M. Butts,  as a jobless architect in the Depression invented the enduringly popular board game Scrabble. Although its sales eventually approached 100 million sets, Scrabble languished for nearly two decades, rejected by major game manufacturers as unmarketable. Mr. Butts was a fan of chess, crosswords and jigsaw puzzles. Working in his fifth floor walk-up in Jackson Heights, Queens, he designed the new game to be based on knowledge, strategy and chance. He lined the original playing board into small squares and cut the 100 lettered wooden tiles by hand. First players of the game included his wife and family friends. Mrs.… Read More

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John Eberson, theater designer and owner

John Adolph Emil Eberson (1875–1954) was a European born American architect best known for the development and promotion of movie palace designs. He was born in Austria-Hungary and studied electrical engineering at The University of Vienna. In 1901, he traveled to the United States through NYC, but ended up in St. Louis. He started as an engineer with a small company, but eventually joined with Johnson Realty and Construction Company, a theatre architecture and construction company. Eberson and Johnson traveled around the eastern part of America, promoting opera houses in small towns. Once the town was persuaded to build an opera house, Eberson would… Read More

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Mark di Suervo, artist, Socrates Sculpture Park

Marco Polo “Mark” di Suvero (born September 18, 1933) is an abstract expressionist sculptor and 2010 National Medal of Arts recipient. He was born in China, but his family moved to the United States at the beginning of World War II. He went to San Francisco City College and the University of California Santa Barbara, where he studied art and learned sculpture making after leaving his philosophy major behind. He eventually graduated from UC Berkley which a degree in philosophy, but concentrated on sculpture. After graduating from college, di Suvero moved to New York City in 1957 to pursue a sculpting art career. He worked part-time in construction and began… Read More

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Joe Colletti, collector of Titanic memorabilia

Joe Colletti grew up in Hunter’s Point Queens. He began collecting Titanic memorabilia after seeing “Raise the Titanic”, the 1980 adventure film. In 1984 he set up a memorial to the Titanic and the survivors on the outside (and eventually inside) of his Queens townhouse. Besides old newspaper clippings and photographs of survivors being added to his brownstone’s facade, there was also an abundance of knickknacks that adorned the memorial. Plastic frogs, flowers and squirrels; porcelain cupids and ship captains; even a “Photography Permitted” sign were neatly displayed at the site. The landmark drew so much attention from the locals that… Read More

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Henry C. Bohack, supermarket pioneer

Henry C. Bohack opened his first grocery store in New York City in 1887 on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. It soon became a chain in the Northeast area of the United States, most in New York State,  with its headquarters located in Maspeth Queens. The chain, referred to as Bohack’s, closed its last store in 1977. The chain also operated gas stations. The recession of the 1970s caused the chain to go into bankruptcy. Henry Bohack died in 1931 and the chain was owned by his wife, 4 nephews and 8 friends who were with him from almost the beginning of… Read More

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Anthony “Speed” Hanzlick, sportsman, pilot

Anthony Hanzlik, a photographer and a pioneer pilot for aerial photography managed Flushing Airport in Queens from 1936 until his death in 1974. Mr. Hanzlik did aerial photography for New York newspapers and was noted for his skill in piloting news photographers on hazardous assignments such as fire and train wrecks. He got his nickname, Speed, as a youngster when he served as a messenger at the WrightMartin Aircraft Company’s factory in Long Island City, Queens. He was a flyer in WWI and tested pilots for the Royal Airforce in WWII. In 1960, he was taking pictures of a fire… Read More

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Samuel Jones, lawyer, politician, Father of the New York Bar

Samuel Jones (July 26, 1734 – November 21, 1819) was an American lawyer and politician. Great Jones Street in NoHo in Manhattan is named for him. He is considered “The Father of The New York Bar” due to his work on revising New York State’s statutes in 1789 along with Richard Varick, who had a street in SoHo named after him. Jones was a member from Queens County of the New York State Assembly from 1786 to 1790. He was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1788, but did not attend the session. He was Recorder of New York City from 1789 to 1797. He was a… Read More

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