Spring Exhibit Opening- Curt E. Engelbrecht: Views through His Lens

| 04 Apr 2019 | 01:05

    By Pat Galperin
    The Sparta Historical Society opens with its spring exhibition on Sunday, April 14, Curt E. Engelbrecht: Views through His Lens, at its Van Kirk Homestead Museum, co-curated by Pat Galperin and Nancy Madasci. The exhibit, sponsored by Perona Farms, explores Engelbrecht’s professional career as a national and local 20th century photojournalist.
    Before Curt E. Engelbrecht met Herbert Closs, a Northern New Jersey Real Estate Developer of Lake Communities, his reputation as a national cameraman preceded him. Engelbrecht would join the Arthur Crane Company in 1930 to manage publicity for Lake Mohawk for the next 27 years chronicling life along the lake, while also being the staff photographer and photo editor of the Sussex Journal and Golfer Magazine.
    Engelbrecht came from Germany in 1912 with a dream to become a news cameraman. Initially, he found work as a photographer with General Electric in Schenectady, NY. Soon he became an independent commercial photographer in Springfield, MA., with an eye for a news picture he took on press assignments and moved to New York City to work as a cameraman.
    For nine years Engelbrecht called Lake Hopatcong home. He owned Grove Studio at Nolan’s Point. Many of his photographs graced the covers of the Lake Hopatcong Breeze magazine.
    Engelbrecht spent his winters working in Florida. Over the years he handled publicity for the Miami Biltmore Hotel, Roney Plaza in Miami Beach, and the Ormond Hotel at Ormond Beach, Florida. A never-ending parade of celebrities, sports, and society figures streamed past his camera lens.
    In 1925 he became John D. Rockefeller’s personal press photographers and exclusively provided photographs through his news service to top newspapers and magazines as an accredited news source. His book, Neighbor John, about his professional relationship and friendship with Rockefeller, was reviewed in the New York Times. His photographs of the man became a photographic primary source for historians and biographers of Rockefeller.
    A modest man, he was recognized by his peers for his unaccredited work in photographing the Graf Zeppelin and Bremen Flyers in New York City; for being the first cameraman on the scene after the FBI shootout with Ma Barker in Florida; and the first “reel” man at the Morro Castle disaster. He was a fearless aerial photographer. His historic film footage was seen in theatres across the nation via news media outlets Pathe, Universal Newsreel and Movietone of the Morro Castle disaster in Asbury Park. His photographs appeared in national newspapers and magazines throughout the country and in Sussex, Essex and Bergen counties. Hundreds of his pictures lay within the pages of the Papoose.
    In 1956, Engelbrecht was the recipient of the “Burt E. Williams Memorial Award” given by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) to members who have completed fifty years of meritorious service. Sparta declared September 22nd Curt E. Engelbrecht Day! These were crowning achievements for living his American dream.
    The Sparta Historical Society is located at The Van Kirk Homestead Museum at 336 Main Street (Rte. 517, use Middle School Driveway) Sparta. www.vankirkmuseum.org. The Exhibition, “Curt E. Engelbrecht: Views through his Lens” opens Sunday, April 14 and will be open every second and fourth Sunday of the month through June 23 from 1-4 p.m. with 2 p.m. talk. For further details or group reservations, call 973-726-0883 or Email: spartahistoricalsocnj@gmail.com. Funding has been made available in part by the NJ Historical Commission through the County History Partnership Program, as administered by the Sussex County Arts & Heritage Council.